Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ruffed Grouse is an Uninvited Houseguest

When a local pastor heard a loud bang on the side of her home she assumed it was winter thaw coming out of the ground. It is a sound we are used to here in the north woods of Wisconsin. A few days later a cold wind was blowing under the closed door to her guest room.

When she opened the door she saw the reason. The double pane window was shattered. Glass was spread all over the room and a ruffed grouse was sitting on the curtain rod. She called REGI.

Fortunately we are used to getting odd calls and when wildlife and people are involved we pretty much expect the unexpected.

My grandson and I drove over the her house and just as the Pastor said, the window was shattered and a Ruffed grouse sat almost casually on the curtain rod.

We were able to capture the bird after a short chase and brought her back to REGI as the pastor made a call to the local glass company. How does one explain THAT to an insurance company I wonder? It was hard for people to believe that a grouse would have the flight velocity to go through a double pane window.

The bird was in good condition. She had no broken bones. Her vision appeared to be perfect and there were no wounds of any kind. The grouse was dehydrated because she had not had anything to eat or drink in the two days since the accident. After the physical the grouse was tube fed liquid food and fluids. She perked up. We thought a few days in rehabilitation would give us a chance to observe her making sure she was 100% well before her release back to the wild.

To our surprise she flew like a stunt pilot immediately. Within a few hours it was obvious that this ruffed grouse was ready to leave our care and be on her own.

As she was released she shot into the air. Ruffed grouse have short but powerful wings. The wings make a very loud sound especially for such a small bird. It sounds more like an explosion as they rocket into the air. She went over the house and when we last saw her was tree top level heading in the direction of home.

I know we will be talking about this Ruffed Grouse and her adventure in a guest room for some time to come. The grouse that broke a double pane of glass and not only lived to talk about it, but today is getting on with her life in the wild.

I wonder how she explained her two day absence to her mate?

Have a good day everyone,

Marge Gibson ©2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kingfishers Return from Migration, Bald Eagle Recovers

I have gotten behind on our blog and I apologize to our readers. The flu hit us hard here at REGI. We are finally recovering and can get back to the computer. Thanks for your patience. A lot has gone on and I will be catching you up.

We have great news from John and Jennifer Benishek. Last summer we released four young kingfishers, raised at REGI, on their river front property, The young birds stayed on close to the property and as they honed their fishing skills. John supplemented them with minnows from a large pan. In October the last of the young kingfishers left the area and migrated to their wintering grounds. It is both exciting and tense at the same time when “our” babies no matter what species migrate. We know it is exactly what they need to do, BUT we also know that there are lots of things that can happen to them during this migration adventure. We are pensive until we see signs of their return in the spring. Some birds are more obvious than others when they come back home. This week three of the four kingfishers made themselves VERY obvious as they returned to the river release site and were waiting for some supplement feeding on favorite limb perches. We welcome them home and hope they have a good season.

Kingfishers are nearly impossible to raise from babies. The fact is not many have been raised in captivity. These young birds came to us when a citizen bulldozed a sandbank where their nest was located. The youngsters that lived through the bulldozing event ended up on the ground. With their nest destroyed and the chicks too young to care for themselves we had no option but to bring them into care at REGI. Kingfishers are high strung birds and have specialized needs. Every single mouthful has to be force fed to the little darlings. Having said that, they fight every mouthful and more times than not spit it out. Basically it becomes a war of wills to get enough nutrition into the tykes and then teach them to fish before they can be released. We were so very lucky to have a group of interns last summer that were as strong willed as the kingfishers. They raised every one of the snarling little darlings to release.

The photos show their progress to release.
Thank you to 2008 interns Jamie Kelmish, Kendra Sawyer, and Kiel Stevens. You guys rock!

The bald eagle impaled on a stick on April 6th is FLYING! We are elated with her progress. She is still in a medium sized flight cage because she is still receiving treatment for lead poisoning but we are drawing blood work today and if her lead level is down she will go into the large eagle flight to prepare for release. I alerted the folks that found her and they could not be happier. Her mate is still at the nest site and still incubating. We just need to get her home as soon as possible.

Have a great day everyone,

© 2009 Marge Gibson

Monday, April 27, 2009

UWSP Events!

Over the years REGI has formed a strong friendship with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point because of their strong natural resources and captive wildlife programs. Every summer REGI accepts interns and often many if not all of them are current Point students. As a former Pointer, it is always exciting for me to travel to campus events. In the last month REGI has joined UWSP for their Open House and just recently for Eco Fair in celebration of Earth Day. At these events REGI is able to reach out to the public and students in a fun educational setting.

After a stormy morning the clouds cleared out and temperatures soared into the 80’s for Eco Fair! This year REGI was really promoting the Get the Lead Out campaign. We offered a free lead sinker exchange program. If you brought us your lead sinkers we would give you lead free sinkers in exchange! We spoke to many students about the problems birds face when they swallow lead linkers or ammunition. We brought photographs of actual x-rays taken of swans and eagles emitted to REGI for lead poisoning. The only way to solve this problem in the future is through educating the public on lead free alternatives such as tin, bismuth, steel, tungsten or ceramic. People are always surprised by the number of alternatives.

Are you interested in learning about more alternatives to lead for your tackle box? Follow this link

Of course we were also on campus trying to win a few votes for the Office Technology Makeover! Thank you to the Wildlife Society, Fisheries Society, Environmental Educators and Naturalist Association, Vet Club, and the many other student organizations that helped REGI spread the word across campus to vote for REGI. No matter the outcome your support and encouragement is greatly appreciated! If you haven’t had a chance to vote yet click here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

VOTE! Help REGI win a $25,000 Office Technology Makeover!

REGI was recently nominated for an Office Technology Make over put on by EO Johnson and WSAW Channel 7 news.

Go to this link to vote! Voting is from April 23 to May 5th.

How to Vote:
You must create a one day user name with EO Johnson to vote. This allows only 1 vote per email address. Once you create this log in to your email and cast your vote.

Why Vote?
This is an amazing opportunity for REGI! As you know everything we do is for the birds. This often puts other business necessities like office equipment at the bottom of the list. This makeover would allow REGI to receive a professional copy machine, printer, electronic filing system, and much more. A top of the line office printer would allow REGI to turn our annual newsletter into a quarterly newsletter! Plus cutting cost of having all of our printing done in house. The electronic filing system would allow all the medical information we collect on our birds to be organized data. Imagine with a click of a button being able to see what the top 3 injuries of all Bald Eagles emitted to REGI in the last 10 years is. We have all this important medical information on paper, in boxes but to to have that data in a computer system will make it more meaningful and easier to access. These are just a few example of how this makeover would help REGI. Please take the time to vote!

If you would like to see Channel 7's media coverage of REGI and the make over contest click on this link

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gold Finches

The REGI staff knows when spring has truly arrived because we start receiving all the colorful songbirds. A few weeks ago we were receiving nothing but Pine Siskin. This week besides all the Bald Eagles, we have admitted 3 Gold Finches into our care as well. The two males we received are doing well. The female is in rough shape but we are keeping our hopes up. All three birds were brought in by people who took the time to notice and care that some of their bird feeder visitors were having a rough time in this cold rain and snow we have been having. One of the males has his wing taped to help him heal a broken wing. The other male has a slight injury to his right foot. Nothing some time and tender loving care won't heal! When the spring weather finally catches up to us they will be moved into our songbird flight area.

REGI cares for all bird no matter how small because they are all have important roles in nature.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Two More Eagles Admitted/Pond Work

It was a beautiful day today and we took full advantage of it. The pond in our swan compound finally has the ice off. It is a large man-made pond, has a filter and is lined with clay, but I fret unceasingly that the bio load is too heavy for the health of our patients. So, despite assurance from many that the water is fine, we pump the pond out and replace the water at least once a year. I sleep better knowing we have begun the season with the best possible habitat for our swans and other water birds. Besides, me being happy makes life here much better for everyone. :)

We were able to get a look during low water level and saw our turtles made it through the winter as did the frogs and bullheads. The winter was so severe I worried they may not have made it through. (For those of you that are thinking that with plant life and healthy turtles, frogs and fish that is proof positive that it IS just fine, I know that at least on some level. But … So don’t write in. When it comes to the birds I am over compulsive.)

We are beginning to think of changing our name to Eagles R Us. Two more Bald Eagles were admitted on Friday and we have had two more calls today.

One new admit is an immature Bald Eagle from Wood County. He was hit by a truck and has a broken wing and internal injuries. Poor little one is in critical condition. He is about two years old. It is hard to see them so vulnerable.

The photo shows Nicole Swanson, from our education department holding the eagle during the exam and initial stabilization of the wing. We are so lucky to have such versatile people that just jump in where needed and do whatever possible when the birds need care. Nicole actually transported this young eagle from Wood County (2.5 hour drive from REGI) She and Steve happened to have programs for the 4th grade classes in Nekoosa on Friday afternoon. After the programs they met DNR staff that had the eagle waiting for transport. It was a long day for all of us.

Birds come to REGI from some great distances. Our location in relatively remote North Central WI is great for being close to lots of wildlife but no large population centers.

The young Trumpeter Swan with lead poisoning discussed in the blog on Feb… and last blogged about on March 9, 2009, was put out into the swan compound on Friday. She was thrilled to see the other swans and be able to interact with them after her long convalescence. She was so sick with lead poisoning and the resulting starvation we didn’t think she had much of a chance to survive. She did however and while she will need one more round of CA EDTA to treat a residual lead level, she will be going home as soon as this round of treatment is finished. I wish people could see how birds struggle with lead poisoning. It is all so preventable just by making a few changes.

That is all for tonight. Morning comes early and it is sure to be another full day.

Best to all,

©2009 Marge Gibson

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Three Bald Eagles Admitted Within 24 Hours

(Photo: Tribal Conservation Warden Don Waukechon holds Bald Eagle he rescued)

REGI is always a busy place, but the past 24 hours have brought three new eagle patients plus an adult male Cooper’s hawk, an American Goldfinch and several Pine Siskin. I am going to begin using the patient numbers to better identify them for everyone.
The first adult Bald Eagle (# 142-09) had been seen on the shore of Lake Superior for several days. He was weak and was dragging a wing. His left wing is fractured. We are concerned he may have hit a power line. The feathers on the left wing appear to be singed. Electric burns take a few days to demonstrate themselves. He is a beautiful adult male bird in the prime of his life. Our focus is always to get the bird back into their natural environment however that is not always possible. If the bird is not able to make a 100% recovery we give it the best possible option for a full life even if that is in captivity. It could be placement in an educational facility or working as a foster parent for young orphaned eagles that come into rehabilitation. When young birds are reared by foster parents they do not imprint on humans.

(photos: Don Gibson examines wing of bald eagle patient from Lake Superior #142-09 and in pnoto below the wing is washed and treated.

About 9 P.M. Tribal Conservation Warden Don Waukechon received a call about an adult Bald Eagle found in a wooded area near Neopit. The eagle (#143-09) was unable to fly. Don is a long time warden and has rescued many bald eagles in the past. This time was no different. Don was able to capture the bird and bring him to REGI for care. This bird is also an adult male bald eagle. He is an older bird. He is very thin at 5.6 lbs. He was having seizures when he arrived. We did blood work on admission. He is anemic. His blood lead is within normal range, so this time it is not lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is so common in bald eagles I begin to assume it is the problem until the testing comes back. We suspect he has encountered a toxin of some kind and will continue to test him until we find the problem. The eagle was able to keep down a small amount of food and is digesting which are both good signs. His convulsions while still present are slowing in both interval and intensity.
( Photo on top of blog page)

Gus Frank found an immature Bald Eagle (#144-09) near Crandon, WI late afternoon today. (4-15) Gus gave him the Indian name Na Kwe ga Boe which translate to “The lights always shine on you”. The beautiful three year old male was found on a roadside and was likely hit by a car.

There are no obvious fractures but he is very weak. X-rays will have to wait until he is in more stable condition. With the risk of internal bleeding high with this type of impact injury keeping the bird as quiet as possible and in a low stress environment is the most important thing. He did receive vitamin K to help stop internal bleeding. He is becoming aware of his surroundings.

( Photos: Na Kwe ga Boe when he arrived at REGI was lethargic and bleeding internally. Na Kwe ga Boe up close)

The Coopers Hawk (#140-09) is a beautiful adult male bird. He was likely hit by a car. He has a serious head injury but even the twelve hours since his admit ion the head injury has improved. He also has a broken wing. Wing injuries while serious, are something we can fix. We have a very good success rate with wing fractures. Head injuries are less straight forward. The same complications occur that plague human patients after a head injury. This patient is spirited and full of life however and that is always a positive thing.

( Photo: Adult male Coopers Hawk is a spirited bird.)

So far everyone is doing well. The bald eagle that was impaled on a stick about 10 days ago has begun flying short distances. She has received two rounds of treatment for her lead poisoning. She has another blood test tomorrow to see if she will need another course of treatment.

Thats all for now.

Busy in Antigo,

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Potawatomi Release Eagle Recovered from Lead Poisoning

( Photo: Billy Daniels gave moving prayer and song for the bald eagle before the bird is released to the wild.) Laura Harvey photo

( Photo: Minutes before the eagle spread his own wings to the sky.) Laura Harvey photo
On December 23, 2008 a call came in that an adult eagle had been found along the roadside in a town some 40 minutes from REGI. A former intern was visiting and together we grabbed the rescue kit, jumped in the van and were off.

We found Clarence Daniels holding the bird in a blanket at the Forest Country Potawatomi Security office in Crandon. The bird was very thin and weak. He was near death and struggled to stay conscious as we raced back to Antigo.

Once at REGI we did a physical, gave emergency care and drew blood to check for a variety of things including lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is common post hunting season here in the north woods. Eagles and other wildlife get it when they eat on deer carcasses that have been left in the woods after hunting.

The male adult eagle weighed less than five (5) lbs when he arrived at REGI. That is about half what he should have weighed.

The blood work revealed the eagle had lead poisoning and was very anemic.

Treatment to chelate the lead from his blood began immediately. The treatment for lead poisoning is a long and arduous process not to mention expensive. Ca EDTA is the compound used as an injection. Our pharmacy cost for CA EDTA is $600. for 30 ccs. Just as human pharmacy costs go up so too do those for our patients. They are the same drugs. But wildlife does not have insurance.

The bird began to make a recovery. It was slow at first but finally he began eating on his own. Once out of intensive care he was put into the large flight building to regain his strength.

By April he was ready to take his rightful place in his world.

It was a great day in April 9th when Clarence Daniels once again took the eagle into his arms, but this time it was to give him his freedom.

The bird flew strong and first landed in a large tree. He looked back at his former captors and while we will never know what he was thinking, I hope he was taking a final look at people gathered on a hill that cared enough for him to rescue him in his time of need and release him back to his wild life when he was ready.

( Photo: Freedom at last. The eagle takes one last look at the crowd that came to wish him well before he spreads his wings to go home.)
A moving drum ceremony followed the release. Clarence Daniels was presented gifts to honor his finding the eagle and then being able to put it back into the environment.
( Photo: Clarence dances around the drum circle following the presentation of gifts, Photo Laura Harvey)

Our thanks to the Forest Country Potawatomi, Crandon, WI for bringing a beautiful celebration to the REGI site. The bird had a purpose and in his recovery gave hope to many. We wish him a long life and his search for food yield only that which is not toxic.

Marge Gibson

Check this link out for a terrific newspaper article by Lori Thomas about the bald eagle rescue and lead issue.

Photos: From Lori Thomas

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bald Eagle Skewered Wing, Exciting Sandhill Crane Update

Hello Everyone,
The day began early this morning with a call from a concerned resident about a Bald Eagle on the ground bleeding. A large stick was through her wing. By seven A.M. I was in the van and on my way to attempt a rescue of the eagle.

The drive was beautiful with 3-4 inches of fresh snow decorating the trees and ground. Now that it is April I am trying to enjoy the beauty of it all knowing it will not last long.

Arriving at the location some 45 minutes later we found the situation to be exactly what the homeowner reported. An adult bald eagle sat on the ground under an evergreen tree. From her wing came a very large stick. ( See photo) I have no idea how the accident happened. An eagles nest is located directly above where the bird sat. An adult eagle was sitting on the nest and no other eagles were seen or heard in the area. We suspect strongly that this is one of the adults from the nest site. From her size it is likely the female.

The eagle ran from capture and there were some anxious times as we followed her across a still frozen part of a lake. Gratefully the ice held me and the homeowner. The homeowners were very helpful in helping corral the bird on a peninsula where we could capture her.

We were able to get the stick out of the wing in the field before we transported her to the REGI facility. Once at REGI the injury site was cleaned and evaluated. Her blood work looked good and she is in excellent physical condition. The hole in her wing should heal, but will take some time. She will require physical therapy to make certain the wing keeps mobile. No bones were fractured and that is good news. The prognosis is good that she will be released once healed. Without the help of the homeowners reporting the bird and calling REGI she would certainly have died a horrible slow death.

We had a call with more than exciting news about the Sandhill Crane released Wednesday near Wisconsin Rapids. The cranes full story is in the blog below this entry. This crane has become an extended part of many families in that town and they watch her closely. Today there was some exciting albeit intimate news to be shared. The crane and her mate were seen copulating this morning!!! They will be parents this year despite the bad luck of last year. We are delighted for them. Their youngster from last year is still with them and was in the same field while his parents were declaring their affection. The lad is getting an education that may be a bit ahead of his needs. I suspect his close contact with them will change now that they are serious about nesting, but with this pair nothing surprises me.

We also have a new pine siskin with a wing fracture. Unlike most siskins this spring, this one does not appear to be suffering with salmonella. That is great news and we hope to get him on his way soon so he can finish his northward migration.

Best to all,

Marge Gibson

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Miracle Sandhill Crane Story, the Beginning

Yesterday was an amazing day; we will remember the rest of our lives.

The story starts in late September of 2008. I received a call from a mom in Wisconsin Rapids. Her eleven-year-old daughter saw a sandhill crane with an arrow through its body. The bird standing in a stream skewered with an arrow was a horrifying sight and one this special child wanted to do something about. The girl insisted somebody do something to help this bird. Her mother called me at REGI. We’d heard about a sandhill shot with an arrow in the same area about a month before. A search was done at that time. The bird was not found and it was assumed the bird had died. That was not the case. By some miracle the bird had survived. However, a month later, the arrow remained in her body. The arrow had been shot though her back and exited her chest.

REGI is about a two-hour drive to the site where the bird was located. I went to evaluate the situation. Catching a crane that can still run is difficult. The capture of a running crane with an arrow through it was even more challenging. I knew we could not use any traditional methods of capture such as nets. If the arrow moved while still in the bird, it could result in fatal bleeding.

We came up with a plan. Many people were required for the plan to work. Nicki Christianson is a fellow wildlife rehabilitator and friend who lives in Wisconsin Rapids. Fortunately she has many contacts and friends that were willing to help. We met at a local convenience store near the site. Twenty- five plus people from all walks of life from farmers to professors were there. Each person was given a location and a cloth sheet. The idea was for the group to act like a giant purse string. Once the bird was located, the group moved forward putting increased gentle pressure on the bird until I could hand-capture her. The only hitch in the plan was that the bird made a last second break for it and headed right towards Carol Daily. Carol is a writer, woodcarver and taxidermist who came dressed to the nines for her 45th high school class reunion! She has a few health problems but wanted to help. I put her in a safe position. She would simply be a presence to prevent the crane from running to the area. Right… As luck would have it, the bird made a bee line directly towards Carol! I yelled and Carol rose to the occasion and made like a football player blocking a play. Her movements delayed the crane just enough to allow me to sprint the field with the speed of an Olympic champion and grab her!

The female crane had a mate and a youngster in the field that September day. The male was protective and tried his best to shelter his mate and thwart our efforts. He and the juvenile flew off just before capture. Cranes haev strong mate fidelity. The male had to have been convinced his mate was no longer alive. The male and their chick migrated from the area a few days later.

Once the bird was in my arms, my real work began. Very quickly we realized the crane could not be transported with the arrow still imbedded. The arrow had to come out in the field. My husband, a retired M.D., and Doug Christianson, local law enforcement officer, went to work cutting the arrow with pipe cutters to remove it.

Another miracle was scar tissue had formed around the shaft of the arrow without adhering to the arrow itself. There was serious infection. The crane looked relieved.

The crane was the image of grace under fire. She was calm, even cooperative. Odd, but she was an older female. She has expereince with the world.

Once back at REGI we cleaned and irrigated the wound, did blood work, and tube-fed the crane liquid food. She was starving and would not be able to digest natural food. Just as a human patient if starving would not be able to digest a steak, she may well have died if given her normal diet during the first critical week.

The crane remained calm, the picture of composure throughout critical care.

In a few weeks the pseudomonas infection (one nasty bacteria) had resolved. The injury site was healing and the crane was self feeding. It was time to take her from the critical care to an outdoor area. There she would have room to exercise and be with other sandhill cranes. We admitted six juvenile cranes last fall with various injuries that prevented their winter migration to Florida. Sandhill youngsters stay with their parents through the first winter. The young birds were therefore missing an adult presence in their life. Enter Arrow Mom. Arrow Mom is the closest thing to a name the crane had at REGI. In keeping with our protocol we do not name birds that are going to be released to the wild again. Arrow Mom did a masterful job of parenting this little group of juveniles. She nurtured and preened them when they needed it and separated quarrels with the developing “teenage” cranes when needed as well. She was perfect.

The winter was brutal here in northern Wisconsin. We were all ready for spring. Arrow Mom was flying over our heads in the flight building. She was strong and powerful in flight. I was stunned that she could fly after the horrific injury and resulting infection. How could the muscle and nerves have recovered so completely? We quit asking why with this amazing bird and just began to expect the unexpected.

We received a call a few weeks ago that the male crane and the youngster were back on the territory where the female was captured. We began in earnest to prepare her for release. Wednesday April 1, 2009 was the date set. The day was cold, windy and snowing. I went to the flight near daybreak to observe the crane for one last time. All of our patients are special but this crane was carved into our hearts. Soon she would be free. I wondered if she sensed my excitement/angst.

The youngsters Arrow Mom had mothered all winter stood quiet while we captured her. For the first time in her confinement she was anxious and vocalized her concerns. We did a quick exit physical and put her into a travel box for transit to Wisconsin Rapids. With any luck at all I will be the last human to touch this beautiful bird in her lifetime.

A crowd of her admirers had gathered to celebrate her release. The community of Wisconsin Rapids that came together to help this miracle bird turned out to see her regain her freedom and to wish her well.
The box opened and with the young girl that insisted on finding help for the intolerable situation at her side the crane took her first step to the rest of her life. She launched into the air and flew powerfully. Thirty seconds into her freedom a loud crane call came from the adjoining field. Arrow Mom called back and did a U turn. Within a few minutes after the crowd dispersed the crane family was back together, the final miracle of a story that seems too good to be true.

We gave her a second chance at life. Now it is all up to her. We wish the family well and hope the community support has made an impression on a cruel, thoughtless and heartless person that decided a federally protected Sandhill crane would make good target practice.

We are grateful to everyone that helped with this incredible case. She gave us back more than we could ever give her.

Marge Gibson

1. Her first steps to the rest of her life. ( APril 1, 2009 by Don Gibson)
2. Sandhill Arrow Mom the morning of release. I hope I will be the last human to touch her in her lifetime. ( Photo
Don Gibson)
3,Sandhill crane standing in the stream in September, 2008 ( photo by Connie S.)
4. Sandhill crane female seconds after capture. ( Photos Nicki Christianson)
5. Regi team doing final exit physical morning of release

Watch her release video!

Newspaper article from Wisconsin Rapids.