Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pheasants Revisited, New Admits, Canada Goose Heroes

(Photo: Ring-necked Pheasant admitted last night is feeling better.)

It certainly has been a "pheasant" kind of day here at REGI. We have not admitted a pheasant in 4-5 years and within 10 hours we had two individuals. They were different varieties and from completely different locations.

The unfortunate Ring-necked Pheasant in the photos on last night's blog is some variant of a Ring-necked Pheasant. From the research I was able to do, he is likely a Chinese/Manchurian cross. He is still very weak and is missing his tail. He is beginning to eat a little on his own and can stand for short periods on his battered legs. For those of you who did not see the blog last night, I will insert a photo of his legs as they were when he was admitted. They were held together with a hard plastic clip.

A faithful blog reader contacted a humane officer and sent the photo to them. This is the statement we received from them.

"When training bird hunting dogs the dog owners will either put a harness or leg ties on the pheasants (or pigeons) so they can use these birds to train their dogs. Of course, in WI it is mistreatment for the birds to be injured or killed during this process. Most respected bird dog trainers do not use the leg clamps."

Humans have an uncanny way of thinking up methods to abuse animals. I understand the missing tail and wing clipping also is done purposely to assure the birds are not able to fly well. In that way they are can be "shot" more easily. The humane officer I talked with said it is a version of a "canned hunt". I cannot in good conscience call these idiots "hunters". A legitimate hunter would cringe at the thought of shooting an animal hobbled in such a manner. Lets not give any respect to these folks and just call them " shooters".

It takes all kinds to make this world. We see the best and the worst of human behavior in our work and sometimes in the same today.

( Photo: This male Golden Pheasant is a vision in his brilliant plumage.)

On a happier note, Steve Fisher, our Environmental Education Coordinator and all around good guy, transported a beautiful Golden Pheasant from the Marathon Country Humane Society to REGI this morning. This bird had an interesting history and I suspect was the cause of the reports in the Rothschild area of a "peacock". The Golden Pheasant certainly is a flashy guy and with that long tail could be mistaken for the exotic peacock.

His story is funny and we need some humor today. A Rothschild Police Officer captured the bird after a resident was unable to get into her driveway. The pheasant would not move to allow her to pass. My take on it was, the bird was pretty tired of our Wisconsin winter, and he finally decided the only way he would make his point would be to stand in front of the car and demand he get a better place to live than in the fields.

He is spectacular in color and plumage and will find a home in a zoo when he recovers. It is not natural for him to be running amok in WI, especially in the winter. There is not much camouflage in those brilliant feathers.

( Photo: "Hey, can someone get me to REGI?" The confident Golden Pheasant found his own way to get help.)

A little background on pheasants...
Pheasants have been bred in captivity for a very long time. In some areas of our country, particularly where there are large populations, it is assumed pheasants are native to the U.S. . The truth is, pheasants were imported from Asia and first entered the U.S. in 1733. In 1881 a flock of 100 pheasants was released in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. The rest is history, as the released birds bred well and were very popular with people in the area. It was also noted the birds were not only beautiful but were excellent for sport hunting. Captive breeding was begun in earnest at that time. The Ring-necked Pheasant was found to be the most sturdy and have the best survival rate of all the introduced breeds in the U.S. That is how pheasants came to be a game bird in the U.S. They are native to China and were released in the U.S. as game birds. My late parents actually raised pheasants for release in the late 1940's in Wisconsin as part of a program by the WI Conservation Department at the time.

(Photo: A Canada Goose from Marshfield enjoys putting his feet in a bowl of water after being admitted to REGI.)

We had another wonderful story today. Jim Banks of Marshfield has been emailing me about an injured Canada Goose in a field near his home. The bird had a broken wing and was unable to fly. The neighbors and friends in the area were concerned about the goose and had been leaving grain for it. A coyote was sighted in the area and concern was growing about the goose being able to survive in the open field. The group of friends worked together this morning to capture the goose and Jim transported him to REGI.

The goose has two broken wings. One a bit worse than the other, but both are in good position. He has a good prognosis to heal completely. When he is feeling better, he will be put out into the sheltered pond area with other Canada Geese. Here he can winter safely and finish healing. When spring comes, if he can, he will migrate with the wild geese. If he is unable to be fly, he will become a foster parent for the orphaned Canada Geese we receive at REGI in the spring. Geese are great parents, and their young do not have to be their biologic young for them to rear and protect them. Many people are surprised that males can raise young alone and do a fantastic job! Let's hear it for the single dads of the world!

The New Year is upon us! Have a great day everyone and stay safe on the roads if you are driving.

Marge Gibson © 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Red-bellied Woodpecker Admitted, Snow Bunting Wing Healed, Pheasant With Legs Clipped Together

( Photo: Red-bellied Woodpecker was injured in an odd accident. It seems its neck was caught on a wire during flight. You can see where the feathers are disrupted on the neck in the photo.)

You just never know what will be admitted next here at REGI. We go from large bird to small bird in the same hour. Yet each is so special in its own way. People ask me all the time what my favorite bird is. The honestly answer is, probably the one I am holding at the time.

There are few things more beautiful than the Red-bellied Woodpecker. They are incredibly "soft" to the touch. They have a curious nature and often come close to people. They are definitely a favorite at bird feeders this time of the year in the northland.

Our Red-bellied Woodpecker patient has an injury to the tongue which I think is physical. The tongues of woodpeckers are fascinating and curl around the brain. Just think about that for a minute. :) This woodpecker is still unable to move the tongue, so we are carefully dropping food into its mouth until the tongue heals. The left wing is also fractured but that is the least of this little ones problems tonight.

( Photo: The Snow Bunting admitted a few weeks ago moved to the outdoor aviary this weekend. His wing fracture healed; he now needs time and space to exercise. Physical therapy is as important for birds as it is for mammals.)

Bird bones are hollow and therefore heal very quickly. Hollow bones are lightweight and facilitate flight. They are also very strong. Often within 10 days the smaller birds are back on the wing with no ill effect. We are careful not to leave the wing wrap on too long or the wing could become atrophied and the joints frozen with lack of movement. That could ground a bird permanently.

The Snow Bunting admitted with a wing fracture has recovered and is flying now. He was put in the outside aviary so he can continue to exercise and prepare himself for release. Just like us, when birds have a fracture, they lose muscle tone. Their muscles have to be back in perfect shape before they are released or they are at risk of predation or being unable to feed themselves adequately.

(Photo: This pheasant was admitted this evening. He is very thin and was unable to move his legs( as in walking), due to a black plastic clip around his legs. The clip was apparently put on purposely. )

We typically don't care for non-indigenous species, but when any bird is in trouble we get the call. Often people are not sure what species the bird is. In those cases it is best they bring it into REGI so we can be certain if it is a protected species. If it is not, we still care for it until it is well and can be placed in a zoo or game farm. Non- indigenous birds are not released to the wild, since they are not native to the area.

Tonight a family called with a concern about a bird that looked like a pheasant. They were able to catch it up easily. They drove it over a half hour to REGI. It is a pheasant. There was a reason they were able to capture it so quickly. It has the most odd thing on his legs. I have never seen anything like it. The legs were held together with a plastic clip apparatus.

( Photo: The legs of the pheasant were held together with a black plastic clip. His legs are abraded and he is traumatized and very thin, but will survive. )

After we removed the clip from his legs. We put him in a heated enclosure. He just kept looking at his legs. He picked them up one at a time as he continued to look at them. It was as if he could not believe he could use his legs again. It was a tear- jerking moment.

I hope there is a logical explanation and not some cruel system that someone has come up with for some reason. If any of you blog readers know, fill me in please.

Have a wonderful tomorrow.

Marge Gibson © 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Trumpeter Swans, Former REGI Patients Documented Alive, Well and Thriving

(Photo: Don and I carry Trumpeter Swan 87Y from his carrier to the St Croix River in Hudson, WI and release to the wild, on March 5, 2009.)

I love happy stories. This blog will detail two very happy events.

No matter what the problem that causes wild patients to be admitted to REGI, seeing them recover to be released back to the wild is joyful. Knowing our former patients are successful and thriving in the wild after being rehabilitated at REGI is beyond exciting.

( Photo: Trumpeter Swan with distinctive straight black beak. Trumpeter Swans are our largest flying bird in the U.S.)

Trumpeter Swans were on the State of WI endangered species list until last last year. Wisconsin began a Trumpeter Swan reintroduction program in the early
1990's. The magnificent swans are long-lived and usually mate for life. The Trumpeter Swan was native to the Midwest before being hunted to near extinction in the late 19th and early 20th century for their feathers. The feathers were used for ladies' hats.

The beginning of the story was difficult for both Trumpeter Swans, as well as those of us who cared for them around the clock.

Each year REGI receives many Trumpeter Swans suffering from lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is a human-caused problem. Lead is accessed by swans when they forage on the bottom of ponds, streams or lakes. Our lakes throughout the country have been used for fishing and hunting of waterfowl for over a hundred years. Recently, the use of lead shot has been made illegal for waterfowl hunting in many states. It is, however, still available for use in fishing and other types of hunting. Unfortunately, lead is pervasive in the environment. It does not decompose. It will be at the bottom of bodies of water forever. Wildlife is particularly at risk to contacting the lead shot and sinkers in years when water levels are low. Lead is highly toxic. That is why we no longer have lead in the paint we use in our homes and unleaded gas is used in our cars. The fact is that a piece of lead the size of a grain of sand can poison a human child. You can imagine what a bit of lead shot can do to wildlife species much smaller than a child. When a patient with lead poisoning is admitted, chelation injections begin immediately. Often the patients are suffering organ failure and starvation by the time they are found, caught, and brought to REGI. The recovery process is long, arduous, and very expensive. CaEDTA is the compound used for the chelation process. The cost per patient in medication alone can exceed $2000.

( Photo: Lead poisoning is disgusting, heart wrenching to watch, and very difficult at best for patients that struggle with this human-caused poisoning. This is a Trumpeter Swan patient from last year. I am massaging his abdomen to try to stimulate his digestive system which shut down due to lead poisoning. This photo was published in media world wide.)

In the spring of 2006 REGI admitted a Trumpeter Swan collared with the number 86C. The number becomes their "name" here at REGI. A female Trumpeter Swan, 86C was found weak and lethargic on a lake in Northern WI. She was transported to REGI. Trumpeter Swan 86C had lead poisoning. Treatment was started and was successful. She was with us for nearly a year before she was fully recovered and ready for release to the wild. I was unable to find photos of 86C while she was in care, but the photo below was taken as she was leaving REGI for release.

( Photo: Fully recovered from lead poisoning, Trumpeter Swan 86C is on the right as she is leaving REGI for release to the wild.)

Barry Wallace is a friend and long-time swan watcher and citizen scientist. He happens to live on the St. Croix River in Hudson, WI which just happens to be where large numbers of Trumpeter Swans gather to over-winter. Barry is allowed to feed them to keep them healthy and in good condition. Barry is a heck of a great person and the hero not only of this story but also of many others.

A few weeks ago I got an email from Barry. The subject line was "Hi from an old friend".
I opened the email to good news! It seems Trumpeter Swan 86C was back wintering at Hudson with a handsome mate over 2 years after she was released. She was "looking good" Barry said, and while he was not able to get a photo, he was working on it! I was elated!!

( Photo: Trumpeter Swan 87Y with his lovely new mate in early December 2009at Hudson, WI )

The next day came another email from Barry. This time he was even more excited than before. He had a photo of a very special swan to both of us. Trumpeter Swan 87Y was also seen, and this time he has a photo! He too had a lovely young mate with him. While all patients are special to us, 87Y has even more history with Barry. The swan will be fifteen years old this spring. Barry has watched him come to Hudson each and every winter for all of those years. Last year it was Barry that pulled him from the river nearly dead and got him to REGI for treatment. This sighting was even more special that most!

( Photo: On March 5, 2009 Trumpeter Swan 87Y is getting a new neck collar from DNR/BER Biologist Pat Manthey. Barry Wallace holds the large male swan during the process.)

( Photo: Barry Wallace holds Trumpeter Swan 87Y just before he is released to the wild. Barry has watched 87Y since he was a youngster some 15 years ago.)

So, there you have it! Two terrific success stories. Both swans had very high levels of lead in their blood. The lead levels were so high we felt survival would be nearly impossible. We love knowing when our former patients are doing well in the wild. We are confident that most birds released from REGI care do thrive, and having proof is exciting. We are fortunate that the Trumpeter Swans are marked so clearly so we can follow them. We are also lucky to have someone like Barry Wallace to spend his winters helping the population of Wisconsin and Minnesota Trumpeter Swans survive the winters in a safe area like Hudson.

Thanks to Barry, Mary Wicklund and the other wonderful folks out there who do their part to help wildlife get through the long winters.

Have a great tomorrow everyone.
Marge Gibson © 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Wishes, Snowstorm

( Photo: Two of our four grandchildren in a photo taken Christmas Eve, were patiently waiting for Christmas to arrive.)

The holidays are a special time. If we are lucky they are spent with friends and family. No matter what your beliefs, the time from late November through the end of December is a time when we contact old friends, give to others and keep charity and love in our hearts. We hope you all had a wonderful holiday.

( Photo: It is definitely a white Christmas at REGI.)

We went to bed last night with howling winds and predictions of a blizzard. Travel advisories were in place. I suspect the travel plans of many were put on hold as weather took over center stage. REGI is covered in snow and ice. It is definitely a white Christmas for us.

( Photo: Don braving the weather and ice covered snow to feed birds this morning.)

It is beautiful, but since our staff is off on most holidays, we are here caring for the patients. It is especially important to make sure all is well with birds in our care when the weather is tenuous.

Often when people gather and the weather is nasty, we admit more patients than ever. I think it is a combination of people feeling more charitable during the holiday season. If an injured bird is found people tend to want to get it help more than any other time of the year. We can count of having calls on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and New years Eve and New Years Day.

The phone is ringing as I write this blog. Our day will be a busy one. We hope you enjoy the wonders of the season. Stay safe if traveling and check in with us tomorrow for a good news story about some former patients.

Wishing you the best,
Marge Gibson © 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Duck Lake Loon Makes it to the Gulf of Mexico

( Photo: December 8, 2009 "Duckie" is shown shortly after being pulled from Duck Lake by the Pickerel Fire and Rescue Cold Water Team.)

It seems longer than two weeks ago that the Pickerel Fire and Rescue braved the thin ice on Duck Lake to rescue a beautiful adult male Common Loon. The loon we called "Duckie", has been a resident of Duck Lake for many years. The residents of the lake and surrounding area grew very fond of the loon family.

The loon odyssey that began on December 8, ended successfully on December 17,2009. That is when "Duckie" the Common Loon from Duck Lake put his feet in the warm blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

What a difference nine (9) days made in the life of this loon and those that care about him. Tuesday December 15, 2009, Don and I decided we would transport this loon to the Gulf of Mexico. Every year we care for loons at REGI that are caught up in lakes icing over. Most are unable to migrate due to lead poisoning. Once the lead is chelated from their blood ( an arduous process at best) the loons just need good food and open water to finish their migration. We have been very lucky in past years to have a generous company, located in Wausau, WI fly loons to southern locations via corporate jet.

This loon was different. He suffered a wing fracture in September. It was the wing injury that kept him from migrating earlier. He may fly again, but we could not be 100% certain. Given those parameters he had to be in a place where he could survive well for the remainder of his life IF he was not able to fly back to WI. The only place that would work for his long term survival and being able to interact with other loons was the Gulf of Mexico. Young loons live in the Gulf of Mexico for the first 4 years of their life before returning to the lakes of the north as adults. "Duckie" would know this body of water well.

Traveling 1200 miles cross country with a wild Common Loon in a car is an adventure I am willing to bet not many folks have had. He rode amazingly well in a padded Rubbermaid container, covered only with a sheet to assure ample air exchange and climate control. Our first night was challenging. I filled the tub and put him in along with the first bag of active minnows. All went well except he called that resonant "loon wail" whenever he saw us. We turned on the "nature channel" LOUD and stayed out of the bathroom until he was done eating and bathing. In the morning he had tub time again to eat and swim before we hit the road again.

( Photo: Our loon fishing for minnows in the tub of our motel somewhere in Alabama the second night of the trip. Our thanks to R.J.Hilger & Sons Inc. for bagging minnows in special bags that would lasted the duration of the trip.)

Forty-eight hours exactly from the time we left Antigo we arrived in Pensacola, Florida. This place was chosen in part because it is one of the world's longest barrier islands,. It is also the site of the federally protected Gulf Islands National Seashore. We wanted to make the best possible "second chance" for him.

We were delighted with the location. The white sand glistened. A Great Egret and Great-blue Heron were hunting the waters evidence that the fishing was good. But "Duckie" refused to come out of the container. Either he was enjoying the trip or he was in disbelief of what lay before him.

( Photo: After a 1,200 mile drive, with white sand shores awaiting, "Duckie" in not sure he wants to come out of the Rubbermaid.)

Finally after a boost from me he is in the water and begins to notice he is not in Wisconsin anymore.

( Photo: "Duckies first seconds as a free loon.)

( Photo: Relaxed, he is entering the main barrier island area. He began swimming rapidly putting great distance between us. The photos from this point were difficult. I used a zoom lens but there is distortion. Duckie had no thoughts of staying close to us or captivity. )

( Photo: Zoom lens distortion but you can see our loon demonstrating the upright "flap" posture opening is wings and dancing on the water. A loon equivilent of YEA!! Look in front of the barrier island. )

Duckie preened and bathed, dove and fished for about fifteen minutes. He rarely stopped moving or preening the entire time. He was the picture of a happy loon. As we watched he began to move toward the open Gulf of Mexico. He called once and another Common Loon appeared. Then another appeared and together they moved quickly toward the Gulf and out of sight. It was amazing to us how our loon swam so quickly, keeping up with the other loons as he continued to roll and preen.

That is the end of the story for now. He wasted no time getting back to the "wild". We could have not had a better result for this release. During the time he was with us at REGI he gained two pounds. When released he weighed nearly 10 lbs which is closer to his normal weight range. He weighed slightly over 8 lbs when admitted. And the biggest news is he can FLY. He did fly but not far. I have great hope that with excercise he will fly again.

The real end of the story will come in the spring. We will be waiting to see if "Duckie" returns to Duck lake in the spring. The residents of the lake will keep us informed.
We wish him the best of luck on this newest phase of his life.

I like to think of Duckie this holiday season celebrating his freedom and second chance at life. Thanks to everyone that helped with Duckie. It takes a village to make a difference and it certainly did in this case.
For those blog readers just joining this story. Please check the dates from December 8th for Duckies entire story.

Marge Gibson © 2009

( Note in the far back near the barrier island "Duckie bathing and then attempts to fly. Watch for the movement..that is Duckie. )

Monday, December 21, 2009

Loon Release Photos and Video Is HERE, Along With Release of Red-tailed Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk and Merlin!

What a whirlwind of a week it has been. Less than a week ago Don and I threw a few things into the car along with a Red-tailed Hawk, a Broad-winged Hawk, a Merlin and a very famous Common Loon from Duck Lake and we were off on a fast trip to the Gulf of Mexico. The trip began just for the Loon, but we had several other birds that were ready for release but were not in the right climate. Ordinarily we would hold these birds over for the winter and release them in the spring. That means several months more of captivity for them. Since we we were traveling south, they just hitched a ride with us. To say we had a full car is an understatement.

We released the Red-tailed Hawk in Southern Illinois. Red-tailed Hawks move a bit south in winter. He will have easier hunting in Illinois and will likely be back on his home territory in the spring. He was an adult Red-tailed Hawk from the Rib Lake area. He was hit by a car and came in with a wing fracture on October 16th.

( Photo: Don prepares to release an adult Red-tailed Hawk in Southern Illinois. His hunting will be better in the open farm area than in snowbound and frigid Northern Wisconsin. You can see his photo and story when he was admitted on the blog of October 16th) )

( Photo: Red-tailed Hawk flying on mended wing is free after 2 months in captivity at REGI.)

The Merlin, a beautiful small falcon, was released much further south near the Florida, Alabama line. He was also hit by a car and injured in the fall.

( Photo: Don looks on as I fill the Merlin's crop one last time with beef heart. The next meal was on his own.)

Broad-winged Hawks migrate to Central and South America, but a few stay in Florida. We thought it best this young male bird spend the winter hunting in Florida. Broad-winged hawks have a wide prey base including insects, reptiles and frogs as well as rodents. He was released in an area of Florida where Broad-winged Bawks were reported recently. He and the others will catch the northern migration in April. This hawk left the box so fast I never got a photo. It seems he agreed with our decision to release him.

In less than a week we are home with lots of stories including snowstorms and closed roads in Tennesse. We left many miles behind us. Since it is so late tonight and we are exhauted from traveling I will sign off for tonight and post the loon story tomorrow. I promise it is worth the wait.

Have a good night.
Marge Gibson © 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Loon Heads South, Bald Eagle Update

( Photo: REGI staff says goodbye to the Duck Lake Common loon as he heads south. Good bye Duckie. We hope you are able to come back to Duck Lake next year. Your friends at Duck Lake will be waiting for you. )

What a fine morning it is. The weather looks good and our Duck Lake loon will be on his way south in a few minutes. We are now packing up his food, and other essentials for the trip and he will be on his way. Hilger Baits is bagging some large sucker minnows for him that will stay alive for 24 hrs. He will have them for supper this evening in the tub of some motel:) and then in the morning again before his trip continues to the Gulf of Mexico.

( Photo: "Duckie" in his travel container, leaving town.)

( Video: The Duck Lake Common Loon "Duckie" gets breakfast before he leaves headed south.)

The Bald Eagle from the Town of Hewitt has a rough day yesterday, but as of last night is beginning to show improvement. We have learned he may have had another toxin in the mix of things as well. He may have eaten mice or squirrels that were poisoned with antifreeze and then thrown outside. People often do not realize that whatever eats those cast off dead critters also gets poisoned by the same thing that killed the mouse or rat. It is a complicated domino effect and secondary poisoning. The eagle is still under treatment for Lead poisoning as well as the fractured leg and toes from the leg hold trap. He has had the dictionary description of a " REALLY bad week."

( Photo: Hewitt Bald Eagle is improving after a rough day yesterday.)
The week continues to be busy with colder weather coming in. It was -25 degrees F. wind chill last night. B urr..

We will update you when we hear about Duckie and his odyssey south.
Marge Gibson 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Duck Lake Loon Prepares to Migrate to the Gulf of Mexico!

( photo: I worked hard to get this photo. Light from outdoors was coming through the window into the clinic. It hit the loon's eye perfectly, allowing the red coloration to be visible. He is showing his winter plumage. It is not the distinctive and spectacular black and white feather pattern of the Common Loon in the summer.)

( Check out the video above. Click on the arrow to play. It is short but gives you a view of Duckie at REGI.)

The Duck Lake loon is nearing the time when he "migrates" to the Gulf of Mexico. Tomorrow seems to be the designated time as we wait for weather on both ends of the trip to clear.

We have been working all week to get him into top shape. He is there now. When admitted he weighed only 8 lbs 3 oz. Now he weighs nearly 10 lbs. He has been gobbling food faster than we can get it to him. That is a very good thing. We actually bought out the retail bait dealers of minnows in our area. Just as we were about to make a drive to Stevens Point, ( over an hour drive) Hilger Baits of Antigo offered to supply "Duckie" with large 90 gram plus sucker minnows for the remainder of his stay with us. That is a huge weight off our shoulders. We are so grateful.

For those of you that are unable to download the video above there are some photos taken tonight of the loon eating. Under normal conditions a Common Loon would not need this kind of intense feeding. However, "Duckie" was underweight and anemic when he arrived. His his body is in "catch-up " mode.

( Photo: Duckie grabs those fish and gulps them without any hesitation. )

That will be it for tonight. Tomorrow we will have more as he continues to prepare for his migration via freeway to the Gulf.

More in the morning.
Marge Gibson 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Double Whammy Bald Eagle Admitted with Leg Hold Trapped Injury and Lead Poisoning, Northern Oriole, Snow Bunting and Canada Goose Admitted

( Photo: The Bald Eagle when he was rescued just before dark last night in the Town of Hewitt, Marathon County. He is shown with myself and Don Wolfe. Don found the bird and notified us of his situation.)

What a busy day it was yesterday. We admitted four patients.

Early in the day a Northern Oriole,and a Snow Bunting were admitted from Central Wisconsin. The beautiful male Northern Oriole, a male was suppose to have migrated long ago to a warmer climate. He has a wing injury and was not able to leave when the time was right. He will be with us through the winter enjoying lots of waxworms ( Thanks, Jada Baits) and mealworms ( thanks, John Jacobs) as well as frozen berries from the market. He dove into the live worms when he arrived. This morning he had strawberry juice running down his mouth when I checked him. He adjusted to captivity as in a warm aviary in about 2 minutes.

The Snow Bunting has a recent wing fracture. His prognosis is good for a full recovery. Snow Buntings are charming "snow flakes" of the bird world. They nest on the Arctic tundra and migrate to Wisconsin for the winter. They are in their element in the cold. They nestle in snow drifts to keep warm. It is amusing to me that this lovely little bird finds Wisconsin and below zero F. temperatures comfortable.

( Photo: Lance holds the Canada Goose for his exam. )

Later in the afternoon some kind folks caught up a Canada Goose that was standing near a road. Lakes are frozen in our area. There was no place for the goose to go. He has a wing fracture and lead poisoning so flying was not an option. We began treatment for lead poisoning this morning. While the Canada Goose is not a rare species, being injured, lead poisoned and cold is never a good thing.

( Photo: REGI staffer, Lance Holm holds the Bald Eagle back at the REGI clinic as he was admitted.)
Late afternoon we got a call from Don Wolfe and his wife Gail from the Town of Hewitt. They found an adult Bald Eagle in the field near their home that was weak and unable to fly or move well. It was nearly 4 P.M. when the call came in and the site was about 30 minutes away from REGI. Lance and I jumped in the van and were on our way in a matter of minutes hoping to get to the site before dark. We arrived and in the last minutes before dark with the help of Don Wolfe were able to capture the injured Bald Eagle. The poor eagle was so weak, capture didn't require much effort. (Although Lance did a terrific face first flop in the snow when he was running to corral the eagle.)

We did blood work as soon as the eagle was admitted. We have our own blood analyser at REGI. We are able to get results of most the blood work within minutes and begin treatment very quickly. Immediate treatment particularly in the case of lead poisoning is very important and has been a lifesaver to many patients.

It turns out the Bald Eagle has lead poisoning as well as a broken leg and injuries to both feet from the leg hold trap. The eagle likely picked up lead poisoning after he was injured in the trap, as he fed on deer "gut piles" left in the woods after hunting season. The leavings from a deer look like good food to a bird particularly since with a broken leg was unable to hunt for himself. He could not have known they are filled with lead from the use of lead ammunition. Most hunters are unaware of the danger awaiting bald eagles and other wildlife in "gut piles" left in the woods.

( Photo: Bald Eagle with leg fracture and lead poisoning after his first shot of Ca EDTA to chelate the lead from his blood. )

We continue to prepare the Common Loon, Duckie for his trip to the Gulf of Mexico. He is eating voraciously ( thanks Hilger Baits) and is getting stronger by the minute.

Have a good day everyone.
Marge Gibson © 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rescued Loon Update, Leg-hold Trapped Red-tail Admitted

( Photo: Katie and Alberta hold the Common Loon from Duck Lake while I find a vein in his leg to draw a blood for testing. We are not choking him, I promise. Loons are very strong and accurate with the beak. We have to concentrate on protecting him and staff from injury when he is in arm. That is why the staff is wearing goggles.)

What a whirlwind of a few days it has been. It took me a full day to settle back down after the adrenaline-pumping rescue of the Common Loon off Duck Lake. Just for the record, this bird is correctly called a Common Loon, but the term bugs me every time I write it. There is nothing common about the Common Loon. It is just a name some ornithologist came up with a gazillion years ago when they thought the world was filled with loons. Once named, most names stick unless changed through some strenuous paperwork nightmares. So, Duck Lake is a Common Loon. We will call him "Duckie".

This will be an abbreviated update as we are working fast and furious to get "Duckie" back into the best shape so he can make a trip to the Gulf of Mexico. Common Loons do not do well in captivity. The Duck Lake loon is an older bird. He is missing his mate, so the stress level is already high. The mate waited with him on the lake until weeks ago when she had to leave to save herself.

He was very close to dying as the lake froze over. Eagles were often seen on the edge of his little opening in the ice waiting for him to become so weak or tired that they could make a dinner of him. All those things take a toll and add to his stress.

Aspergillosis is a fungal infection that occurs in loons and some other avian species in high stress situations. He has been on medication for aspergillosis since the day he arrived, and will be until the day he dips his fine feet in the Gulf of Mexico.

There is some VERY good news for "Duckie," however. He is one of the only loons I have had in years that did not have an elevated blood lead level. In fact, his lead level was so low it was hardly worth considering as a background level of lead. The lake association of Duck Lake are to be congratulated. They must be doing a great job of keeping lead sinkers and jigs off the lake.

( Photo: The Duck Lake Common Loon about an hour ago. He loves to eat the large chub minnows or perch about that size. We welcome donations of the same in case you are fishing::).)

Here are the stats on "Duckie" as of today.
He weighs 8.3 lbs. A male should weigh 10-11 lbs. He likely was unable to eat once iced into the small area. We did blood work on "Duckie". He is anemic, but not dramatically so. That is not great news, but it is something we can fix. This afternoon he will be given an iron dextran injection to hurry his blood-making ability. His anemia is probably the result of not being able to eat for several days.
He has a high blood total protein. That goes along with some kind of inflammation. In "Duckie's" case it is likely from the previous wing injury. We will put him on some antibiotics a few days before he leaves Antigo IF the level continues to be high. There is no obvious infection in the injury site. Antibiotics lower the natural immune system and that is not what we want for "Duckie".

( Photo: "Duckie" in the container he rests in when not in the water. Note, he sits high off the bottom of the container. The photo below shows you why. You can see tightly balled up newspaper about 6 inches deep to provide cushioning for the loon's keel. Loons are built like boats. They cannot rest flat on their abdomen. On a flat surface they would list to one side, exactly like a boat. The keel is fragile. The skin covering it can be scraped or cut particularly in a thin loon like "Duckie". If that happens, the loon is no longer waterproof or "cold proof". He would die of exposure even in mild water if the skin/fat on his abdomen was breeched and could no longer protect him.

We have to consider every single thing about a bird's natural history when it is in care. One mistake can be fatal. Now you know at least one reason wildlife rehabilitation is so stressful as a profession.(

Other patients continue to be admitted to REGI. One of the latest was a male Red-tailed Hawk that was caught in a leg-hold trap. The bird was likely released from the trap but due to his severely broken leg was unable to hunt for himself and was found starving in a field. He will not be able to be released to the wild.

( Photo: This Red-tailed Hawk was caught in a leg hold trap likely weeks ago. His leg was severely injured and, although released from the trap, he is unable to hunt and was starving when found.)

We were hit by a huge snowstorm yesterday. It is beautiful, but we are working hard to dig out of the large amount of snow. If anyone out there has a plow and the desire, we would appreciate the help.

Wishing everyone a good day.
Marge Gibson 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pickerel Fire and Rescue Squad Cold Water Team Rescues Loon on Duck Lake

( Photo: The Pickerel Fire and Rescue Department arrives on the scene and begins to don their cold water rescue suits and prepare the gear.)

Woo Hoo!!! The Pickerel Fire and Rescue Department Cold Water Rescue Team has done it again!! Last year they saved an adult male Common Loon from a lake near Eagle River, WI and this year...

Everyone knows firefighters are brave. If we needed more proof I watched their bravery in action this morning. They are such incredible professionals and there is no one better with cold water rescue. A team of seven men and women assembled at 8:30 sharp at Duck Lake. Then just like the story of Santa Claus, they "set right to their work".

Before I knew it they had the craft inflated, safety lines attached, the team was suited up and they were making their way 150 feet to the stranded loon in a very small opening of Duck Lake.

( Photo: And they are off to the rescue! The loon is in the slightly darkened area far beyond the team. It was a long way to go on thin ice.)
The ice was thin, too thin I thought for this fine team to put their own lives in danger to rescue a loon, no matter how beautiful the loon and compelling the story. I started waffling about if this was a good idea when I heard ice had formed only days before. They checked the ice thickness. They agreed it was thin but were confident they would be OK. This was going to be good "training" for them they said. It was good training, I will give them that. Better to train on a loon rather than to have a person in the water in an emergency situation. However, they are still some wonderful individuals to help us with a wildlife crisis.

( Photo: The Pickerel Fire and Rescue Squad Cold Water Rescue Team on their way to rescue the loon.)

( Photo: The ice was so thin the team had to crawl on hands and knees to the loon.)

About this time I started seriously holding my breath and praying.

( Photo: And Howie nets him! Have you ever tried to net a loon from a hole in a mostly frozen lake while laying on you belly? NOT EASY FOLKS! )

( Photo: Back on land with a loon in the box and cold water rescue team safe.)

( Photo: A loon in the box and safe on land.)

Photo: Safe in my arms the loon with his heroes. ( Pickerel Fire and Rescue Squad, Howard Cadle, Rob Aderholdt, Dick White, Karen Kummer, Brady Cook, Beth Gravitter, Brennan Cook, Dave St.John, Cathy St.John)

( Photo: YEA team!! )

( Photo: The adult male Common Loon back at REGI eating some minnows in the bathtub. (in winter plumage, loons lose that beautiful black and white checker pattern in the winter so they can blend into their environment better.)

What a morning it has been! We didn't know until last night that the loon was in trouble. With the serious weather coming in this afternoon I didn't think we had a chance to get this guy out of his predicament. The residents of the lake have been watching the loon family. The male injured his wing months ago. His long time mate ( 20 yrs so?) stayed until late November but had to leave to save herself by that time. By the time his wing was well the loon was in poor muscle condition and did not have the physical strength to take off the lake. Any time there is a fracture of a limb no matter if it is in a human or a loon, the muscle tone is compromised. That is where physical therapy comes in. For this Common Loon, the physical therapy would have been flying. It was like a domino effect.
Now he will have good food and then a trip to the Gulf of Mexico soon to rejoin his mate and have the winter to regain his flight for the trip home in spring.

Thanks seems pale for what the Pickerel Fire and Rescue did today. You are just the BEST and we are so very grateful! To top it off they are a volunteer department. Pickerel is very lucky to have these fine professionals a phone call away.

Howie was very clear that they were happy to help with stranded animals so they don't have to save a person that attempts to save an animal themselves. Each year we have situations where people try to get geese or other animals that have gone through thin ice. And every year we have close calls with people breaking through ice early in the winter and late in the spring. This is a job for professionals and should never be attempted by people no matter how compelling the case.

Marge Gibson © 2009