Sunday, January 31, 2010
As previously mentioned, I've been doing bird rehabilita-tion for over 23 years. In the beginning, and for most of that time, I took some non-releasable birds around to schools and groups for presentations. All of the birds used in this way cannot be released back to the wild for various reasons. This bird, a Great Horned Owl, is SEEDY, who just started his 18th year with me. He started out as a replacement for SNAP, my first school GHO. Then when I gave up my possession permit I had SEEDY transferred to my rehab permit as a foster parent. He is just about the best foster dad on the planet. He takes his job very seriously and when there are babies present with him he's much more dangerous than he usually is. Note that this bird is not a pet, never has been, and is just as dangerous now as he was 18 years ago. He is, however, handlable which helps in moving him around. SEEDY has successfully raised more than a dozen baby GHOs, all have been returned to the wild knowing just what they are in the scheme of things in their world. Thanks, old man.
As you can see, his left eye is solid grey. He ruptured his lens many years ago so is totally blind in that eye. He is also getting a cataract in his right eye but he still has good vision in it and has no trouble finding his food or a perch. The reason he came to IBR in the first place was a broken right wing from being hit by a car.
Friday, January 29, 2010
This is ARLAND, an adult male Golden Eagle who came to IBR after it was thought he'd been hit by a car. He'd been picked up by a Wyoming Game Warden and taken home for the night. As he didn't think anything was wrong he took the bird back to where he was found and turned him loose. The next morning he was still in the same place. By the time I got ARLAND I realized that his crop was still full, it should have emptied during the night. I took him into Dr. Blessing, we anestisized him and removed all the old meat out of the crop and flushed it with a weakened solution of Pepto Bismal. It worked and as you can see from this photo, he is up and doing well. He can fly to the top of this short tower and will be put into the larger eagle flight barn this weekend. As this is an adult bird and the breeding season is fast upon us, I will take him back to the area where he was found for release. Not, of course, near the road.
One of the things that injures raptors the most is a vehicle. The easiest way to fly is into the open, and the area that fills that bill is a roadway. It takes a large bird quite some time to get going from a standstill so they have no way to evade a fast moving car or truck. If you ever see a roadkill please slow down so that any birds feeding on it are safe when they try to fly away.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Here is a roughie success story. This is CARTER, another young bird that met a vehicle on the road. She suffered a fractured right leg that made it impossible for her to stand long enough to take flight. That's a good thing. She would have starved to death having only one foot to catch prey. When Nic and Joyce Patrick saw her alongside the road near their home they immediately gathered her up and brought her to IBR. I then took her into Dr. Malcolm Blessing for x-rays. The break was mid shaft femur, a good place if you're going to have a broken bone. The problem was it was so even that it looked as if someone had sawed through the bone. Dr. Blessing then put an internal pin the length of the bone and added two connected external pins (X-fix) to the outside to keep the ends from twisting.
CARTER then spent six weeks in a small cage before the X-fix pins were removed. Another two weeks and the internal pin came out. This photo shows her up on the tallest perch in her mew, about 15 feet up in the air. She is now able to navigate from the floor to the perch very easily. She rips and tears her food with strength, I don't have to open the rats for her anymore. She will be released probably next month so she can make the migration back to where she was hatched. THAT IS WHAT MAKES THIS ALL WORTHWHILE !
I have been doing bird rehabilita-tion for 23 years and every time I have to euthanize one of them it bruises my heart. Today it was a young Rough-legged Hawk who had been hit by a car over a week ago. These birds are born near the Artic Circle in Northern Canada and migrate here for the winter. To them this is the beaches in FL. Because they are so isolated after hatching they know nothing about humans or vehicles. This baby of last year was probably on a road kill when he was hit. The damage was not external, no broken bones, but it was to his eyes. The optic nerve in his right eye was destroyed and the sight in his left eye so compromised that altho he could pick up movement if it was close enough, it was not sufficient for him to recognize a meal under his foot. As you can see in this photo, he is standing on dinner but never reached down to eat it. Although I could have kept him alive by hand feeding him it would not have been a very good quality of life. He is a wild bird and every time I came near him he was stressed. He had a short life but could take pride in making it all the way to Wyoming before he was a year old. I applaud his life.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
This morning, while in the grocery store, I spotted a young man walking around with an adult redtail feather in his hatband. I informed him that it was illegal for him to have that to which he replyed, "It was given to me by an Indian". I told him that didn't matter, he wasn't an Indian and therefore had to have a permit to possess anything from a protected species. I doubt very much if he was impressed with my statement and probably won't remove it from his hat. I just hope that he isn't wearing it when a Game Warden comes upon him. The feather would surely be confiscated and the young man would probably be given a ticket for its possession. Even the native people have to obtain permits if they want new or replacement feathers from the Federal Feather Depository near Denver. If they have old feathers, such as those in PowWow costumes, they are allowed to posses them as they have provenence for them.
I know it seems a bit harsh to enforce that law but if it isn't done then people could just kill any raptor, yank out some feathers and say they found them. To combat this inclination a law was passed stating that no part of any protected bird can be in possession without the proper permits. That means every bird but those you can legally hunt, i.e. geese, ducks, pheasant, etc. or pigeons, European Starlings and English Sparrows. All others are protected by law, including songbird feathers, i.e. bluebirds, robins, meadowlark, etc. In some states there are seasons for crows as they are nuisance birds but be sure to check the local laws before just going out and blasting away.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
"JULIE ANDREWS" came to me in December of the year she was born, 1995, after being hit by a car. She suffered a fractured right leg and a severe concussion. It took a week of hand feeding for her to be strong enough to stand on her leg cast but her eye/beak coordination was off to the point that when she reached for a mouse she missed finding it by a few inches. She eventually learned to compensate and was eating on her own after a couple weeks. JULIE was left with a permanent slight limp and brain damage to where she could fly but refused to go more than a foot or so off the ground for only about 20 feet.
One day, in her ninth year, I went into the flight barn and couldn't find her. Amazingly enough she had flown to the lowest wall perch, about a dozen feet off the ground. She spent a few days up there, receiving her rabbits by air mail (I tossed them up to the platform) She came down eventually but did return there from time to time.
JULIE is now living at the Delaware Valley Raptor Center (see links) in Milford, PA after living at IBR for over 10 years. When I stopped doing educational programs I had to place my school birds. I made the decision to send her to DVRC as they had just lost a golden eagle they'd had for 25 years. I've since visited her and she's doing well although there was a hole in my heart when I put her on the plane to PA. This photo was taken two weeks before she left this facility.
Looking back in my archives of photos I came across this one. You can tell how old it is because my hair is dark and curly. If you look closely, sitting on my right shoulder is the first bird I rehabbed back in 1987. His name is REX and he's a European Starling. I found him on the ground after he'd fallen out of his nest. He grew up to be quite the character as I now know are most starlings. He knew his name, did bird things during the day and met me at the house when I came home from work. He eventually left for good, I was sorry to see him go. If you want to read a story about a particular starling go find the book "Arnie the Darling Starling". A fun true story about one lady's interaction with a wild bird.
This amazing baby Golden Eagle, "TWIG" was found sitting in the middle of a highway. She was luckily found by Mark McCarthy of McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary in West Palm Beach, FL. He was vacationing in Wyoming and knew how to handle large birds of prey so he gathered her up and had her transported to IBR. She was almost starved to death but quickly gained the needed weight on a diet of rats and rabbits. When she proved to me that she could catch and kill live prey she was taken to a very wonderful habitat and released along with another young female eagle of the same age.
As 80% of all raptor babies don't make it through their first winter it was awe inspiring seeing these two young birds fly away. The hope is that they continued their lives and will be successful in finding a mate and raising young of their own.
This photo shows what Ironside Bird Rescue looks like from the air. Thanks to Dr. Lee Hermann for taking this photo while piloting his plane. The pond is no longer there as the water came from the irrigation ditch and after 12 years it had silted in so much the eight foot depth had fallen to about four. It is now a flat surface ready for a garden or anymore buildings that are needed.
All of the buildings were built with grant money and donations from individuals and are just beautiful. They are also metal sided to make them maintenance free. The largest, the eagle flight barn, is 24'x 80', the smallest is one of the newest, it's 8'x 20', just right for the smaller raptors. There is also an Great Horned Owl flight area and various other sizes.
IBR is located at the end of a dirt road not far from the town of Cody but isolated enough to make it ideal for the birds to recover from their injuries. It is also close enough to many different habitats where these birds can be released back to the wild. And stepping outside at night reveals the most beautiful array of stars you can possibly imagine.