New additions to our facility. You can help! (watch video)

This Spring we’ve been adding to our capacity to provide care for injured and orphaned wildlife on California’s North coast. See our latest developmensts in this video. And please, help us help wildlife. We need your support! You can donate here: http://birdallyx.net/donate-now/

Print

A young crow returns

crow reunite:release 7:7:14 - 29As if they were all on the same schedule, about 3 weeks ago young crows all over Humboldt County were making their first leaps toward independence by jumping out of their nests. As we remind everyone, this is wild baby season. All over the county, and everywhere, young animals are learning the ways of the world. For songbirds like crows, this means weak and a little clumsy flight long after they leave the nest. They are vulnerable to all sorts of dangers, and in our modern world many of these dangers are man-made – cars, windows, cats, and more. And some times they are at risk of false imprisonment.

When the Eureka Animal Control Officer Rob Patton pulled up in our driveway 2 weeks ago, we greeted him at the door.

“Got you a young crow,” he announced. We’ve worked with Eureka PD Animal Control for a long time. While many people might mistakenly nab a poorly flying young bird, thinking help is needed, Officer Patton knows whether a wild animal needs help or not.

Turns out the young crow landed in the equipment yard at the Police Station. They watched him for a week before deciding that no parents were nearby. So they booked him. Another lost fledgling – a definite youth at risk.

The crow was very underweight and quite excited to meet his food dish. Crows, like people, are omnivores – eggs, fruit, fish, mice, seeds, insects made up his diet. Gradually we moved him to larger housing where his flight improved.

Yesterday, we took him back to his old neighborhood. Not far from the police station, at the Eureka waterfront, is a common foraging place for crows and other birds. BAX/HWCC intern, Cheryl Henke and BAX co-director and photographer Laura Corsiglia scouted for crows.

Satisfied that this would be a good place for the young crow, they let him out of the carrier.

crow reunite:release 7:7:14 - 01

crow reunite:release 7:7:14 - 35

crow reunite:release 7:7:14 - 13

Almost immediately an adult crow came to him. The young crow gaped (opening his mouth wide to ask for food).

crow reunite:release 7:7:14 - 23

crow reunite:release 7:7:14 - 27

“I was astonished,” exclaimed Cheryl, “It was beyond belief. It was like they already knew each other!”

crow reunite:release 7:7:14 - 43

The adult quickly coaxed the bird from the ground to a nearby treetop. After some brief conversation, the two birds flew off together.

crow reunite:release 7:7:14 - 59

Your support allows us to sometimes pull off rescues as profoundly beautiful as this. Please donate what you can. Help keep wild families together, or perhaps, build new ones!

Print

(all photos Laura Corsiglia/BAX)

 

Legislation that Will Impact Wild Animals

Next week in Sacramento, several bills in committees will be heard that each have potential to cause serious negative impact to wild animals. Now is a good time to let your representatives know how you feel, and how important are wild animals, wild systems and wild Earth. How much democracy we have may be up for debate, but if we don’t use the tools we know we have we have none. Here’s a brief summary of two of these bills, why Bird Ally X opposes them and who you should contact to make your voice heard.

AB 2205: In 2012, Senate Bill 1221, which banned the use of hounds to hunt bear or bobcat was passed and signed into law. Since taking effect January of 2013, the number of Black Bears killed by hunters in California fell 40%, which is approximately the percentage of bears killed using hounds in the preceding years.

AB 2205, introduced this year by Assemblymember Tim Donnelly (R-33), would repeal that ban. Bird Ally X opposes this bill. Hunting Black Bear, or any animals, with hounds is cruel, serves no wildlife management goal, is disruptive to other native, non-targeted wild animals, and is cruel to the hounds as well. (Read our letter here)

14 other states have also banned hounding bear, including Montana nearly 100 years ago!

AB 2205 will be heard in the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife Tuesday, April 29. Follow the provided links to that committee to find if your representative is a member. Let him or her know that hounding bear is a relic of a bygone era. Uphold the ban. Oppose AB 2205.

If you are able to attend the hearing in Sacramento and speak on behalf of bear, bobcat, and all wildlife, that would be awesome! Here’s the address!

AB 2343: This bill, authored by Mike Gatto (D-43) is a legislative attempt to financially shore up the legally mandated animal shelter minimum hold period, known as Hayden’s law, passed in 1998. Hayden’s law lengthened the period lost or stray animals must be held by shelters to ensure they have adequate time to be reunited with their human families. During the budget crisis of 2009, this law was suspended due to the costs of these increased periods. While we support legislation that strives for the best outcomes for lost pets, a portion of the provisions of this bill will promote the abandonment of impounded cats.

The specific language that creates this problem is:
SEC. 4. 31752. (a) Except as provided in Section 17006, for any local governmental entity that receives block grant funding under Section 17581.8 of the Government Code, no stray cat admitted to a public or private shelter shall be euthanized or otherwise disposed of until after the expiration of the required holding period for a stray cat impounded pursuant to this division, which shall be six business days, not including the day of impoundment admission, except as follows: (b) (1) In addition to the prohibition against euthanasia set forth in subdivision (a), a stray cat admitted to a public or private shelter shall be made available for owner redemption, adoption, or release to an animal rescue or adoption organization during the required holding period, as follows:
(B) Any stray cat without identification may be made available for adoption or release to an animal rescue or adoption organization at any time.

The costs associated with providing real, humane care for large numbers of homeless cats makes sheltering difficult. Unfortunately, many so-called rescue groups solve this difficulty by merely abandoning these unwanted house cats in outdoor feral colonies. Transferring these animals to “rescue” groups without ensuring that this is not the case is tragically irresponsible.

In order for this bill to truly protect animal welfare in spirit and letter, it must specifically state that these rescue groups not abandon cats received from shelters into uncontained feral colonies, managed or otherwise. Uncontained feral cat colonies, as peer-reviewed scientific studies can verify, are inhumane to cats and devastating to wildlife.

As wildlife rehabilitators we deal first hand with the harm caused by invasive free-roaming cats. Each year California rehabilitators take in well over 10,000 wild animals who have been injured by housecats. More than half of these animals must be humanely euthanized due to the severity of their injuries. Of course these are just the animals that are found and brought to a wildlife caregiver. As was reported in the Smithsonian Magazine in 2013, free-roaming cats kill as many as 3.7 billion birds and 20 billion small mammals annually in the United States alone!

The life of a homeless free-roaming cat is also brutal. Cars, disease, dishonorable people, each poses a real and significant hazard. As has been said many times, feral cats do not die of old age. Feral and free-roaming cats die suffering deaths caused by infection, parasites, traumatic injury and more. We advocate strongly that responsible pet ownership includes keeping cats contained, safe from highways, abuse, feline disease, and spread of other diseases such as rabies and toxoplasmosis, a significant threat to public health for which cats are the primary host.

The needs of wild animals, the needs of homeless or stray cats, and public safety must come before well-intended mistakes. AB 2343, as it is written, risks enshrining irresponsibility and unnecessary wildlife mortality in law.

AB 2343 will be heard in the Assembly Committee for Local Government, Wednesday, April 30. You can let Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian, the chair for that committee, know that wildlife must not be asked to pay the costs of abandoning stray cats. AB 2343 is bad for wildlife, bad for cats, and bad for people.

Hon. Katcho Achadjian, chair
Assembly Local Government Committee
1020 N Street, Room 157
Sacramento, California 95814
916.319.3958

click here for hearing information

Literature on feral cats and feral cat management:

Longcore, T., et al (2009) Critical assessment of claims regarding management of feral cats by trap–neuter–return, Conservation Biology, volume 23, no. 4, 887–894

Jessup, D. (2004) The welfare of feral cats and wildlife, Journal of American Veterinary Medicine Association, volume 225, no. 9

Peterson, M., et al (2012) PLOS ONE, www.plosone.org, volume 7, no. 9, e44616

McCarthy, R., et al (2013) Estimation of effectiveness of three methods of feral cat population control by use of a simulation model, Journal of American Veterinary Medicine Association, volume 243, no. 4

 

 

Belted Kingfisher Says Every Day is Earth Day

(Video of release at bottom of story!)

Last Sunday, while kids scrambled for eggs, others headed to Redwood Park, and birders ventured out across the county and beyond as a part of Godwit Days, Humboldt’s annual birding festival, along the west bank of the Mad River just up from the hatchery, a Belted Kingfisher struggled at the end of a long strand of fishing line. The line was entangled in overhanging branches and the bird, a female, presumably preparing with her partner for the season of rearing young, was suspended above the river, the line wrapped around the flight feathers of her left wing.

BEKI 22 April 14 - 02

A young man, Brian, had been walking along the bank – it was a warm, bright day – and saw her struggling. There was no one else around. He called Humboldt Wildlife Care Center. He offered to wait for our rescue team to arrive on scene to show us exactly her location.

It’s a terrible thing to see a bird snared in fishing line, struggling to get free, nowhere to stand. Serious injury seems certain and quite possibly life threatening. Brian saved this kingfisher’s life. If he hadn’t seen her or hadn’t called, a long, suffering death awaited her, all due to fishing line lost into the wild and forgotten.

BEKI 22 April 14 - 03During her exam, the kingfisher was clearly dehydrated, as her “squinty-eyes” attest.

We quickly placed a net below her to support her weight while we snipped the line. No apparent injuries were seen – the line wrapped her left wing’s primary feathers, but no bones were broken, nor was any skin. She was exhausted and dehydrated. She was still willing to fight. We brought her back to our clinic.

After a complete exam – she was in relatively good shape, a healthy bird, living well – we gave her a mild pain medication and anti-inflammatory drug, warmed fluids, and a safe, quiet place to rest.

BEKI 22 April 14 - 01Kingfishers’ 3rd and 4th toes are united. We call this kind of foot syndactyl.

Two years ago, when we were building our waterfowl aviary, we included a perch high above the pool. No duck or goose would ever use it, but we know that occasionally a kingfisher will come into care. Kingfishers in their home plunge-dive, like a tern, an osprey, or a Brown pelican, for their fish. Small, powerful birds with an extreme amount of panache, in captivity they can be difficult to feed. This aviary was about to get its test.

The next day in care we gavage-fed a liquid protein diet to continue her re-hydration. She was alert and attempting to fly so we moved her to the waterfowl aviary with the kingfisher perch. Over the course of that day she improved rapidly – not well enough to be released yet, but highly encouraging.

BEKI 22 April 14 - 04Our waterfowl aviary does double duty as Kingfisher housing.

The next morning she was sitting in the early sun, on the high perch above the pool that we’d stocked with small “feeder” fish. At her morning check she flew in circles around the aviary. She was fully restored. Her flight was perfect. She was a lucky bird.

Her release evaluation was quickly completed and the kingfisher was driven back up to Blue Lake and the river above the hatchery.

BEKI 22 April 14 - 06Belted Kingfisher, on her perch in the morning sun – feeling much better!

Fishing line kills thousands of animals along our coast each year. Our annual clean-up days do a lot to raise awareness and improve the environment, but much more is needed. Every time we go into the woods, to the beach, down the river, to the grocery store, we need to see what stupid thing has been lost or littered and pick it up. What if this beautiful and fit kingfisher had gotten tangled 3 weeks from now, and she hadn’t been seen. It could easily have gone that way, and somewhere it will. She would have died and somewhere nearby, her babies would have cried for her return that would never come. Earth Day is a fine thing, but really, Mother Earth needs us every day. Just as we need her.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Your support makes our rescue and rehabilitation efforts possible. Please donate what you can. Every contribution helps us provide skilled and equipped care for native wildlife. Thank YOU!

Scroll down for more pictures and video of release.

BEKI 22 April 14 - 08Capture for release evaluation – not as easy as it looks…

BEKI 22 April 14 - 09The long path home, into the wild!

BEKI 22 April 14 - 10Arriving at the river’s bank…

BEKI 22 April 14 - 13A rare moment…

BEKI 22 April 14 - 18Happy wildlife caregivers celebrate Earth day every day!

BEKI 22 April 14 - 14Photos of birds flying away are the best!

BEKI 22 April 14 - 16Belted Kingfisher’s plea, “Don’t leave your killing debris in our river!”

Print
All photographs Laura Corsiglia/BAX.

 

Spring, Renewal and being an Ally to Birds

The suddenly boisterous and highly visible activity of birds is one of the joys of Spring. Swallows, thrushes, egrets, mallards, geese and more are returned from the South, often coming several thousand miles to nest here in Humboldt County. Adults spend almost everything to make the journey, preparing for the oldest song and dance; – the hummingbird’s dazzling aerobatics, the grebe’s water ballet, the Red-winged blackbird at the top of the tree trilling for company – all around us these birds begin the season’s work of bringing their babies into the world. Renewal and rebirth – the spark of life is passed on.

IMG_20130524_173835A nest of House finches brought to our clinic, Spring 2013 (photo: mmerrick/BAX)

Right in our own backyards nest sites are selected. Close to shopping! Close to schools! Babies must be fed, after all, and adolescent birds get only a short apprenticeship before they must shift for themselves.

Once the eggs are laid parent birds are tied down, busy and focused. Once the chicks are hatched, frequent trips from sun up to sun down keeping babies fed is the routine life of mama and papa. It takes a lot of mosquitoes to make one swallow and many swallows raise two nestfuls each year.

Fledgling birds think they’re big enough and jump from nests before they can fly! Parents stay near feeding them on the ground or in branches and call sharply when danger is near. It can take as long as a week before these youngsters really have their wings.

Birders and casual enjoyers of birds are drawn to their beauty, feathers and song. Unlike wild mammals, many species of birds live their lives in the open, for all to see. We may never see a Long-tailed weasel in our lives, but here are House finches feeding their young just beyond the window.

As lovers of wildlife we cherish the close view birds allow, but this nearness brings such risk. If we get too close we can scare a parent bird away from a nest leaving a young featherless baby to go hungry, go thirsty – even die! Our houses are built where birds have lived for millions of years and our cars race through what used to be pasture of bounty, grass seeds and insects and all manner of good things. House cats roaming the lawn thrilled to pretend they are on the savannah, stalking game through the tall blades. But their kills are all too real, and a parent is left to feed a nest of five alone – it can’t be done and some will starve.

It feels good to be outside working in the long evenings, cleaning up the yard, planting bulbs; – yet we might trim a few branches and a nest full of hope crashes to the ground.

As Mother Earth rolls the Northern Hemisphere back into Spring, it’s important and good to get outside and rejoice in our shared and beautiful life. Being in nature is the only way to know and love her. Seeing our wild neighbors renews our own lives. As Henry Thoreau famously noticed, ‘in wildness is the preservation of the world.’ Any grandparent or songbird will tell you, do not harm what preserves us. Enjoy being close but allow who we see the privacy and the space to simply be. Be mindful of wild lives.

DSC_0429mallBaby Mallards in the aviary they were raised in after losing their mother. 2013 (photo: Laura Corsiglia/BAX)

Things you can do:

  • Keep cats indoors, or make an enclosed space outdoors.
  • Don’t trim branches during baby season. Plants prefer to be trimmed in fall anyway.
  • Give nests a wide berth. Enjoy with binoculars!
  • Feathered young birds hopping around the ground are probably learning to fly. Help them by keeping kids, cats and dogs away.

If you’ve found an animal you think needs help, or you have a problem with a wild family in your home or yard:

call baxHumboldt Wildlife Care Center – 822-8839
Spring and Summer
9am – 5pm everyday

Print

North Coast Fish Waste Response (updated)

Newly released pelican surveys his old haunts at Shelter Cove from abo
Things are starting to quiet down, now that fishing season has quieted down as well. As we reported in our last update, the situation is Crescent City is largely resolved. Lids on fish waste bins, coupled with educational signwork brought an end to contaminations.
Working with the harbormaster, Rich Young, was a positive and productive experience. These simple solutions were quickly implemented. We captured a total of 32 birds in Crescent City – thirty Brown Pelicans (BRPE) and two Western Gulls (WEGU). Due to severe injury, three of the pelicans were humanely euthanized. One BRPE died from wounds not related to the contamination.
Pelican awaiting wash at HWCC. Note the contamination on his back and wings.

As of 27 September, we have two birds rescued from Crescent City still in care; – a BRPE with a fracture that is nearly healed, and a WEGU recovering from fishing line wounds. Both of these birds enjoy a good prognosis for release.

The Wash Hut

The first 25 birds that we rescued in the course of this response were cleaned at Humboldt State University’s Marine Wildlife Care Center, a facility maintained by the university and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN). The support of the OWCN throughout this response has been greatly appreciated. They’ve donated all the fish that these large birds consume. (Each pelican can eat more than five pounds of fish each day!)
Even more importantly in the long run, because the OWCN opened up the bird washing facility at HSU, we had the time needed to construct a small wash area at the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center.
Using as much donated material as possible, and a storage shed that was provided by HWCC, we spent well under 200 dollars. So far we have successfully washed 14 birds in this facility, happily known as the “wash hut.”

The new wash/rinse table at HWC

A bright side to this emergency is the rapid improvement made to the infrastructure at HWCC. The wash hut, the new aviaries, the pools, etc., will be a great benefit to aquatic birds who require care along the North Coast. With winter’s return so also return sea ducks, geese, grebes, and more.
Formerly, aquatic birds needing long term care, or
specialized housing had to be transported to the Bay Area, to a facility nearly 7 hours away. The added stress to the birds and

Monte Merrick (BAX),Lisa Kelsey (HWCC) and patient try out the new wash hut.

the consumption of time and resources was far from ideal. Now HWCC will be in a better position to provide care for those ducks, grebes, loons and others who are injured in some way.

The jetty at Shelter Cove – many of these birds are contaminated.
This contaminated pelican was rescued moments later.
A dead juvenile Brown Pelican on shore at Shelter Cove

Shelter Cove

In Shelter Cove the situation is also quieting down. Between 8 September and now, we have captured 17 of the 20-25 birds observed to be contaminated. 15 of these birds are pelicans, and the other 2 are Western Gulls.
One Pelican, a 2 year old, was euthanized due to a wing fracture, another pelican died in care while being treated for a compound fractured toe which had become seriously infected. One gull was euthanized due to a severe respiratory infection that had progressed beyond a treatable condition.
Ten pelicans have been released back into Shelter cove. We anticipate releasing the four remaining birds in care soon. Two pelicans may be released as soon as 29 September.

On 18 September we released the first bird rescued from that area back into the Cove. He joined a group of plunge-diving juveniles and adults and was captured on film succesfully capturing a fish by Judy Irving, who is currently working on a documentary about Brown Pelicans, titled Pelican Dreams.
On the weekend of the 24th and 25th, 9 more pelicans were released back into Shelter Cove. Several of the birds caught in this area were malnourished and required more time in care to regain lost body mass.
Of the 17 Shelter Cove birds, 1 BRPE was euthanized due to injury and 1 died, most likely due to an infection resulting from an open toe fracture. 1 WEGU was euthanized due to illness.
As we know, a life spent begging for scraps carries a high risk of injury and disease.
Incidentally, none of the rescued birds have been adults. We’ve treated 3 sub-adults while the rest have been hatch year juveniles.

The fillet table at Shelter Cove after intitial corrections.

Toward eliminating the source of
contamination in Shelter Cove, a few good steps have been taken. More needs to be done, however, before heavy use of the fillet table resumes.
Lidded cans have been added to the fillet table area, and signs cautioning sport fishers about feeding carcasses to pelicans have been posted.
Monofilament with orange caution tape streamers have been added as a deterrent above the table. However, in our experience this practice creates more entanglement risk than deterrence, and birds, pelicans and gulls have been seen inside the fillet table area while people have been cleaning

January Bill of BAX and Lucinda Adamson of HWCC

their catch since the monofilament was hung.

Grinder and Discharge Pipe

The main issue continues to be the grinder that discharges fish waste slurry into the marine waters. This appears to be at odds with both federal and state practices.

Adamson and Bill evaluate a Brown Pelican for release
Discharge pipe coming down to the ocean from the fillet table

Both the United States and California recommend that fish waste, commercial or recreational, be treated as sewage or solid waste. Preferrably fish waste should be composted wherever possible.
Many studies were completed on the feasability of composting fishwaste on small and large scales in the late 1980s, primarily as a way to eliminate the unsightly and malodorous nature of fish carcasses. These studies had very favorable findings. (here is one example)

BAX and Humboldt Wildlife Care Center will soon meet with the Board Of Commissioners of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District to discuss ways to make the
fillet table at Shelter Cove bird-safe.
Fillet tables are well-used and appreciated. Often they provide a place for sport fishers to meet and share information and good cheer. So far, we have been met with mostly positive responses to our efforts to protect the wildlife that are attracted to the cleaning stations. By and large, recreational fishers enjoy nature and the outdoors and do not wish to cause harm to such an iconic bird as the Brown Pelican, or any wildlife. Feeding wildlife is enjoyable, as enjoyable as feeding family and friends. Once people understand the harm that can come to pelicans from being fed large carcasses, they stop. No one feeds birds with intent to cause harm!
We are confident that, with cooperation, we can make the fillet table in Shelter Cove a model of sustainable fish waste management that could be used coast-wide.

Where the discharge pipe discharges.

Meanwhile, we continue to care for the impacted birds at Humboldt Wildlfie Care Center and make frequent trips to Shelter Cove to monitor the situation and attempt to rescue the remaining birds who’ve been impacted by the oily fish waste.
Volunteers are still needed at HWCC. Bird Ally X is also looking for volunteers who wish to be trained in distressed bird capture. The more people locally we have who are trained and capable of responding to wildlife emergencies the better.

And of course, none of this work can happen without money. Building materials, utilities, water, medicine, gasoline, all matter of course requirements that consume the bulk of our budgets.
Both HWCC and BAX rely on community support to rescue and care for wild lives that have been adversely affected by human activity.
For more information please visit www.humwild.org.
Bird Ally X accepts donations as

Newly released pelican surveys his old haunts at Shelter Cove from above

well. You can write to us at PO Box 1020, Arcata, CA 95518. We love mail!*

HWCC volunteers after releasing 8 Brown Pelicans, 24 Sept.
This pelican didn’t wait to be asked twice.
Lucinda Adamason of HWCC and Laura Corsiglia of BAX watch newly released Pelicans at Shelter Cove
Proposed signwork for Shelter Cove as a stopgap measure.
Buh-bye. (BRPE release 24 Sept 2011)

*please note that, while Bird Ally X is incorporated in California as a Public Benefit non-profit organization, we are still waiting for 501(c)3 status and donations to BAX are not yet tax-deductible.