A Hawk Discovers You Can Go Home Again

In mid-June, a very ordinary thing happened. Someone called our clinic to ask for help with a bird who’d fallen from a high nest. Typically, we’d like to get birds who fall from their nest back to their families right away. But this case had some complications. First, the bird was in Petrolia, which is part of the area we serve, but is a couple of hours away and second, the nest location wasn’t known.

[Thank YOU!! – We made it to $5000 by the end of July! And a few hundred dollars more!! your support makes our work possible! Our August goal of $7000 will allow us to buy fish to feed our growing seabird caseload, as well as continue providing care for all of this season’s orphaned wild babies – raccoons! swallows! hawks! jays! and more! Please contribute what you can! Every donation helps! Click here to donate now!]

The bird happened to be a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), an easily recognized member of our community. These magnificent small hawks can be seen along almost any rural road, working over almost any open field, perched in nearby trees, hunting for primarily rodents along the edges of almost everything. Each year we typically raise at least one of these hawks, and sometimes more. This hawk was on the larger side so we imagined that she was female.

Without knowing the location of the nest, there was little chance for us to return this wayward nestling to her family. Even raising her until fledging wasn’t going to be enough, because these birds depend on their parents after they’ve left the nest for food until they are able to hunt. So we’d have to keep this bird in care until she was able to recognize and eat real prey. Fortunately, our patient was an older nestling, close to being ready for flight.

Immediately, the hawklet began to devour all the food we offered, thawed mice, thawed rats, basically any small animal we fed. And we watched as real world feathers grew in and the bird changed into a sleek, beautiful juvenile.

Version 2In the aviary with another young raptor, the Red-shouldered hawk (on the left) is alert and wary.


After 6 weeks, and after she demonstrated her ability to hunt, we returned the hawk to Petrolia and released her. Of course we hoped that she would find family members and remember enough of the area that she’d learned from the view from the nest, but in any case we were confident that this young raptor would be able to fend for herself.
RSHA-petrolia 2016 - 6 of 59Capturing the hawk from the aviary for her release exam. Every examination puts a great deal of stress on a patient. We reduce this handling as much as possible. 
Version 2Keeping raptor feet healthy in an environment where they spend more than an ordinary amount of time perched in one location is important. After 6 weeks in captivity this hawk’s feet are in perfect condition.

RSHA-petrolia 2016 - 16 of 59Her eyes, mouth, hearing – every aspect of this hawk screamed “Release me!” So we did.

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RSHA-petrolia 2016 - 26 of 59It’s a long and stunningly beautiful drive to Petrolia, the human capital of the Lost Coast.

RSHA-petrolia 2016 - 27 of 59Without knowledge of the nest location, a release site was chosen based on proximity to Petrolia and suitability of habitat – the presence of trees, open land, and the Mattole River made this a good site.

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Version 2Our patient in flight, over the home she was meant to have.

Here is a very short video that really shows the explosive speed of this young hawk…


The story doesn’t stop here. Within a few minutes from release, the young former patient postioned herself on the highest tree in the area and began calling. Within a few more minutes, an adult Red-shouldered Hawk arrived on the scene.
Version 2 Perched and calling, soon two other Red-shouldered Hawks, at least one of them an adult, arrived. Was the adult a parent to this youngster? Well, we can’t say for sure. We believe so. One thing we know with certainty: they left the area together. A re-united family is the likely explanation.

RSHA-petrolia 2016 - 48 of 59The last shot gotten as the young bird followed the adults into the trees beyond view.


This hawk’s return to freedom is one of the important outcomes of your support for our work. More than rehabilitation is needed, of course. These hawks still must live in a world where casual violence, habitat destruction, rodenticides, lead and myriad other non-natural challenges make life in the wild more precarious than it should be. Your love for the wild and respect for Mother Earth also goes a long way toward preserving the world and celebrating life.

Want to be part of our life-saving work? Please donate today. Your contribution goes directly to the care of injured and orphaned wild animals on the North Coast and beyond. Thank you!!!

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all photos: Laura Corsiglia/ Bird Ally X

Feathers Badly Singed in Fire, Osprey Fitted For Second Chance.

Earlier this summer, we admitted a weakened and burned Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) who’d been the victim of a nest fire northeast of Weaverville, well over 100 miles away from our clinic.

[July is nearly over and we still need your help reaching our goal of $5000 raised by the end of the month! Please donate! And thank you to everyone who has already! ]

The burns that the bird suffered had a good prognosis, and generally speaking, the “fish hawk” was in good shape, except for one critical component: all of the Osprey’s primaries, or flight feathers, were singed beyond usefulness, as were all of his tail feathers.

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Without these feathers, our patient couldn’t fly, let alone plunge feet first from the sky into Trinity Lake, and then muscle his way back from the water into the air, carrying off a large fish for a meal for himself or his young.

In this condition, the Osprey was far from releasable. We gave him a safe aviary and plenty of fish and looked for signs that he was entering his molt cycle, the time of year when birds renew their feathers… Osprey do replace them at this time of year, so we hoped for a natural cure.

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After a few weeks though it became clear that waiting for a molt was going to take too long for this bird. So we turned to another option.

Imping is a process by which old feathers can can be replaced. Of course, donor feathers of the same species are required. In February 2012 we’d released a Thayer’s gull whose primary feathers on one wing had been crushed. Using similar gull flight feathers we successfully imped them to the cut shaft of the damaged feathers. This isn’t surgery. This is more like furniture repair, or life-saving hair extensions.

The success of that patient’s treatment led us to start a feather bank, just as there are blood banks and organ donors. Back in April of 2014, we’d admitted an Osprey for care who’d suffered a severe humerus fracture. Humane euthanasia was the only appropriate treatment.  Once the bird’s suffering was over, we removed a complete set of primary feathers and tail feathers. Stored against damage from elements or insects, these feathers were in the same condition, over two years later, as when we’d first collected them.

Now this Osprey of 2016 will get a second chance.

DSC_3127Complete set of the primary flight feathers for the right wing of an adult Osprey. Flight feathers are called remiges, a latin word combining the word for oar and the verb to drive – it is accurate to think of these feathers as the oars birds use to paddle through the air.

DSC_3135First new flight feather, alongside the damaged one.

DSC_3150A heated scalpel blade easily slices through the keratin shaft of the feather.

DSC_3144A small dowel is glued into the hollow shaft.

DSC_3158The same is repeated on the other side.

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DSC_3165We stopped after replacing five feathers on the right side. Being handled for any length of time is very stressful for wild animals. We gave the Osprey a 20 minute break. Also it was time for our baby opossums to be fed and we needed the room!

We came back and repeated the process, but on the left side.

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After finishing the five feathers on the left, the Osprey got another break. Each wing had taken approximately 30 minutes. The feather imping team could use the break too. The task isn’t technically difficult, but the stress level is high for everyone. After the break, that sad tail gets attention.

DSC_3212Because one of the Osprey’s center tail feathers has grown in, we decided to replace only the outside four on each side.

DSC_3220As the primary flight feathers are known scientifically as remiges, the tail feathers are known as rectrices.  Rectrice, from the Latin, rector, or helmsman, rudder. So the flight feathers are the oars and the tail feathers are the rudder. And the bird who uses them is a sky kayaker.

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DSC_3240After some time, we’ll evaluate for replacing the center damaged feathers as well. If we don’t need to, that would be terrific. Reducing the stress of our patients is a critical component of our care and we strive for the least invasive treatment possible.

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This bird’s care isn’t over. He’s not even out of the woods. To be released we need to be confident that this bird will be able to survive on his own. After the full set of feathers has been imped, the strength and durability of the glue bond will be tested in our aviary. Once reasonably assured that the bond will hold the rigors of freedom, it won’t be long before this Osprey is growing in his own replacement feathers on his own time, in his own home – the wild.

DSC_3140Feathers are worth an entire life of study! An amazing evolutionary development that not only allows flight, but also allows a life at sea, a life in the arctic, a life in equatorial regions… closely related to hair, nails, claws and scales, feathers are a natural wonder the importance of which can’t be overstated. Want to learn more about feathers – start here.

Your support makes our work possible. Without you, this Osprey, as well as the baby Opossums who were in this room in an incubator just a few feet away during the entire procedure, would have no hope, no second chance. Want to help keep our work going? You can donate here.

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All photos: Laura Corsiglia/Bird Ally X.

 

 

Steller’s Jays Find Their Freedom After Rocky Start

Earlier this season, at the beginning of June, we received a call from a zoo near Redding with a complicated story. Complicated stories often have unpleasant endings, so we proceeded with some trepidation and concern. They’d been contacted by a person in northwest Trinity County, far from any wild animal care resources, who had raised four nestling Steller’s Jays (Cyanocitta stelleri) from soon after they’d hatched.

In deeply rural or near-wilderness areas, people who find injured and orphaned wild animals, far from a licensed rehabilitator or completely unaware that wildlife rehabilitators even exist – will often take on the unofficial role of caregiver. We see this frequently in the rural area we serve. Although HWCC has been operating since 1979, many people may not know we exist! When we come across such a situation typically someone who has been helping a wild animal in trouble is happy to get their patient to our facility, where we have dedicated, trained staff and a facility to provide appropriate housing to help any species recover. People stepping up to provide assistance where none would be available is natural, normal, and frankly, this is where the profession of wildlife rehabilitation was born. Compassion for our colleagues on Mother Earth is older than we’ll ever know.

However, the people from the zoo led us to believe that these young Jays had been taken from their nest. The person who’d raised them was hoping that the zoo would take them for a display.

The zoo called us to let us know that we might be hearing from the Jay-napper. They also wanted to assure us that they could take two if necessary. The information that we didn’t get? Where the Jays were and who had them. For some reason we thought they were in Crescent City. But really, we had no idea.

A week and a half later, we received a note sent to our email, info@birdallyx.net. A person near Orleans had four Steller’s Jays who’d “fallen into [their] lap.” They’d had them for four weeks. They thought that the birds were not releasable. They said we were their last resort. They gave us their phone number.

A few days later we had the birds in our care. Fully grown, but with poor feather condition, especially the large patches of feathers missing around their faces. Had their family remained intact, these birds would have left the nest as much as two weeks before they came to us. And more time in care was necessary.


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Basically, each bird was in decent enough condition that we could house them in an outdoor aviary. We rarely interacted with them. Concern that they’d spent too much time with their would-be rescuer leading to overfamiliarity with people, along with the fact that much of the problems they faced were captivity stress-related, it was best for us to use as hands-off an approach as we could while still monitoring their progress. Our newest addition to our patient housing, the octagon shaped songbird aviary (codename: Octaviary!), saw these birds as its first occupants. It often happens that we increase our capacity just in the nick of time…


Version 2In our newest aviary, these four Steller’s Jays safely gained strength and replaced feathers.

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Version 2By the time of their release, they were very difficult to catch in the aviary – an excellent indication!

STJA-exam-tail-webNot all of dark horizontal lines in these tail feathers are natural color. Some of tose lines are “stress bars”  which mark the time in this juvenile’s life was not getting physical needs met. These bars are weak points where the shaft might break. Too many and the bird would be unreleasable without some kind of intervention or the natural growth of new replacement feathers.


As time passed, we realized that  these birds were not interested in people at all. Entering the aviary caused them to be extremely stressed. We reduced their checkups to weekly and devised way to feed them without entering too deeply into their space. We removed them from the aviary to clean.

After four weeks of a natural omnivore diet appropriate for a Steller’s Jay, they were  each in excellent body condition, strong and able fliers, with most of their feather problems resolved. Release from the stress of captivity was now the best course of treatment, which is the best diagnosis any wild patient can get.


 

STJA-rel-1After a 2 hour drive, the birds are brought to heir release site along the Klamath River.

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Each of these birds is out there right now, blinking in the sun, drinking from the river’s edge, preening new feathers, finding small bits to eat here and there, scheming with nature for the next amusing thing like any self-respecting corvid would. Why? Because you support our work. Thank you.

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If you find an injured or orphaned wild animal, please, contact your closest wildlife rehabilitator. We’re not that hard to find.

all photos: Laura Corsiglia/Bird Ally X

Great Egret Back in the Game!

Last Saturday at the end of the work day, Humboldt Wildlife Care Center’s staff wildlife rehabilitator, Lucinda Adamson, took a call. An Egret was struggling in the water at the Eureka Marina. The caller told Lucinda that he had already pulled the struggling bird, who he’d thought was tangled in fishing line from the water once, but that the bird had fallen back in…

When Lucinda arrived on the scene she found a water-logged and apparently dead Great Egret (Ardea alba) floating next to the dock. But as she bent to lift the spent body from the water, she noticed a soft and shallow breath.

Unresponsive, soaking and dangerously cold,  the bird needed immediate help. Lucinda brought the brought the barely conscious Egret back to our clinic in Bayside. With a body temperature of 95˚F, there was little else to be done but provide warmth and warmed fluids.

Within a few hours, the Egret was again aware and alert, with a normal body temperature, dry and able to stand. Lucinda offered a handful of fish and privacy for the rest of the night. Come morning, the Egret was alert, standing, distressed by captivity and full of fish. All of the night’s dinner had been eaten.

Now stable, we performed a full examination. The Egret was in good shape. Well muscled, hydrated,  – even the bird’s blood was well within healthy parameters. The only thing amiss was that her (or his) feathers were very disheveled. We placed her back into our large bird recovery housing and misted with fresh water all of her impressive white plumage, to encourage our lucky patient to put things back in order. The regular work that birds put in to feather care, preening, we call it, is a time-consuming and a very necessary part of the beauty of feathered flight.

Humboldt Bay is home to a large population of Egrets and Herons. We see them everywhere – hunting for rodents in farmland, fishing in marshes, moving softly on broad wings across the sky. On an island between the Samoa peninsula and the city of Eureka is a “rookery” where hundreds of Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets raise their young each year, May through August, looking like white blossoms on the stand of non-native Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) that these quintessential marshland birds have (de)colonized and redeemed.

By the end of this Egret’s first 24 hours in care, frustration with captivity had become his or her biggest problem. It began to seem likely that this adult had a family that needed attention. At the end of the second day, now certain that all of our patient’s feathers were restored, we released the Egret in view of the island of Egrets.

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After leaping into flight and freedom out of our carrier, the Egret landed in an adjacent cove and took stock of the new situation. Soon the bird put some greater distance between us, flying to an exposed part of the mud flats farther into the bay.

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And after a brief stay, the Egret lifted into flight again, this time flying high and directly toward the ‘rookery’ on the island of Egrets, toward what we hope is a happy reunion.

Version 2Our patient no more, simply another incredible Great Egret, alive and returning to his or her partner and young after a brush with death and a mysterious encounter – living into a second chance.

DSC_3020A happy rehabilitator! Lucinda Adamson after the bird has flown…

What saved this bird’s life? Your support. Your support makes it possible for us to have dedicated staff members, like Lucinda Adamson, who is the first full-time staff person HWCC has ever hired. Our growth in the community has meant an ever increasing caseload, and as our capacity increases with your support, so does the community that relies on us. Your support makes this all possible. Without your support there would be no wind beneath this Egret’s wings. Thank you for helping us help our wild neighbors.

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All photos: Laura Coriglia/BAX

 

Re-united! Fledgling Hummingbird Back Home Again!

Late Friday morning, a family walking the Hammond Trail in McKinleyville found a young Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) on the ground in the middle of the path. Unsure what to do, they picked the tiny bird up and called our clinic.

After asking a few questions to make sure that the bird needed help, our staff asked them to bring the bird to us.

Young hummingbirds, unlike many species of songbird, typically leave their nest able to fly. So a fledgling (a young bird just learning to fly) on the ground may be in trouble.

Upon examination, the 3 gram youngster had no apparent injuries and seemed in good health. That afternoon we attempted to return the wayward fledgling to his or her family, but an afternoon wind had kicked up and it became difficult to hear any adult hummingbird activity. This little one would need parents to survive, so the bird was brought back to our clinic for the night.

We help many orphaned young birds make it to independence, healthy and ready for the wild, raising them from hatchling to juvenile, but it is obviously true that all wild animals do better with their own parents, in a community of their kind. Aviaries are good in a pinch, but in no way do they replace the real world! So whenever possible, we re-unite uninjured, healthy orphans with their families, or at least foster them to a wild family who will do a good job as surrogate parents – hawks, geese, corvids, deer will all take on raising an orphan of their own kind.

So the next day, with calmer conditions, our crack re-uniter/photographer (and BAX co-founder, Laura Corsiglia) was available to make an attempt. Sparing the suspense, it was a wildly successful re-unite. Check out the photos:

Version 2In care, the fledgling Allen’s Hummingbird is a stranger in a strange land.

Last Import - 1 of 14Rehabilitation staff prepares the Hummingbird for transport.

Last Import - 2 of 14Walking the Hammond Trail, BAX co-founder, Laura Corsiglia, saw this patch of blooms, noting its perfection as hummingbird habitat… but they pressed on in search of family. 

Last Import - 3 of 14After searching along the section of trail where the young bird was found, they returned to this patch when they heard adult Allen’s Hummingbirds nearby.

Version 2BAX/HWCC volunteer prepares to place the tiny bird on perch among the flowers.

Version 2Even before the bird could be placed, a female Allen’s Hummingbird arrived on the scene and immediately began to hover about our little patient and offer food! 

In the next sequence of photos, the adult female Allen’s Hummingbird makes several quick visits to the fledgling as the volunteer finds a place to set the bird down. This is one of the best “re-unites” we’ve done, with a parent arriving on the scene immediately, and in such a perfect setting… This is one of the many joys of our work, which we appreciate greatly against the equally many sorrows.

Version 2Find the mother! She’s right there, looking out at you!

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Version 2In this shot, the mother, against the sky, zooms up to only return again to her youngster.
Last Import - 14 of 14You can’t see them but they’re both there, fledgling and parent, in the safety of the wild, on the edge of North America, along a rural county’s popular walking trail, at the center of the universe.

Nature takes her course.

Your support makes our successes, like this happy wild family re-united, possible. Thank you! And if you can donate now, we sure could use it, here in the middle of our busiest season. Thank you again!

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all photos: Laura Corsiglia/BAX

 

Wild at Heart

A volunteer feeds young Cliff Swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) on the verge of taking their first flight from our fledging box into the bright songbird aviary just beyond the screen. (photo: Laura Corsiglia /BAX)

 

Right now, our wildlife clinic, Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, has nearly 100 patients in care. Ranging from a dozen Cliff Swallows, each from a nest somehow destroyed, to an Osprey whose feathers were badly singed by a nest fire near Weaverville; – from 23 orphaned young Raccoons to the 3 chipmunks found in a garage after their mother was killed by a trap.


We need your help! Want to help buy the formula, the fish, the supplies, the water, the electricity and more that we need? Click here to make a contribution through paypal, or send a check! Thank you!!!


Every day our phone rings dozens of times with calls from our neighbors near and far who’ve had an encounter, a conflict, or a question about a wild animal they just saw. Most people who call want to find help for an animal in need. Not every one who calls is a friend of the wild.

We give each caller the best we have, to advocate for the wild. The situation could be anything. It may be an animal in a trap, desperate for release and it is our task to make sure this is done, or it may be that there’s a nest with just hatched babies that someone wants to remove, or someone 80 miles away may have found an orphan who needs stabilizing care as soon as possible, and we are the closest facility.

Each call is that animal’s last shot at another chance. And sometimes we fail.

Sometimes the person calling doesn’t want to let the opossum out of the trap and the line goes dead. We call back and there is no answer. And we have nearly one hundred patients in care.  Maybe we can’t save this opossum, but we do have other mouths to feed. So we move forward, carrying the phone in our pocket.

Summer is a remarkable season for a wildlife rehabilitation clinic. For many others,  it’s a time of relaxation and outdoor enjoyment. For us, our hours are long; the tasks are hard. Still, the joys of seeing our patients mature into capable juveniles and adults are immeasurable. And the slow, silent changes the work makes in us – day in, day out – minute by minute – year by year – are endlessly surprising. We might expect to rise in the morning and find leaves growing from our hair, or certain desires to back into our musky dens and rest our chins on our forepaws through the night.

We do a pretty good job raising fierce little wild raccoons who we are certain are ready to be free in the wild universe at their release. We have good raccoon feeding protocols, and we watch them closely for success. We keep the intelligent and inqusitive young explorers as apart from us as we can, so that they might always prefer a field we don’t dominate.  We give them the best schooling we can on where the food is, and why climbing is important. We keep them safe until keeping them causes them harm. It takes about 4 months, usually. Over 80% of the orphaned raccoon we treat make it. When they don’t survive, they are usually very young.

Last week, we lost a little guy, a male raccoon, small enough to hold in your hand. He went suddenly. In the course of a few hours on a weekend afternoon, he went from seemingly healthy to dead. His eyes had been open about ten days. Once his death was confirmed, we opened him to learn why. There were no clues. Just small raccoon ribs making a beautiful tiny cavern for his pink lungs and there, right against his spine, his wee raccoon heart. From his ancestral past to his guard hairs and whiskers to his utter core he was a beautiful raccoon, all wild, all fierce…

Our clinic is a small one. There are bigger facilities in other parts of the state, all over the world. We treat about 1200 patients each year and we help resolve  the conflicts that may be saving a few thousand more from becoming injured that time, that day.

We operate on a quarter-acre of land alongside Jacoby Creek on the edge of Humboldt Bay. Our ‘campus’ consists of a double-wide mobile unit with thoughtful and frugal recovery enclosures for a variety of species, built in manner of homestead outbuildings on our very meager budget. Yet we are one of the points of congress between the built world and the wild.

Our clinic is a portal between the human and the wild that operates every day of the year. Our daily proximity to the wild, in the form of her orphaned and injured children, exposes caregivers, makes us more wild. Here at the center of the Redwood Coast, on the edge of our great Western Sea, under the sky and standing on ground that has seen thousands of  years joy and sorrow, beauty and tragedy – suffered the losses of forests, of people, of species, of stability, here we are, now, alive, breathing, dreaming, and  striving to help those for whom there would be nothing if we weren’t here.

We are one of the small hearts you’ll find at the center of everything.

 

PLEASE HELP. Your contribution goes directly toward our mission.

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