Friday, August 28, 2009

Lead Poisoned Bald Eagle Update!!

( Photo: Post Lake Bald Eagle in a photo taken this morning. She is not happy because she just had her CA EDTA shot. The shots are painful. They have to be diluted so they do not destroy the tissue at the injection site. Lead poisoning is an ugly and painful problem to have.)

First the news that everyone is waiting for! I am very happy to report Bald Eagle from Post Lake, is still with us and doing better. We are cautiously optimistic now for her continued recovery. I say cautiously optimistic because with the very high lead levels that this eagle had when admitted, so many other things could go wrong still. Her heart could be affected, her brain, her liver or her kidneys. Lead is a nasty toxin. For so long our own population was affected with lead poisoning. The lead analyser we have here at REGI was actually developed for use in human children. Our eagle is now on her second round of CA EDTA and while she is not "happy" about life she is alive and has the focus to KNOW she is unhappy. When she was admitted she was not aware of her surroundings and remained that way for a few days. She convulsed and was unable to eat whole food. When she did try a small piece she threw it up. We had to tube feed her liquid food during her worst period.

Some folks asked what I meant when I talked about "rounds" of CaEDTA shots. We do two shots a day for the first four days. Then take another blood test. If the test is in lower levels we stop the shots for four days. AT that point the blood has once again picked up lead from the bones of the birds ( where it is stored) and it is in the blood stream. At the end of the days off the shots the birds are once again beginning to show signs of lead poisoning. We start the shots again and do the same routine once more. The number of "rounds" will depend on the severity of the lead poisoning. The treatment is intense for both the bird and the rehabilitators.

( Photo: After four days of twice a day shots of CA EDTA, our eagle is feeling better. Notice the dropping behind her have a white base rather than the green when she first came to REGI. That was discussed in a previous blog.)

In severe cases we can go through months of this kind of critical care. We x-ray the bird early on to make sure there is no free lead pieces in their digestive system. Sinkers are a big problem with birds like osprey and bald eagles. They may catch a fish that swallowed a sinker in the past.
Once the bird eats that fish, the lead poisons the bird.
If there is lead, we remove it if possible. That is done surgically. If the lead was not taken out it would continue to poison the bird no matter what
we did to remove the lead from the blood stream.

So, for now the eagles blood lead is once again high and she is on shots twice a day and will be the next several days. But she is eating and she is digesting and she is aware she is not in the wild. That is not OK with her, but until she is 100% better and fully exercised she will be our guest at REGI.

It seems a complicated procedure to have to navigate. Lead poisoning could be pretty much eliminated if it was banned from fishing tackle and ammunition. That will happen, but old habits die hard and people don't seem to get it. It is hard from me to consider that a known toxin is still being used by the general public.

( Photo: Alberta holds one of the nighthawks recently admitted to REGI. They are beautiful birds and members of the Goatsucker family. That is a funny name with a story beind it. More on them in the next blog.)

Many more patients have been admitted each day. We've had a run of nighthawks admits as this is migration time through our region. For some reason several woodpeckers have also come in and a kingfisher as well as more robins and a peregrine falcon just arrived as well.

It is a busy time here and now without the extra hands our interns provided. We miss them.::((( Keep us in your thoughts.

Have good day everyone.

Marge Gibson ©2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Archimedes the Owl Moves to Alaska

( Photo: A pensive Archimedes in his mew at REGI.)

Archimedes, the Great-horned Owl, not the Greek Mathematician, has moved to his new home in Anchorage, Alaska. Affectionately known as ARC, he is the education bird of former REGI intern and employee Gina Javurek. After Gina graduated with her Masters Degree in June, she got a great job in Alaska. All we need to travel is an airplane ticket and you are good to fly. With native wildlife it is more complicated.

( Photo: Steve Fisher with a crabby Archimedes as they left REGI on his great adventure to Alaska.)

All native birds are held under permits with both the state in which they live and the federal government. ARC was good with all of his permits, but getting to Alaska took more time than anticipated.

He needed blood tests and cultures for WNV and a physical. And...all of the tests, physical and paperwork had to be completed within 30 days of the time he caught a plane. If it was over that thirty day period everything had to be done all over again. Summertime is dotted with time off for government employees as in vacations or annual leave. Let's just say that proved to be a complication in ARC trip north.

The first time around he was ready, the tests were great, the paperwork was ready but Alaska was not. In late May a very sad Gina had to leave for Alaska without ARC. Education birds are very close to their handlers and vice versa. Arc has been with Gina since he was a young bird. While he has good care at REGI, his routine was different, his enclosure was different and his handlers were WAY different than the person he knew so well.

( Photo: Steve and ARC as they left for the airport.)

It all worked out in the end however and on Monday August 24th, Steve Fisher drove ARC to Minneapolis to catch a plane to Anchorage. When we fly birds on commercial flights we pick the shortest possible plane ride and a direct flight. With that in mind Steve Fisher saved the day and drove the owl to Minneapolis. That is 4 hours each way from the REGI facility and was an important part of the trip.

( Photo: Gina and Archimedes in Anchorage, AK )

By Monday evening ARC and Gina were reunited. Gina sent us this photo shortly after he arrived. Gina is all smiles and I am pretty sure ARC is smiling too. ARC will remain in quarantine for 30 days. After that yet another round of tests will be taken and if he passes it all, he will be ready to do programs in his new state. His first programs in Alaska are scheduled near Halloween.

We are happy Gina and ARC are together again. Knowing them both as well as I do, I know they will do some great work and make Alaska proud to have them.

Have a great day everyone.
Marge Gibson 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Eagle is Better, Lots of New Admits Including Loon, Robin Intervention

The first thing on blog-readers mind, if my mailbox is any indication, is the Bald Eagle from Post Lake. I am delighted to report that she is alive and by some miracle is doing much better. She is eating a little on her own now. That is a good sign. We are still feeding her liquid food via tube as well. She is still receiving the CA EDTA to chelate the lead from her blood as well as antibiotics and an anti fungal drug to prevent aspergillosis from taking advantage of her vulnerable condition, BUT SHE IS ALIVE.

( Photo: The lead poisoned Bald Eagle from Post Lake is doing much better. She is gaining strength and her blood lead level is going down. Notice the green in her droppings behind her in the photo. That green color is one of the signs of lead poisoning.)

It has been a very busy time here at REGI. Par for the course that just as the interns leave, our clinic is filled with more patients. I do mean filled as in hardly able to walk around. We need a bigger place without question.

( Photo: Young Great-blue Heron came with a foot injury from the Marshfield WI area.)
Judy Marshall, one of our terrific volunteer transporters, brought three birds in a single trip yesterday. That trip is over 2 hours one way so we are very appreciative of the Marshalls' help. One bird was a young Great-blue Heron. It looks like it was clipped by a car just enough to give him road rash on his leg and foot. He is thin as well. Great-blue Herons' have a comical look about them. They put everyone in a good mood, if only because of their intense yellow eyes and crazy hairdo.

Judy also brought along two Chimney Swift youngsters. They were likely abandoned by their parents during this seriously cold weather snap. Swifts eat only insects. When cold temperatures arrive insects die off. With no food to keep them alive, the parents do not have an option but to leave for a warmer climate. In this case they were forced to leave their nearly fledged youngsters behind in the chimney of a resident of the Marshfield area. When the swift babes grew hungry and weak, they let go of the inside of the chimney where they were hatched, and dropped to the fireplace below. It is there they were found.

( Photo: These Chimney Swift siblings overlap each other on a vertical perch. It is typical young swift formation. )

The swift chicks are nearly big enough for release. They are thin however, so we are pouring on the insects to get their weight up to a normal level. Then they will be released in hopes of catching up to mom and dad. They have a long flight ahead of them. Swifts migrate as far as South America this winter. It is hard to imagine those tiny birds in our hands will soon make such a remarkable journey. Swifts are some of the most difficult patients that come into rehabilitation. They have to be hand-fed every bit of food they take in. They eat while flying so have no skill level for learning to eat in any other way.

Our intervention of an American Robin nest is an example of another way wildlife rehabilitators help wildlife in need. The photos below will give you an idea of the story.

( Photo: I am feeding some young robins in their nest on a porch. We tried to keep them in their own nest after their single parent hit a window and was stunned. )

We got a call last night as it was nearing dark. A homeowner was worried about a nest of young robins on her porch. They were not being fed. Earlier in the day they witnessed the adult female hit a window. She flew to a nearby tree afterwards, but she did not return to feed the little ones all day.
The adult was a single parent for this second batch of youngsters. The homeowner is familiar with the family of robins as they have come back to her yard each year for some time. She felt something must have happened to the male after the eggs were laid.
We went to investigate. Our first thought was to feed the young in the nest. We hoped mom would be back soon to care for them. They were hungry and were letting everyone know with their screams.

After I got up the ladder it became obvious that the babies were younger than we thought and were not old enough to thermoregulate or able to produce their own body heat The chicks were listless and weak. I made the choice to take them in for the night. They will be warm, fed and ready to go home to mom in the morning when she is feeling better.

( Photo: The cold weather was too cold and the American Robin chicks too young to be left when the overnight temperatures reach the 40's. The chicks were cold and limp when we took them from the nest to warm them.)

It is not true that birds will not take back their young if they are touched. So, in this case we hope for a happy ending. The adults are far more capable parents than we will ever be, so they are always our first choice if we can manage to reunite the adults with the chicks.

( Photo: The ten day old American Robin chicks are snug, warm and fed during the night so they will be strong and ready to go back to their nest and waiting mom in the morning if she is able to care for them.)

Late last night we received a call from a member of the public that was enjoying a vacation when the discovered one of the Common Loon chicks was in trouble. They called and I agreed to meet them about half way from the lake to our facility. We got back to REGI about midnight or a little after. Many times critical birds just cannot wait until morning and this is one of those cases.

( Photo: I am holding a young Common Loon after a midnight run. The youngster is a little over half size and very sick.)

We do not have test results at this time, but is seems like an intestinal problem. It could be salmonella, botulism or even lead poisoning. All three conditions are known to be life threatening in loons in our region.

Our thanks to the folks that cared enough to find him help even in the dark of the night.

( Photo: Common Loon chick is beautiful even in his immature plumage.)

As you can tell it has been a very busy day. We are working hard, but getting it done. The birds are all so incredible. Even after all the years of working with them each is special and important. If is seems like we are here around the clock that is because we are. The downside of being a wildlife rehabilitator.

Have a good day,

Marge Gibson 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bald Eagle With Lead Poisoning Rescued In Post Lake, WI.. This is What it is Like. (Update Included)

( Photo: Three young men from Post Lake, WI found this four year old Bald Eagle female suffering from lead poisoning near their driveway. They remained with the bird until Lance and I arrived and were able to capture her.)

Last night I promised to write about the Bald Eagle Lance and I rescued in Post Lake, WI just hours earlier. She is a four year old female. She weighs just 7.12 lbs. Female should weigh up to 12 or 14 lbs. in our region.

Starvation occurs in birds with lead poisoning because the digestive system slows or stops working. She was in such critical last night, we didn't weigh her until this morning. By then she had been given fluid to rehydrate her. That means she weighed less than 7 lbs when admitted. When working with wild birds excessive handling and manipulating may actually cause their immediate death rather than save it due to stress. We are careful to do only the things that will be life saving when admitting birds in such delicate condition.

We suspected from the eagles behavior and level of starvation that she was suffering from lead poisoning. We drew blood work from her on admission. Sadly, we deal with so much lead poisoning in wild birds here in northern Wisconsin, we have our own lead analyzer. In this way we are able to get results back within an hour and begin treatment. It can take four days or more to get results when blood samples are sent out to a commercial laboratory.

( Photo: Even our blood lead analyzer was shocked at how high the lead level was on this beautiful Bald Eagle. Rather than reporting the usual number is just read HI. It does that when the sample is too high for the machine to read. That reading makes us cringe because recovery is not optimistic.)

We continue to battle for her life. Today she seemed to be doing better. Her breathing was regular. She was no longer making raspy sounds when taking a breath. She is on antibiotics for pneumonia and Ca EDTA to chelate her blood of the lead.

Tonight, she has taken a turn for the worse. Much of the progress made during the last 24 hours has gone backwards. She is on heat, but her body temperature is dropping. That indicates her body is trying to shut down. Our job is to try to trick her body into continuing on with artifical heat and other supportive care. I am trying to remain optimistic but the statistics are not in her facor. It will be another long night.

( Photo: Bald Eagle with lead poisoning upon arrival at REGI.)

Lead poisoning is a human caused problem in native wildlife. It seems at least to me, it is also a human responsibility to correct the issue. That is true especially now that we are aware of the toxicity to all life including our own. Still, there are strong lobby's for the "rights" of humans to use lead ammunition and lead fishing sinkers etc. Many do not believe it is a problem at all but something environmentalists have trumped up. One day here at REGI would change their mind. But,it is easier to close their eyes and repeat phrases others with profit margins offer. A sad commentary on our species. I wish we took the rights of the wild ones we share our world with seriously. Maybe someday we will. I hope so.

So, I will sit tonight alone, keeping this stunning female Bald Eagle comfortable in hopes that the CA EDTA will grab enough of the lead from her blood to make a difference, allow her to live and be free once more. Where are the folks now that doubt that lead is a toxin? They are certainly not here and not with us in this struggle. I am with her because she may go into convulsions. If she does she will have to be restrained so she does not break her wings or aspirate. Lead poisoning is ugly.

You can see in the photos above that her habitat, her home, is beautiful. How was she to know it held hidden dangers that could kill her? This is not an isolated case. It is not one Bald Eagle in the entire northland that became lead poisoned. We see so much lead poisoning in many birds including Trumpeter Swans and even a Mallard Duck came in with lead poisoning this week.

Sometimes people disappoint me. This is one of those times.

More tomorrow,
Marge Gibson © 2009


( Photo: We made it through the night and for the first time this amazing eagle is aware of her surroundings. I hate to get optimistic too soon, but the first 48 hours are the hardest. We are willing to keep trying as long as she is willing.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Enjoy Some Photos

We made it past our first day post intern season. It has not been an easy day as birds continue to come in as did phone calls from the public asking advice or help with wildlife situations. My day was spend catching up on paperwork long postponed when the rush of summer hit.

I will share our evening adventure in tomorrows blog. Lance, now a REGI part time employee, and I spent the early evening chasing down yet another Bald Eagle suffering from lead poisoning. I will be busy with the eagle tonight pulling out all the stops to help her live long enough for the lead chelating agent to start bringing down her lead levels. She is very ill and not even standing at this point. It will be a long night. I wish with every part of me that people that claim lead is so great, would share some time in the clinic with me.

But as for tonight please enjoy a few photos from recent days of Lance, Aprill, Natasha and Elizabeth hard at work.

( Photo: Natasha holds a Red-tailed Hawk after his physical with the "help" of Alberta, Aprill and Elizabeth.)

( Photo: Lance and Natasha capturing moths for our insect eating birds to eat. Who knew moth catching was part of a wildlife internship. )

( Photo: Lance encouraging a young Mourning Dove to eat.)

( Photo: Natasha and Elizabeth tube feed a new Red-tailed Hawk patient. The hawk had been hit by a car and needed liquid food to survive.)

( Photo: Elizabeth, Hunter, Lance, Aprill and Natasha wearing their McDonald's bibs and having some fun with lunch.)

( Photo: Natasha holds an adult Bald Eagle at the Antigo Veterinary Clinic as we wait the results of the x-rays.)

( Photo: Elizabeth does a "Disney Princess" impression while feeding a young Eastern Bluebird . They were both inside one of our screen porches. This is the place young passerines begin to stretch their new wings and step three in their development transition to the larger aviary.)

Marge Gibson 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Interns Last Day, Many Patients Arrive

(Photo: REGI Staff and Interns today 8-19-09. This is the "Official Team REGI 2009" photo. Bottom row Lance Holm ( UWSP), Middle Row Katie Farvour, staff rehabilitator, Natasha Siegel, UWSP, Alberta Halfmann, staff rehabilitator, Aprill Jaeger, UWSP. Top Row Marge Gibson , Executive Director, Nicole Swanson, Director of Education, Steve Fisher, Education Coordinator)
(Not pictured in the "official team photo" was Elizabeth Ferderbar UMN St Paul, Don Gibson)

Two of our three summer interns left today to move back to their college towns to begin classes once more. Our short-term pre-vet intern, Liz left yesterday.
It is a hard for staff and especially for me I think, when they leave us. Since late May we have bonded over cases. Some cases had great outcomes and some not so great. We've listened to each others music, watched movies and TV shows together and shared many nights solving "the problems of the world". We were like comrades in a fox hole for these months as we learned to rely on each other and respect the unique talents each brought to the REGI team. It is impossible to live so close, spend so many hours together without caring a great deal for each other. We become a summertime family. I will share more photos of the summer in the next few days as I have time to sort through my favorites.

( Photo: Our "last supper" at noon today with close-up of the ice cream cake below.
We ate homemade sloppy joes and garden fresh corn on the cob and had a delicious ice cream cake with a migrating bird theme. ( Thanks Vicki:)) As usual,we had a lively discussion with lunch. This time it was about Brett Farve becoming a Viking. With two people from Minnesota sitting at the mostly Green Bay Packer table, there were many opinions.)

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity at REGI. As we prepared for our college interns leaving, we also received many new cases and even baby birds. What could the parents of those baby birds be thinking to hatch eggs so late in the season? It is likely that the birds earlier attempts at nesting failed due to our odd weather this summer. So many people have commented that their resident swallows, purple martins and even eastern phoebes were all but non-existent in the northern part of the state.

( Photo: Young Ruby-throated Hummingbird rests after eating her fill.)

In the case of the Cliff Swallow and Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and even the Broad-winged Hawk, we may well be flying them to the southern climates via jet rather that on their own wings. Many insect eating species have either left our area or on their way south and will not be waiting for the few babies they have left behind. In the world of birds, and all wildlife, everything has to make sense from a biologic perspective. The focus is the preservation of the adults to survive. Adults can always have more youngsters. The reverse is not true however. If that seems harsh, it is reality in the wild world where everything has to make perfect sense biologically.

( Photo: Young American Robin came in from Medford area last week and was pictured featherless in a ice cream bucket on an earlier blog entry. He is growing well and quickly. Our thanks to Ashley for caring about him and getting him help.)

Off for tonight,more tomorrow.
Marge Gibson 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Trees are Changing Color, Insect Eating Birds On Their Way, Baby Birds Still Coming In

(Photo: This Eastern Bluebird sibling group are all males. They are from the Amherst, WI area. They have begun to fly and will soon be going into the large flight area to prepare for insect hunting training and release. )

( Photo: Night time baby bird line-up. Left to right. Eastern Bluebird X4, Cedar Waxwing, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird with head feathers missing,Cliff Swallow, Cedar Waxwing x2,Mourning Dove, Eastern Phoebe.

Evening is when I have the baby birds to myself. The staff and interns are off duty so I feed the little ones until midnight or so when we turn in for the night.
The line up photo above is what I saw the other night looking from above after feeding time. Before feeding time the little mouths would all be open/gaping skyward for food. I just couldn't resist sharing the cute little group in a single basket.
I am sorry the photo color quality is not great. The heat lamp above the babes produced odd lighting.

It is hard to believe that the leaves began changing here in Northern WI in the end of July. Now in mid August we are seeing a fair amount of color in the trees that is usually reserved for September. The wild birds have sensed the changing of the seasons too and are beginning to be on their way to their winter homes in the south. Our resident pair of Barn Swallows left on July 24th. That is an early migration time in anybodies book. We have had baby swallows come in that finders feel were left by their parents when the migration urge grew too strong. It has been an unusual summer for sure. Cold and dry many insect eating birds are not finding enough to eat or feed their families. Many in our public tours tell us they have seen less swallows and nighthawks this year.

( Photo: Young American Robin with West Nile Virus. Few birds this small survive the virus.)

We are seeing more West Nile Virus this week. Several species that are the hardest hit are the American Robin, Red-tailed Hawk, Great-horned Owl to name a few. The larger species have a chance of recovery whereas the smallest do not. It is sad to see otherwise healthy youngsters in such a difficult situation.

We had a few odd cases this week as well. We received a Red-tailed Hawk from Merrill, WI. He is an adult and was found floating in a horse watering tank. We could hardly believe our eyes when we examined him. The tumor was surgically removed and pathology was done on the tumor itself. Sadly it turned out to be a Sarcoma. That is a malignant soft tissue tumor. While it has been removed and the bird is now eating and in stable condition, this type of cancer will likely return. We are keeping him comfortable and trying to give him some quality of life during his remaining time.

( Photo: Red-tailed Hawk from Merrill, WI was admitted with a huge tumor on his wing. It proved to be a Sarcoma, which is a malignant soft tissue tumor. )

A Mourning Dove was admitted from Wausau yesterday. An older adult bird she has a tumor on her neck as well as other medical problems such as trichomonas. A section of the tumor was removed. While it is still in pathology for examination it could also be cancer. We are not used to seeing cancer naturally occurring in wildlife. It is very odd to see two in two days.

( Photo: REGI staff gathered for lunch as usual on Friday. Much talk has occured and friendships solidified around this table this summer. We are beginning to miss the interns already. Left to Rt. Aprill, Lance, Alberta, Steve, Nicole,and Elizabeth )

Our interns are getting ready to go back to college. Aprill and Natasha will be leaving on Wednesday. Lance is staying on until the end of August. The summer has gone fast but it has been a good summer for everyone. The list of things to do before the summers end has started. The reality of friends leaving is setting in.

More soon everyone,

Marge Gibson 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Passing of Clarence our Northern Goshawk

( Photo: Clarence as a fledgling having just finished a meal.)

(Photo: Clarence during his molt to adult plumage. He was almost fully slate gray when he died. )

( Photo: Our beautiful Northern Goshawk, Clarence passed away. He is pictured with staff rehabilitator Alberta. )

We have sad news today. Our Northern Goshawk affectionately known as Clarence after my late father, passed away.

It is a sad day when we lose member of the REGI family. Our education birds are members of the REGI team. From the day they arrive at REGI they are treated with respect and gentle affection. That is wonderful thing for all of us. Our gentle handling is rewarded when they become the wonderful, calm and inquisitive education birds.

Losing an education bird and team member however is difficult for everyone at REGI.

Clarence came to us when just a baby. He was captive bred by Dale and Jim Kitzman in Oak Creek, WI. Kitzman Goshawks are well known in falconry circles and recognized as superior birds. A few years back we helped the female goshawk that would one day be Clarence's mom, through West Nile Virus. We were elated to give Clarence a permanent home as an educational bird.

Northern Goshawk occur naturally in our region, however they are not often seen because of their secretive ways. They are spectacular birds and when adults have slate gray plumage and red eyes. The Northern Goshawk population is in decline through-out their normal range. For those reasons being able to have this magnificent species represented in REGI public education programs was all the more important.

Clarence was only three years old when he died suddenly. We were shocked to find he had died just minutes after I last saw him alive and peering from the window in his mew. Most of our education birds live long lives with us at REGI. Clarence's young age made his passing even harder to understand. The preliminary necropsy report indicated that he died of a sudden heart arrhythmia. He was in perfect feather and body condition with no other obvious sign of disease of illness.

( Photo: Clarence as a youngster.)

We will miss our handsome Clarence and we know our audiences will as well.

Marge Gibson 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Storms Come Through Wisconsin Passerines Affected, Tours and Programs

( Photo: Young American robins are delightful patients.)

( Photo: A tiny baby American Robin snuggles in soft towels after his nest came down in a storm.)

Storms have been riping through the Wisconsin landscape taking with them many nests of late nesting passerines such as the American Robin, Eastern Bluebird, Mourning Dove and Cedar Waxwing. As a result the REGI passerine section is filled with cheeping and peeping little tykes. Some of the babies have feathers but some are newly hatched and naked.

Passerines are labor intensive for staff. They must be fed every twenty minutes their first week of life from sun up to sun down. As they grow a bit they are put in screened cages we affectionately call "screen porches" `

( Photo: Natasha feeds young robins, and a mourning dove inside a "screen porch". )

Young passerines grow rapidly. Some species can go from hatch to flight in only 8-10days! Can you even imagine that? Of course when they are raised at REGI that time span is longer. While the diet we feed youngsters is very good in terms of having all the elements needed for their growth and development, we can never be a perfect as their own parents. As a result they grow a bit more slowly. After they are grown we have to make sure they know how to secure food and interact with other birds they will encounter in their life once released to the wild. The good news is our passerine flights have a wide variety of species most of the time, often including adults of the same species as the youngsters.

It was a busy weekend for programs. ON Saturday we gave three programs, two at the REGI site and one at Rib Mountain in Wausau. I will include some photos below of the Rib Mountain event. You can see from the photos how beautiful Rib Mountain State Park is. The Rib Mountain event is held yearly and put on by the Friends of Rib Mountain. They are a terrific conservation group. It rained during the presentation. Super educator Steve Fisher continued on even with the rain. His mantra is that as long as the audience was willing to stay he is. Now THAT is dedication.:) There were about one hundred folks the braved the rain with him.

( Photo: Steve Fisher with Peregrine Falcon,Ishmael at Rib Mountain State Park.)

( Photo: Steve Fisher walks with Red-tailed Hawk Juliet, just as it began to rain during the presentation. )

Off to feed those little passerine babes.

Have a great day everyone,
Marge Gibson 2009

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Securing Enough Food For the Birds,

( Photo: Lance well into the process of turning a calf into bird food.)

Our blog readers have become accustom to seeing sweet and lovely photos of our patients. Today is a change, but a true representation of another part of what our work entails. Securing enough food for our patients and education birds is a constant effort. Meat rarely comes in neat little packages. More often than not we have to cut up the deer that was hit by a car or in the case above calf that was donated. It is not an easy job for anyone but many of the people here at REGI are vegetarians and all are animal people.

Yesterday I received a phone call from a local farmer that had the difficult chore of putting down a bull calf that became lame. They tried to care for the little one but he never improved and began to suffer obvious pain. She asked if we could use the calf, once dead for food. The answer is as long as he was healthy in every other regard and had not had medication that would remain in his tissue we could and could not live a good life we would. The people were kind enough to bring the calf to us after he had been shot. Our job begins at that point.

( Photo: Lance and Elizabeth remove every bit of usable meat from the calf

It is important to feed predatory birds natural food items. To do anything else would be abuse of their species. Young raptors especially require whole mice and rats for proper bone growth and development. We do use supplements for calcium and other minerals but that approach in limited.

If we use rodents from the public, it is always from people we know and trust. We have to make absolutely sure the sources have no pesticide or any poisons in the areas where the rodents are trapped.

Often people don't understand the rodent poisons they use to kill mice and rats on their property will also kill raptors or other animals that eat that poisoned rodent.

We have a few families that raise mice and rats for fun, then give REGI the overflow. They are our hero's when they come with bags of frozen mice and rats. It is best if they come in already frozen after having been humanely euthanized, because if they don't at least some of those critters end up in cages as pets of our interns or even family members that happen to see them.

When we buy frozen mice and rats from suppliers they are about $1.00/mouse and between $2.00-2.50 for a rat depending on size. Young owls for instance eat between 10-17 mice per might each so you can do the math, see the cost involved and understand why we aer elated with "mouse gifts" from local growers.

While I am at it I should address another issue that is often misunderstood about REGI and our food sources. WE DO NOT EVER FEED PETS to our birds. I am repulsed by the thought and astounded when members of the public call to offer us their cat "Fluffy" for raptor food. It just does not happen here. The other thing I find odd is when people assume we feed our raptors smaller patients. That does not happen either. Our patients are patients no matter what size. We are as enthusiastic about raising baby goldfinches and nuthatches as we are red-tailed hawks of eagles. It is clearly an ethical issue for me and our staff.

So there you have it. Another aspect of what being a wildlife rehabilitator is all about. When I saw the interns hard at work over the calf yesterday I thought the photos and this discussion would be worthwhile. We get so many calls with people that want to be wildlife rehabilitators and only think of the raising little babies part of the work and not the whole picture.

Have a good weekend everyone,
Marge Gibson 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bald Eagle Rescued from Swamp, Orion Goes Home

( Photos: A few moments after capturing the adult Bald Eagle near Wausau, WI. We were still in the woods/swamp when this photo was taken. If only you could see the swamp drenched lower part of my body in the photo::(( )

We received a call Sunday night about an adult Bald Eagle unable to fly near Wausau, WI. We had a similar call a few miles from the site the day before, but the eagle had disappeared into the woods before we were able to rescue it. So, we grabbed Natasha and her boyfriend Brad and our new intern, University of MN Pre Vet student, Elizabeth and were off to make the hour plus drive to try to find the eagle that was in trouble.

(Photo: Ron Drayler, the citizen that first located the injured eagle and called REGI for help, holds the bird for a photo.
Left to Right on the photo: Brad, Ron Drayler, Natasha and Elizabeth)

The location of the bird first appeared to be a wooded area. I incorrectly assumed we would be able to find him, rescue him and then be home for a late dinner. What I didn't see what the thick swamp behind what turned out to be a small stand of trees.
The eagle was no where to be found when we arrived. Since we had previous calls on what I thought was the same bird, I wanted to do our best to find him. Wildlife hides when they are in trouble and disappear quickly into thickets in an effort to protect themselves while they are injured and vulnerable.

The short part of a long story is, with Ron in the lead I followed into the swamp. The ground was wet and my adventure began. It was a few hours later by the time I located the eagle. To capture him I ended up knee deep in dark swamp muck. For those of you that are not familiar with swamp muck, it acts like quick sand. Before I knew it I had lost a shoe and then the other shoe. I retrieved both shoes but before the adventure was over had lost them each again. To say I was tired by the time I had the eagle in arm is an understatement. Looking at the photos taken at the time, I am not sure if the eagle was more exhausted or me.

( Photo: Natasha holds the Bald Eagle at the Antigo Veterinary Clinic while waiting for x-rays.
Photo: Elizabeth holding the Bald Eagle with Dr Rich Piowani at the Antigo Veterinary Clinic. )

We are so grateful to the terrific veterinarians at the Antigo Veterinary Clinic in Antigo for their care and help with our wild birds. They have a very busy practice but somehow always make time for our patients.

I worried the right wing of the eagle may have had an old fracture however, the x-rays did not revel any fractures. No pieces of lead that might cause toxin were found either. The eagles blood lead was also within low normal limits. That is a surprise since almost every Bald Eagle cared for at REGI has some degree of lead poisoning.

He is anemic however and was low in weight. We will keep looking for a reason for him to be debilitated. It could be as simple as he was injured in some way and was not able to hunt during that time. Starvation could be the reason he is now too weak to fly and why he is anemic. Wildlife cases are always a puzzle. We take all the clues we can from the history and then piece it together.

We are very optimistic for this eagle to return to the wild. He is now eating well and is getting stronger.

(Photo: Orion the Great-horned Owl that is an education bird for Trees for Tomorrow in Eagle River with Katie and Troy Walters, Orion's handler. Not a great photo of Orion, but he was squinting in the sun. )

Orion went home yesterday. Orion is the educational Great-horned Owl that was housed at REGI while his enclosure was finished at Trees for Tomorrow in Eagle River. His handler Troy Walters is very dedicated and traveled to the REGI facility in Antigo to keep up with Orion's training. Troy was here so often we began to feel like he was a part of the REGI family. We will miss them both now that they are back in Eagle River, but know a bright future in wildlife education awaits them both.

( Photo: Baby Eastern Bluebirds are miniature models of the beautiful adults and just as sweet. Even at this age their lovely song is apparent.)

We have had many more admits including lots of baby Cedar Waxwings and Eastern Bluebirds. They are such beautiful little tykes and a joy to have in care.

There is much work to do today including trying to find out why my email refuses to send attachements. My computer and I have a love hate relationship these days.:(
So, if you have been expecting an email from me and did't get it, please call.

Have a great day everyone,
Marge Gibson © 2009