Wild Baby Season is Coming!

The earth rolls around the sun dipping first this hemisphere then that one toward the light and the wild animals follow suit. Summer birds have already begun to return to the North Coast. Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) investigate the old cavities where they may have raised last year’s young. Ravens (Corvus corax) fly though late Spring winds with sticks for their nests held tightly between their bills.

Mother mammals are on the move, seeking safe places to give birth. This year everyone is in  a hurry to bloom and leaf!

All of  this means that our busiest season is about to start. Each year we treat around 1200 animals. Nearly half of these patients come in during the months of May, June and July. While we stive to reduce the number of our wild neighbors who need help,  through public education and good phone consultation to resolve human/wild conflicts, still our caseload and our costs will predictably skyrocket in the coming weeks.

We will be reaching out to you frequently, asking for help. Financial contributions of any amount are critical. We’ll also be asking for donated supplies, like goat milk, produce, sheets, towels, vinegar and baking soda – all things that are crucial to our daily operation!

Nestling Swallows (2015) receiving their regular feeding – soon these birds would fledge into our Songbird aviary where they continued to be fed while they learned to fly and eat on the wing.  
Common Murre (Uria aalge) chicks, separated from their fathers at sea, too young to provide for themselves. Each year we raise any number of these oceanic birds, depending on the how successful the year’s breeding season is… last year we raised 6, the year before, 30.
Every year for the last 5 years we’ve provided safe haven and bits of mouse for a Western Screech-owl (Megascops kennicottii) chick found in Fortuna’s Rohner Park

Every year we care for several Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) goslings who’ve been orphaned by the highways that separate their nest site from the water. Parents killed trying cross US101 leave chicks scurrying in traffic – a dangerous situation for all. If safely captured, the young geese will come to our facility in Bayside.

The most common reason for young Opossums (Didelphis virginiana) to be orphaned? Their mothers are hit by cars while they’re still in her pouch. Each year we admit over 50 babies! 

Black-crowned Night-Heron(Nycticorax nycticorax) chick’s life took a turn for the worse when s/he was knocked from the nest high above the beach at Moonstone during a wind storm. This yung bird ate a lot of fish!
Every summer we save lives, preserve wild families, and give unfortunate victims of accidents and human intervention a second chance. This juvenile Hermit Warbler (Setophaga occidentalis) whose nest was disturbed in the Arcata Community Forest. An improvised substitute made from a basket lined with twigs and mosses was placed high in the tree  above where the young not yet flighted bird was found. Soon parent birds were seen bringing food and resuming care. Reuniting wild babies with their families is an important and frequent task throughout Spring and Summer.
Each year Raccoon (Procyon lotor) mothers are shot, trapped, poisoned and otherwise mistreated in ways that leaves their babies behind, often stuck in an attic or a crawlspace and left to die. When they’re lucky, someone hears them, finds them and brings them to us. Almost every single orphaned raccoon we care for could have been raised by their mother if only people would take basic steps to protect their property by preventing Raccoons and other animals from getting in, or seeking advice before acting irresponsibly and resorting to lethal solutions. Providing care to orphaned Raccoons isn’t cheap! Usually they are in care 4 moths before they can be released. Each baby costs nearly $500 to raise successfully and we raise over 20 of these curious Earthlings each year!


Every year our busy season has the added stress of paying for food and medicine, the water bill, the electric bill, staff salaries. Scrimping and saving is good and necessary, but so is knowing that our basic costs are going to be covered. It’s good to know that if an unexpected major expense comes up – like last year when we treated a lead-poisoned Bald Eagle whose care required six months of recuperation – that we’ve got it covered.

So, we’re launching a special Baby Season fundraiser.* Our goal is $25,000 between now and May 31. That’s 9 weeks. $25,000 will keep us going through early Spring and leave us ready to take on the most hectic months of our year with something in reserve, reducing our stress so that we can be better care providers. It costs us about $12,000 a month to operate during the Summer. Your help is vitally important. Without your generosity… well, let’s just say that we are grateful that you’ve kept us going this long and we look forward to your continued support. Let’s make this the best, least stressful Wild Baby season we’ve had. Thank you!!

*By the way, we are still a couple thousand short of our March goal of $7000. Want to help us reach it? Donate here. Thank you!!

 

photo: Bird Ally X/ Laura Corsiglia

Providing Critical Education for our Volunteers and Staff

While the most significant part of our mission is the direct care of injured and orphaned wild animals, Bird Ally X also puts effort into training wildlife rehabilitators and future wildlife rehabilitators. During the winter months, as our caseload decreases, we often hold workshops on different aspects of the care we provide our wild neighbors in need. Last weekend we presented a new workshop for our volunteers titled, “How Do Pools Even Work? Providing Critical Housing for Aquatic Patients”.


Discussing our Duckling Pond, used for orphaned Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), and how it can be re-configured for aquatic turtles, such as the Pacific Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata)

Learning how to keep water flowing through our aviary suitable for ducks, geese, Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon), Herons, Egrets (family Ardeidae)and rails (family Rallidae).

For the untrained eye, rocks and water, for the trained volunteer, each component here is critical to providing good housing for certain species of aquatic birds.

Complex patients require complex solutions. Safely operating an aquatic environment requires skill and knowledge.

Duckweed is food! Duckweed is a filter! And how that helps us in many ways!

Part of operating pools correctly means controlling waste water responsibly! The frog pond that neighbors our facility doesn’t want pool chemistry dumped in it. You can’t be an ally of wild animals without being an ally of habitat.

Pools for Pelicans, Cormorants and Gulls have their own requirements. Here we take a look at how water is recycled for this pool.

A well functioning “bio-filter”…

Keeping the pools clean does require some skills! But we all get the hang of it eventually. Practice makes perfect!

Each pool has its quirks. Here we discuss a small pool and how its principles can be scaled to accommodate different volumes and species.

Wrapping up and answering questions… all in all, a very successful workshop!

Our wildlife hospital in Bayside, California, Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, provides a perfect setting for developing our workshops, trainings and labs – improving available care for wild patients is a critical part of Bird Ally X mission. If you are a permitted wildlife rehabilitator we can bring this workshop to your facility. Contact us though this website for more information. And if you’ve supported our work, thank you! You make it possible! And if you want to help, donate today! Thank you!

(all photos: Laura Corsiglia/BAX)

Hooked by Unattended Line, Western Gull Heals and is Released

At a quarter to five a couple of Sundays ago, just as we were completing the day’s tasks and getting ready to leave the clinic, the phone rang. An employee at Pacific Seafood, a fish processing facility on the Eureka waterfront, had spotted a gull nearby who was tied to some fishing line. We quickly fed the last couple of patients and headed out to take a look.

Fish hooks and fishing line cause numerous wildlife injuries. The toll fishing gear takes on marine birds, reptiles, and mammals (not to mention the targeted species!) numbers in the thousands along the California coast alone each year. (see study here) According to the Humane Society of the United States (link here) over a million marine animals are killed each year by “longline” fishing at sea.

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(a collection of hooks and other items removed from patients at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center)

Hook and line injuries are commonplace for all wildlife rehabilitators, especially in locations where wildlife and people co-exist in large numbers – San Francisco, Monterey Bay, Los Angeles…

When we arrived on the scene, the fellow who called was standing a few yards from an adult Western Gull (link), who was trapped on the wharf, a hook in his (or her) neck attached to a line tied to the railing. Someone had been fishing and left his rig in the water. The gull had tried to eat the bait and gotten hooked.

We netted the gull and wrapped her (or him) in a towel. We made a quick examination to see if the hook could be immediately removed. Sometimes, with a quick snip of the barbed end, the hook comes out, and the small wound is fine to heal on its own – the bird can be released right away. In this case, however, the hook was small and difficult to see in the fading late afternoon light. For safety’s sake, we brought the gull back to our Bayside clinic.

WEGU release story 19 Feb - 1

DSC_0869Under the examination light, the small hook was easy to see. After removing it, we found a deep pocket of pus inside the gull’s mouth – an old infected injury. The bird’s feet also had early stage pressure sores caused by a life spent on concrete.

There is no getting around the fact that in a very short time modern industrial civilization has re-shaped the world that we share with other animals, other life. Derelict fishing gear, automobiles, ocean pollution, climate disruption, domestic animals, glass windows, resource extraction, – the list is long and each threat is new. All the marine birds we see today have existed as they are for at least 20 million years (Gaston 2004). Each of this gull’s injuries was the result of civilization’s altered environment.

The infection in our patient’s mouth required a course of antibiotics. We gave the first dose and set up safe housing for the night, fed some fish that had no sharp surprises, turned off the lights and headed home.

WEGU release story 19 Feb - 2The next morning we moved the bird to our aviary built especially for gulls, pelicans, and cormorants – all marine birds who spend time in and out of water. With a large pool, an artificial rock wall, high perches and a substrate (all surfaces that the birds might perch on) intended to relieve the constant pressure on their delicate feet, this aviary is a key part of our rehabilitation program. When treating wild animals, patient housing plays a leading role in their recovery.

Over the course of the next ten days the gull’s condition swiftly improved. The deep wound inside his mouth healed, the punctures from the hook healed. Her (or his) feet had improved too.

Last Tuesday the gull was released at North Jetty. Once out of the box, the bird took time to preen – which is how birds maintain their feather condition. Besides allowing flight, the feathers of all birds protect them from the elements. For aquatic birds this is particularly necessary – as warm blooded animals who live in the cold North Pacific need an impeccable array of feathers simply to surivive. Once satisfied that all was well, s/he launched from the rocks out over the inlet to Humboldt Bay and was gone.

There are many things you can do to help prevent this kind of injury to wild animals:

  • Most importantly, if you fish, mind your gear. Try not to leave anything in the environment. Line, hooks, weights, all of these can produce fatal and torturous wounds.
  • If you find derelict gear in the environment, remove it! Every hook removed from the docks, beaches and river banks is a hook we won’t ever have to remove from a bird’s mouth.
  • Pass this information along!
  • Support wildlife rehabilitation. Our ability to do this work depends directly on community support. BAX/HWCC is not funded by the county, state or federal governments. Your contribution makes our work possible. Thank you!

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Release Photographs!

WEGU release 18 Feb 14 - 01
HWCC/BAX volunteers prepare to release the Western Gull
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Western Gull steps out to freedom
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WEGU release 18 Feb 14 - 05
Preening keeps feather at peak performance
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Tail feathers? check.
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Wings? check.
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So long….
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Out over the inlet to Humboldt Bay and toward the North Pacific Ocean
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S/he returns to a wild and free life
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WEGU release 18 Feb 14 - 18Good luck!
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photos: Laura Corsiglia/BAX

Reference:
Gaston, Anthony J., Seabirds: A Natural History, 2004 Yale University Press