Tonight! Celebrate the Volunteers!

Come out tonight to help us honor and celebrate the generous and compassionate people who help Humboldt Wildlife Care Center everyday. Without our volunteers we wouldn’t be able to meet our mission. Volunteers get it done!

Can’t make it but would like to make a donation in honor of our volunteers’ hard work? Donate here!


Season’s Greetings, 2018!

Dear Friends and Supporters!

Season’s greetings once again! Another year of challenges, growth, griefs and joys! Bird Ally X/Humboldt Wildlife Care Center staff and resources were deeply challenged by record numbers of patients, our busiest summer, very late season babies, and emergency care of birds hit by botulism in the Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge. As climate change and other disasters alter what we thought was immutable, we find our knowledge and comprehension of the world no longer seems to fill in the map.

While our maps are suddenly full of blank spaces, the world has no voids. Each nook and cranny has someone who lives there. From the scorpion in the crevice in a high desert cliff to the salamander family nested beneath an old discarded tire.

For cavity-nesters like the Chestnut-backed chickadees (Poecile rufescens) on this card, a hollow at the top of a utility pole in the middle of Blue Lake, California is a perfectly fine place to raise your babies.

And it would have been a fine place, if PG&E hadn’t needed to replace the pole. Mishaps like these, at various points on the spectrum of preventability, are the inevitable result of the built world taken at face value by the resourceful and always honest wild. No matter where we build and operate the machinery of our times, if we aren’t careful a wild neighbor, a wild family, are going to be harmed. And so often, we aren’t careful.

That’s why BAX/HWCC is here. We admitted five tiny young chickadee babies that day when the big PG&E truck rolled up our driveway. Had they not been seen when their nest was destroyed, the babies would have died. Instead, your support gave them a second chance. We released them a month later, fully fledged and ready for independence, back in Blue Lake, into a flock of their own kind along the banks of the Mad River.

At this time of year, it is common and useful to give thanks for what we have and to express our love and warmth to those who travel though the mysteries with us. It’s enjoy­able to imagine a peaceful future, to dream toward it, and to hope that even our smallest wild neighbors are invited to partake in it – a de-escalated war on Mother Earth.

Thank you for dreaming this with us – and for doing something about it. We wish you a warm holiday season and a happy new year! – We’re counting on you in 2019!

Thank you!
All of us at Bird Ally X and Humboldt Wildlife Care Center


A Peregrine Falcon we called Carson

With deep sadness, we say goodbye to one of Humboldt Wildlife Care Center’s most famous captive raptors, the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) we called Carson. Carson served as a “wildlife ambassador” on our education team for more than 12 years. His time with us ended over Thanksgiving weekend, when he was found deceased in his enclosure where he was cared for daily.

The cause of death has yet to be determined, but it’s rare for a captive Peregrine Falcon to live more than 20 years. First admitted as young bird in early 2005, he was no more than two years old. Suffering a fractured femur after having likely been hit by a car, surgery was performed but the bone healed poorly preventing his release.

For many wild animals (over a million animals in the US each year) life ends with being hit by a vehicle. Collisions with cars and trucks account for a huge percentage of Peregrine Falcon fatalities. One study (, Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group unpubl.) found that 11% of fatalities in mid-western populations were caused by vehicle collisions.

In the second half of the twentieth century Peregrine Falcons suffered dramatic losses due to widespread use of injurious pesticides (such as DDT) that interfered with reproduction and egg integrity. In fact, Carson was named for Rachel Carson, whose groundbreaking book, Silent Spring, helped fuel the groundswell of public concern over the impact of these toxins in our environment. In 1970, Peregrine Falcons were granted greater federal protection, and when the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, Peregrine Falcons were among the first put on the endangered species list (listed, we say). Banning DDT in the United States in 1972, combined with captive breeding and release programs, gave the species what it needed for recovery. In 1999, Peregrine Falcons were taken of the list of endangered species.

In his life as an “education bird”, Carson was introduced to hundreds of kids and adults throughout the Humboldt region, accompanied by our human education team and a message of conservation. Carson has been painted and photographed many times, and displayed annually at Godwit Days, our local Spring birding festival. In his way, he was a Humboldt celebrity. Carson the Peregrine Falcon with long time education team leader, Merry Maloney, who preceded Carson in death by four years. Both Carson and Merry remain in our hearts.

A life of captivity did not dampen the Falcon’s “implacable arrogance”, as California poet Robinson Jeffers described the wild gaze of the raptor…
In his life as Carson, this Peregrine Falcon touched hundreds of human lives – something that would have never happened without initially being hit by a car. We honor the sacrifice he made as well as the work our education team has done in the name of co-existing with the wild.

We’re grateful for the work of Carson, and all the members of our education team, avian and human, did to promote conservation and love for the wild. Carson’s life came to an end just as HWCC/bax embarks on a new education program, with a heightened awareness of the stress and threats to well-being that captivity poses to wild animals. While humane ethics demand that we discontinue use of live animals in our educational efforts, the work done by our team is acknowledged and appreciated. We look forward to building on that effort, keeping the memory of Carson and all those wild neighbors whose lives were re-directed into captivity by an unfortunate event in our hearts. Your support for our work, and for our staff, especially those who worked closely with Carson and are grieving his loss, is appreciated more than we can ever say. Thank you.




After the Babes of Summer Have Gone

Each Spring we wonder if we’ll survive the challenges of our looming season of caring for hundreds of orphaned wild animals. Each Spring we do what we can to reduce the number of trapped or killed wild mothers, stop needless nest destruction and anything else we think of to keep wild families together. Still, each year we admit more babies each year than the year before, and 2018 was no different. In fact we broke records this year for wild orphans treated.

And we are close to surviving the challenging pace!

[Help us pay our remaining 2018 bills – please, on this #GivingTuesday, donate to HWCC/bax and help us finish the year and prepare for 2019! Donate HERE]

Last week, we released the last of the babies we’ve been caring for at HWCC since the Summer – two late season raccoons (Procyon lotor) and a Black-tailed Deer fawn (Odocoileus hemionus) who also was brought to us unusually late in the season.

As the last babies in care from this very hectic year, we are so glad that they made it home to their wild freedom. Please take a moment and look through the photographs from their releases. They’re the reason for the season.

Simply transporting an older fawn in a crate to the release site is highly stressful! Once sagely arrived, opening the door is a thrill! HWCC/bax intern, Tabytha Sheeley does the honors!
A tentative glance – can it be true? are there really no walls to confine me?!
Just a hint of spots remain for this young deer, who was found near Blocksburg huddled next to his dead mother. Nearly every fawn we admit is traumatized by their mother’s death and requires a couple of days of supportive before they will accept a milk substitute.

One last look back to see if we are still a threat…

And then away he goes…

… quickly putting distance between himself and our release team. So long young deer!

Just as with our fawns, raccoons are admitted in a typically helpless state. Roughly four months of care are needed to until these guys are old enough for independence. Our favorite release site is several miles form the nearest house, with a healthy forest and a tributary of a local river that provides all the resources (like fish!) our former patients need.

These two raccoons aren’t siblings, but they were admitted for care within a few days of each other. Once their initial quarantine period was over (to prevent transmission of disease or parasites) they’ve shared housing their entire time in care. Now they have the chance to spend time together by choice!

After exploring the real river (our housing for raccoons has an artificial river where they learn to fish) this young male finds an interesting leaf, but as you can see, the forest has suddenly captured the attention of his superb raccoon intelligence…Soon both raccoons leave the release and head up into the woods, where insects, mushrooms, and more await them.
Another successful release of successfully raised wild babies!

As we conclude baby season 2018, we are very grateful for the support we’ve received. We couldn’t have gotten through this Spring, Summer and Fall without you! We still have expenses to cover and we also need to begin making necessary repairs and other maintenance so that we’ll be ready when it starts all over again in only four months!

We’re publishing this story on #givingtuesday. Now, like you our inboxes are filled with pleas for support on this day, and we appreciate the mounting alarms of our era, but truly, without you, we’d no longer be able to keep our doors open, our raccoon river flowing, our deer milk on tap and our 1200 patients that we treat each year would have nowhere to go. Your support keeps the abyss closed. Please, help us help our wild neighbors! Thank you!!!

all photos: Bird Ally X/Laura Corsiglia


One morning on the 101, two sibling Hawks cause more than a few to take notice.

It was an ordinary Wednesday morning at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, including the ringing phone and the person calling who’d seen a hawk by the side of US101 in the “safety corridor” between Arcata and Eureka. That section of highway, from the Eucalyptus trees that are slated for destruction to the bridge over the Eureka slough is a favorite hunting place for Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis). We frequently gets calls from concerned commuters about hawks on the ground – in the median, or by the side of the road – who seem unable to fly.

Rarely is the hawk actually in trouble. After eating it can take a raptor a while to be ready to fly again. For some reason the passing traffic does not seem to threaten the birds as they recover from a large meal (not exactly asleep in front of a televised Thanksgiving Day football game, but similar.). However, just because it usually isn’t an emergency, and just because the hawk is almost always perfectly fine doesn’t mean we don’t take these calls seriously. We treat plenty of hawks and other birds each year who’ve been hit by cars, and until we investigate we can’t know what the situation is.

As we mounted a voyage of discovery to that area to see what was going on, the phone rang again – and again. And again. Within an hour we’d received close to 30 calls about the hawk!

Soon our team was back. They’d caught the hawk easily. She’d been standing very close to traffic on the side of the highway beneath the eucalyptus trees. A juvenile whose tail was far from being red, she had no injuries that we could find. We set her up with a safe place and some mice as a meal. Immediately, she ate them.

Meanwhile, the calls kept coming! Apparently another hawk was near the same location, but in the median and closer to the bridge.

Another staff member went to check the second reported hawk out, finding a healthy looking bird that did not seem to need assistance. However, the calls did not stop coming in and with rush hour approaching, concerns about people trying to stop to help the hawk in heavy traffic, as well as the hawk’s safety during that time prompted us to try and catch him as well. Using a lucky break in the traffic we were able to safely net the hawk and bring him to our clinic for evaluation. Our staff noticed that a large adult Red-tailed Hawk, quite likely mother to both of these youngsters, was perched on a light post nearby watching as our captures unfolded.

Neither hawk had any injuries. Both were in relatively good condition although mildly dehydrated. We gave supportive care (i.e., food and fluids) and housed them for the night. The next day we moved both siblings (by their sizes, we believe that one, the larger, is female and the other is male) to an outdoor aviary in order to evaluate their flight.

On Friday, both hawks were evaluated for release. Both were flying very well, but the male was still mildly dehydrated, moreover, he hadn’t eaten while in care. We released the female and gave the male another day to eat and also to get more fluid therapy. The next day, he’d eaten and his hydration was returned to normal, and he was also released.

We took them near to their capture site, in the Fay Slough Wildlife Area, a safe distance from the freeway and very likely close to where they’d been raised. In fact on the first release, the adult Red-tailed Hawk we’d seen watching these birds’ capture was present. The female juvenile was released in her view, and both birds ended up flying off together. The next day, when the male was released, he was joined by his sister as soon as he took flight into nearby trees.

The power, the grace and the single-minded devotion to raptorizing… she’s got it all!

Even with all those advantages, she’s still just a juvenile with a lot to learn. In captivity or by the side of the road, young hawks sometimes find themselves in very awkward situations.

One of the best moments in a rehabilitator’s day – opening the box!

The young female takes flight, not yet aware that her mother can see her.

Perched in nearby vegetation while her mother watches from a much higher perch behind her, our former patient surveys her re-gained freedom.

The daughter…
… and the mother, last seen flying off together…

Volunteer Katharine Major enjoys giving a wild hawk her second chance.

Alone in our aviary for a day, the male ate well.

An additional day in care was all the brother needed before he could be released. Dehydration, even mild, is serious enough to address and well within the scope of what we can immediately do for our patients. Caution rules the day!

A minute on the ground to get his bearings… it’s not unusual for a young patient to need a moment out of the box to see which way the wind blows… see if there’s any food in the field and woods rat burrows.

And then he goes! Birds flying away is a favorite thing of ours…

Our ex-patient flies to the trees where his sister is waiting.

The siblings, free and together again, in the wild.
Happy interns Brooke Brown (left) and Tabytha Sheeley enjoy the fruits of their labors!

Intent, strength, and nearby parent – this young aerial ballerina (and her brother) has everything she needs – including this second chance – for a live well lived on the shores of Humboldt Bay.

While these hawks weren’t injured they were in a very dangerous location. Their reluctance to fly away on their own was causing all kinds of commotion with our human neighbors. It was prudent to catch these birds to make sure that all was well with them, as well as making sure that no one was harmed trying rescue them themselves. These two sibling hawks illustrate that we serve our wild neighbors first, but we also serve our human neighbors as well. Your support makes our mission possible!

As we near the end of this very challenging year, with so many demands on our attention and resources, we are forced to ask over and over again for your financial help. Keeping our clinic open to the myriad phone calls and emergencies isn’t easy and with out you it would even be a possibility. On this day, when we celebrate with gratitude our lives, our loves, our families and our shared world, please keep in mind the wild – without which none of anything would even exist.

all photos: Bird Ally X/ Laura Corsiglia


Barn Owl Hit By Car and Left for Dead Treated at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center (VIDEO)

One of our biggest challenges at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center is the sheer enormity of the region that we serve. From the Oregon border to northern Mendocino county and from the Pacific Ocean to Weaverville, our region is more than double the size of each of the 9 smallest states in the union.

(scroll down for release photos and video!)

When we got the call that an owl was found on the side of the road in Smith River, about 100 miles north, right at the state line, we set into motion a dedicated group of volunteers to start the relay to bring the injured bird south to our clinic in Bayside.We routinely admit patients from all over the North Coast. Volunteers in Del Norte County met volunteers from Humboldt in Orick, between Patrick’s Point and Klamath, to hand off the owl. Just another day meeting the needs of wildlife in a territory larger than many states!

It turned out that the bird was a Barn Owl (Tyto alba) who’d likely been hit by a car. Although there is always some degree of guesswork to figure out what happened to our patients that caused their injuries, because the owl had been found on the side of the road, was suffering from severe dehydration, but was in relatively good body condition, had no broken bones, but was unable to fly, we deduced that the s/he’d been hit by a car. Often smaller owls and other birds who are hit by cars escape serious injury, suffering only a concussion that can still be debilitating for the first few days. Without treatment they will likely die, but with treatment they recover quickly. The degree of dehydration, suggested that the owl had been on the ground for at least a few days. If the owl hadn’t been seen, dehydration would have likely been the immediate cause of death. We treated with fluids and anti-inflammatory medicine.

[We need your help! Please donate today!]

For severely dehydrated patients, the most critical treatment we can give is fluids.

After fluids, medicines, warmth and a safe pace to recover are next on the list.

Within a couple of days, with continued fluid therapy, we were able to move the owl to an outside aviary, which would reduce stress and give us the opportunity to observe the bird’s recovery. With hydration restored and with a good appetite for the mice we offered, the owl’s health had improved quickly. After 6 days, we evaluated the owl for release.

When a patient recovers we have ways of analyzing their health. Sustained flight and ability to evade capture is definitely part of what we look for!

A small blood sample lets us know how things are going physiologically. In order to be released, a patient needs to have plenty of oxygen-transporting red blood cells!

The moment of release is always quite thrilling. After 6 days in care, this owl was ready to go back to Smith River!

Birds flying away is a very gratifying sight.

This Barn Owl’s rescue, treatment and release was the result of a dedicated team of staff and volunteers working across two counties and scores of miles. Every aspect of care, from the medicine to the gasoline spent in transport, was made possible by community support. In these difficult times, when so much needs our attention – elections, fire disasters and more – your gift, no matter the size, is critical to our survival. Please help. Contribute something today! Thank you!!!

photos/video: Bird Ally X/ Laura Corsiglia


Aleutians Falling Down Like Hail (in other words, we’re admitting a lot of Cackling Geese!)

Each Autumn, the common sadness of Summer’s end is brightened by the return to our region of many species of aquatic and semi-aquatic birds who find our temperate winters a good place to live away from breeding grounds further North or inland. Many ducks, loons, grebes, and shorebirds arrive here with the rains that turn meadows and mosses green again in a kind of second Spring.

One of the most visible of our winter neighbors is the Aleutian Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii). From when they depart in late April and early May bound for the Aleutian Islands to raise their young of the year, until they return in late September and early October, the meadows and pastures of the bottom lands of Humboldt and Del Norte counties can feel very empty. All winter we enjoy the splendor of their melodic high pitched voices as they rise and fall in flocks sometimes numbering in the thousands throughout our winter days.

The higher numbers in their populations is a relief. Aleutians were initially listed as endangered under the 1973 Endangered Species Act, but since their decline was reversed, they were taken of the list in 2001. In fact, their numbers have recovered to the point that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has given waterfowl hunters a special 16 day season late February through early March strictly for the purpose of hunting the geese who use private land in an effort to drive them off, just as tens of thousands of individuals are arriving from around the state in a pre-migration staging here on the North Coast. Pasture land in our region is dedicated to ranching and the geese are seen as direct competitors with beef cattle for grass.

The dates of this year’s waterfowl seasons are posted on our dry erase board at HWCC so that staff is aware of conditions that might threaten wild neighbors. We usually admit one or two geese per year who were shot but not killed or recovered, found near a road, or on the beach. Depending on the nature of the wounds, we’ve been able to treat and release several gunshot victims.

Since 2012, Humboldt Wildlife Care Center/bird ally x has treated 66 Cackling Geese as of November 1, this year. In 2018 alone, so far we’ve treated 19 individuals, 10 in the last two weeks!

While it’s typical that we admit a few cackling Geese at this time of year, the numbers we’re treating this year are clearly spiking up! It’s ordinary for some of the young of the year to meet difficulty when completing their first migration from breeding grounds on the Yukon Delta, say, two thousand miles south to Northern California. All geese use a significant amount of their own muscle-mass to fuel their journey, which is conducted non-stop.

Upon arrival, nourishment is the first order of business. Only those birds who are in excellent condition can make the trip, and only those birds who, through luck, guidance, intelligence, instinct and timing, arrive and find immediate food will survive. Most cackling geese who we admit at this time of year are juveniles, often found on the regions beaches, rolled by the surf. It’s possible that they just couldn’t fly the last leg and resorted to paddling ashore. In any case, a young Cackling goose being rolled in the surf is not going to recover from this dilemma alone.

And that’s where our community comes in. People on the beaches, or in the parks, or even driving along the roads of our region will find geese in trouble, often doing what they can to capture and bring the goose to our clinic in Bayside. Other times people call us and we go out to find the goose. We don’t always find the wild goose on these chases, but usually we do.Upon admission each goose is given a physical exam and treated for many of the basic problems that all face. They are treated for both internal and external parasites, such as tapeworm and feather lice. While all while animals carry some parasites without a negative impact, a young bird starving death needs all of the calories s/he can get. We make sure to reduce the competition.

Usually each new goose patient we admit comes in cold and dehydrated. Stabilizing the patient is mostly a job for fluids and warmth. We take a small sample of blood of which a rudimentary analysis can let us know basic parameters such as total protein solids in the blood and percentage of red blood cells. This knowledge helps us plan the patient’s recovery, from housing to diet to any additional medications required.

HWCC/bax intern Brooke Brown (left) is learning from wildlife rehabilitator Lucinda Adamson on how to procure a blood sample from a  newly admitted Cackling Goose patient.

After a day in a climate controlled environment, provided with a regular schedule of warmed fluids delivered orally, or intravenously or subcutaneously depending on the needs of the patient, often the debilitated geese will be ready to be housed outdoors with access to water. Eating, maintaining a consistently good body temperature and restored hydration are the main criteria for moving forward in treatment at this time. Until then though, it’s strictly indoors where caloric expenditure is kept as small as possible.

Rehabilitator Stephanie Owens gives a brand new Cackling Goose patient the first of series of hydration tube feedings. This method getting fluids into a patient is very reliable as long as the patient is awake and alert and can hold up their own head. Otherwise other routes of delivering fluid therapy are needed.
Warmed water is a critical part of our patient’s early treatment, just as a cup of hot tea would aid a lost hiker.

Our treatment board… if you can’t decipher it, it says that we have 5 Cackling Geese (CACK) in care, 3 housed outdoors in an aviary and 2 indoors in “room 3”.

Once stable and ready, the geese are moved to an outdoor aviary, housed together and left alone for longer periods of time between checks. It takes between two and three weeks for a cold, emaciated, dehydrated goose to recover well enough to be released. During that time we keep them well fed, in as stress-free of an environment as we can create, that still allows us to provide care. Slowly, yet really pretty quickly when you think about it, our patients go from cold, wet sandy and dangerously close to death to flying, strong and anxious to return to their wild lives! Healing and recovery are as common as life and just as wondrous.

Being housed with others of their kind is a comfort to animals in care who prefer flocks. Each on of these geese is helping the others recover.

It’s a wonderful feeling to step into the aviary with breakfast and see that someone is now string enough to fly. It’s just a matter of time now. Only the stress of captivity could cause anything to go wrong at this point.

With heat support, fluid therapy, medicines, food, and an environment built to encourage recovery, a time comes when we evaluate for release. Each goose is given an examination similar to the one they each received upon admission. The differences are astounding – a typical emaciated goose gains 300-400 grams in care – going from 900 at admission to 1200 or 1300 at release.  Another look at their blood work is important. The presence of red blood cells in sufficient quantity indicates that the patient has a much improved oxygen carrying capacity, critical for strong, high altitude endurance flyers like Cackling Geese. As long as all of the parameters are met, the only thing left to do is take the patient out to the bottomlands and find a flock of geese… open the box and let nature take her course!

Proper housing for all our patients of myriad species is the foundation of the care we provide. Our aviaries are critical for the care that we provide.

A small amount of blood is drawn one last time.

An open box!

And take to the sky…

And then the young goose, on his second chance (thanks to your support!) joins in the flock and is our patient no more.

We don’t know exactly why we’re admitting so many more Cackling Geese this year compared to other years. It’s a mystery that may take a while ti understand, a few years before a more clear pattern emerges. What we do know is that we have commitment to be here each and every door for them and for all of our region’s wildlife in trouble. It’s been a hard year. And we need your help more than ever. Please donate and help us give innocent injured animals a second chance. Thank You!!!

all photos: Laura Corsiglia and bird ally x


When the door is open, freedom is restored.

If you follow wildlife rehabilitation on social media or other locations you might see all kinds of release techniques. From throwing eagles into the air to tipping over a box and dumping its passenger out. At Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, we take a different approach. After selecting a release location as near to the patient’s original rescue location as prudent or possible, we set the transport vessel down, open the lid or door to an unobstructed avenue of escape and step back. At this moment, our patient ceases to be our patient. They are released from care and all the decision-making about their destiny is restored to them and their true autonomy. In other words, they leave the box when they are good and ready.

We waited for six minutes for this young female Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) to emerge from her carrier and re-enter the dune world a few hundred feet from where she was first found, a few days before trapped in an outbuilding in Fairhaven. Uninjured, we took her back to a nearby location to release her. Six minutes is a long time when you’re stuck in traffic, but it’s nothing when you’re returning a wild neighbor to her home.BAX staff carefully places the carrier down so that our skunk patient can exit with ease once the lid is open.

So we patiently waited for our former patient to emerge, with one check to make sure that she is okay and not tangled in the bedding that’s also in the box. Eventually our young patient steps out of the box of her own free will (she begins to leave the box at 5:48) and then quickly makes her way to cover and then (out of view of the camera) up and over the dune along a trail that the we hadn’t noticed before she used it.

Rescuing wild animals who are injured, orphaned or  otherwise caught in one of the myriad traps our human-built world has created, providing appropriate treatment, and releasing those who fully recover back to their wild and free lives is how we spend every single day of the year at HWCC/bax. But not without your support. We are in the middle of crucial fundraiser right now to help recover the costs of our incredibly busy year. We need to raise $10,000 by the end of October, in order to pay our rent and other critical bills! As of the 15th we aren’t even halfway there, which is cuaseing us some concern! Please help if you can! Donate today! Every little bit helps!

photos/video: Bird Ally X/Lucinda Adamson


Last American Wigeons from Klamath Basin Botulism Outbreak Released!

As we described in past posts, in the middle of August, staff at the Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge, which straddles the state line between California and Oregon, discovered an outbreak of avian botulism that was killing ducks by the hundreds.  Managed by BAX co-directors January Bill and Marie Travers, and working with Refuge staff, our response successfully treated and released 297 ducks and shorebirds.  The last three ducks in care, each American Wigeons (Mareca americana) were transferred to Humboldt Wildlife Care Center because they weren’t ready for release  and could take advantage of our seabird and diving duck pools.

[Our goal of $10,000 by October 31 has not been met! In fact, we are far from it. Our resources are emptied after a busy baby season. Thank you to everyone who has contributed during this drive. We need your help. If you want to donate now, click here ]

After a week in our pool, each duck was ready for freedom. Fortunately, at the nearby Arcata Marsh, there are hundreds of overwintering Wigeons with plentiful food available. It’s possible these three wigeons would have made it to Humboldt Bay this Winter anyway.

In any case, after a brush with death by botulism, a lifesaving trip through our rapidly manifested “Duck Hospital” set up near the Lava Beds, followed by some time spent in our pools, gaining weight, improving feather condition, restoring red blood cells, and gaining strength, these Wigeons returned to their wild and free lives, healthy and ready for a winter of easier times.

The first American Wigeon was released several days before the other two. She made short work out of getting hid in the vegetation of the pond.

Thick with duckweed and other food, the Arcata Marsh proved her a soft landing at release.

About thirty feet away scores of wintering Wigeons make use of the Marsh as well.

Providing a hiding place for our patients lowers their captivity-caused stress and helps them focus on recovering. This female Wigeon lurks behind her blind, hoping to avoid capture.

Of course, when that capture is intended for healing and release, we take liberties that ordinarily would be unethical, handling and housing without consent.

Rudimentary blood analysis will provide data that confirms our impression that she is ready for release. Here a small sample is collected to be given a ride in the centrifuge so that we can measure percentage of red blood cells – as the carriers of oxygen through the body, they are critical for all aspects of life. We can also get indications of possible unseen infections and other maladies which can affect total protein solids in the plasma that is separated from the red blood cells, which we also measure.

Here we examine a previously swollen foot to see if the problem has resolved well enough that she will be fine in her natural environment. The answer was yes!

About a week after being transferred from Tulelake, the two last Wigeons were released in to the same pond as the first Wigeon. Each bird is her own person and does what she wants. The first Wigeon we released dove for cover in the vegetation, this one flew as quickly away as she could.

The third Wigeon swam away, accompanied by a Mallard who we’d also treated at HWCC and released that day.

The Arcata Marsh is one of the gems of our neck of the woods. Knowing that these birds are making there way with quality food available and in the freely-chosen company of their kind after their long ordeal is very relieving. The habitat of our home is not just for show. It’s the actual living place of our wild neighbors. It’s our home too. Our wild neighbors aren’t just like some new family who recently moved here from Atlanta but who will soon be moving to Seattle. They are our kin. We have the same needs. Our shared home is worth loving and respecting.

HWCC volunteer Katharine (l) and 2018 Intern Desiree Vang (r) are displaying the typical expressions worn by members of their species who are experiencing fulfilling joy. Warm smiles. Successful releases of our wild patients are like that.

The challenge of 2018, so far the busiest year in HWCC history, has been at times a joy and at other times deeply stressful. The avian botulism outbreak in the Lower Klamath Basin, a region that is just on the other side of Shasta, just up the Klamath River, was difficult but also very fulfilling – launching a successful emergency wildlife response is a very gratifying experience. The privilege of doing our work is something no wildlife rehabilitator takes for granted. So far in 2018 we’ve met every challenge but the financial one. We need your help. In the midst of these ever greater demands, our resources aren’t merely not growing to meet them, but are shrinking. The world is full of demands for support, pleas for generosity. The world is in upheaval right now. We know, we work on the front lines of the devastation. And the only thing that keeps us here, keeps our pools functioning, keeps our facility’s rent paid, keeps our phone on, keeps our care improving, keeps our reach expanding, is you. Please donate today. We need your help. Thank you!


photos: Laura Corsiglia/Bird Ally X