Monday, June 1, 2009

American Woodcock Chick Growing, Many New Patients-Mergansers

( Photo: American Woodcock with a pan of his natural habitat complete with earthworms.)

I hardly know where to begin this morning. We have been having some Internet connection problems. Every time I sat to write the blog last week it seems I was unable to log on. Living in a remote area has wonderful benefits such as being close to the many often fragile species we care for, but the negatives are things such as Internet connection is spotty at times.

Our woodcock chick is growing well. He came in on May 23rd, and was just a few days old. He was grabbed by a cat near Tomahawk. Woodcocks fly by the time they are 14 days old. He is well on his way to that milestone.

On Friday our intern Lance was changing his bedding and was shocked to find how well he could already use those wings. It is fun to watch the birds teach the students the secrets to their natural history. They may well forget things that I say, but when a tiny woodcock takes to the air when it still looks for all the world like a fuzzy chick, that will remain a part of their memory. When the interns arrive we talk about the importance of observation. I tell them they will learn far more from the birds than they will from me. They may not believe me at the time but within a few weeks they understand entirely.

( Photo: The beak of the American Woodcock is flexible to "grab" earthworms as they probe the soil.)

In the photo of the woodcock you will notice he is on a pan of soil and leaves. That is what his natural habitat looks like. While he is still in a brooder we provide a natural area for him. He already feels most comfortable on the pan of soil and leaves. That is as it should be. Rehabiliation is so much more than just feeding little ones and having them grow well. It is also important to allow them to learn life skills and introducing them to their own habitats early on.

Woodcocks have the most interesting flexible beak that probes below the soil and grabs earthworms.

( Photo: Imperfect photo taken from above shows woodcock chick slurping earthworms as only woodcocks can.)

Woodcocks eat their weight in earthworms daily. Therefore if there is someone out there that loves digging worms or has access, we could sure use them for our patients.

The Passerine building is a busy place with incubators running and mouths to feed.
The great news is most youngsters are now older than a week so their feedings are no longer on the every 20 minutes schedule. I find myself wishing that those the bring the babes to us particularly for reasons less than necessary could spend a day with us. One recent story went like this...the nest was on their porch and Aunt Mabel was coming to visit. She is afraid of birds so they took the nest filled with tiny babes and brought it here. UGH! SCREAM! It is of course illegal to destroy a nest of federally protected birds and that means taking a nest down purposely. At least they had a conscience to not kill the chicks, but looking after Aunt Mabel's feelings translates into long labor intensive days for us at REGI. I say let Aunt Mabel use the back door! But I am all about common sense.

(Photo: Our incubators are filled with baby passerines.)

Our days are filled not only with feeding and caring for our avian patients, but with end of school field trips to REGI and classroom presentations. I will write a separate blog on some of the field trips so the children involved can see themselves on the blog. On Friday we had two classroom presentations in Stevens Point and then a rush back to REGI for a field trip here. Our education birds and our educators Nicole and Steve are all working overtime these days. They are all terrific. We are lucky to have such enthusistic and hard working teachers on the REGI team.

(Photo: Merganser ducklings are high strung and come many at a time.)

Merganser ducklings come from large families. When something happens to mom the tykes are up a creek so to speak and face certain death without intervention. I was doing a program myself this weekend so my dear husband and staff including the interns got busy saving a family of Merganser ducklings that were in trouble near Council Grounds State Park. The youngsters were huddled on the ground likely under their nest. There were in critical condition when found with one already dead at the site. Mergansers are hard to raise as they eat only insects their first month of life.

(Photo: Merganser duckling eating killed meal worm even at a day old. His siblings preen inder a heat lamp after bathing)

Taking photos of Merganser ducklings in not an easy process. They are very high strung. A quick shot with a camera will be the best photos I can share with sensitive species such as these day old ducklings. All 12 are doing well. Much appreciation to my crew for doing such a great job in my absence, to my husband for making a long drive twice to transport them, and to my grandson for doing the emergency set up for the hypothermic babes.

I am off to feed babes, wrap a wing and walk crane colts.

Have a great day everyone.

Marge Gibson © 2009

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