Kirby Ross says she often enjoys a lunch hour stroll along the Halifax waterfront, but her walk Thursday led her to witness some unexpected seagull drama.

"I was walking down the sea bridge and to my left as I walked down there was a bird stuck in a line, flapping, panicking and lots of people crowded around,” Ross says.

A crowd gathered to watch a juvenile seagull that was caught in a fishing line, meters away from the bridge.

Ross says a bystander called Hope for Wildlife Animal Rescue, but staff said they didn't think they could make it in time to save the bird.

"I suddenly hear a guy beside me say, 'watch my stuff,' and I look beside me and he has all his clothes off except for his boxers, and he jumped into the water!"

Erik Nolan was working at a nearby restaurant at the time and a fellow worker told him about the scene outside. Nolan says he felt compelled to save the gull.

"I just felt very compelled to jump in, and told myself I’m willing to get in that water so why not save that bird," he says.

Nolan, who has experience as an open water diver, jumped into the Halifax Harbour and used a life preserver to help him stay afloat.

After reaching the seagull and wading around to make sure it wasn’t aggressive or hostile toward him, Nolan says he assessed the damage. He says a hook was piercing the bird’s foot and another hook was in its wing with a line wrapped around it.

Using a knife he had borrowed from a security guard, Nolan managed to free the bird from the fishing line and brought it back to shore.

Nolan was greeted with applause from the crowd that had accumulated on the sea bridge during the rescue.

A video of the rescue captured on Ross’s phone has been viewed almost 10,000 times on Facebook and YouTube in less than one day.

“He’s a bit of a hero, I suppose!” says passerby Charlene Arsenault.

As he swam up to the bird, Nolan remembers fearing  it was dead. To his surprise, the bird peered back at him when he reached it.

"It kind of craned its head towards me and starred me in the eye the whole way back,” Nolan says. “It was kind of a weird moment, but it made me feel good that it was alive and I didn't just jump into the harbour to save a dead bird.”

The seagull was taken to the Metro Animal Emergency Clinic in Burnside, where they removed the hooks from the bird’s foot using wire cutters and untangled the fishing line.

Staff say the gull has been returned to the harbour and is expected to make a full recovery.

The event made for a memorable first plunge into the harbour for Nolan, but he says he’s not planning on jumping in again if he can help it.

Nolan was given the rest of the day off work to go home and dry off.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Allan April.