Friday, September 25, 2009
( Photo: Look quick! That bright blue blur to the right of the open hand is an Eastern Bluebird taking flight for the first time as a wild bird.)
( Photo: Alberta holds one of the male Eastern Bluebirds raised at REGI just before he was released to the "soft release" site. They have the brilliant blue coloration of the adults with the exception of the spotted belly of typical of juveniles. )
It was another exciting release day here at REGI. All of the birds released today were raised at REGI. They all came in as hatchlings. If you follow the blog you have likely seen photos of these youngsters when they were much younger. Their stories were as different as they species when admitted. But today they were all celebrating the same stage of their life, becoming truly wild birds.
Getting photos of the smaller passerine birds is not an easy task. The birds released today have not had human contact other than staff throwing in worms, other food items and water for weeks now. They avoid any contact with humans. They seemed particularly unhappy with attempts to get them to stay still enough for photos. That is a good thing however and exactly what we want for the birds going back to the wild.
( Photo: Another of the Eastern Bluebirds prepares to leave captivity.)
( Photo: Two Cedar Waxwings and an Eastern Phoebe perch on a hanging perch while still in the aviary. )
( Photo: Two of the youngest set of American Robins raised this year at REGI. Getting two of any of the birds in a single camera frame is pretty impressive.)
The youngsters were released in a manner called a "soft hack". That means they are in a protected area if they chose of they can venture out. They can return for as long as they wish. Food and water are provided until the last of the group is no longer returning for food.
In this way we give the young birds a chance to learn about the great outdoors slowly if that is what they need. They can and most do hang around for a week or more especially coming back in the evening to take advantage of a predator proof roosting site and some free grub.
Once they leave the area and connect up with others of their species for migration we know we will not see them again until spring. It makes spring even more exciting as we wait to see who comes back to visit and when. We wish we knew exactly where they went and what adventures they had during the winter. We have been through good times and harrowing times with them even in their short life. It is a bit like packing your kids off to college, we are all ready to see them be on their own.
Many thanks to Katie, Alberta and Nicole for getting such great photos.
Have a great tomorrow.
Marge Gibson © 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
( Photo: This photo was taken on August 31 by the flight cage at REGI.)
I do love the four seasons. There is something exciting about the seasons changing. Fall is one of my favorite times, but spring runs a close second. Years ago I would have included winter as a favorite season. The past few years of intense cold and long stretches of WAY below zero weather from November through May have cooled my enthusiasm. I truly believe my own feelings on the subject of winter would be far more optimistic if it were not for the worry about the birds in our care. I worry about them constantly when we have very cold weather, heavy snows or worse yet, ice storms. Gone are the days of being snowbound before a roaring fireplace. My snowy bound days are now more likely spent on a roof getting the snow load off so it doesn't cave in on one of our winged residents. SIGN... someday I will remember this time as my "good old days".
( Photo: The Great-horned Owl admitted a few days ago is doing much better. The pupils are actually equal but owls have such fast reaction to light his pupils had not yet fully compensated on the right side from removing the top of his box. Included is a photo of the morning he arrived.)
I am finishing up the fall newsletter this week. I am in the middle of a piece on migration. Each time I delve into the subject there is new information and yet the bottom line remains the same. We speculate more intelligently than in years gone by why birds migrated and why they go to certain far off winter locations, we can track them now by radar and have a much better idea of where EXACTLY certain groups of species go, but it is still a remarkable undertaking for birds some of which weigh in a just a few grams.
( Photo: A juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was admitted an hour ago.)
We at REGI are tuned into migration in a big way. We begin to see species that we see only when they are "passing through". Other species nest here but get in trouble in myriad ways when migration begins and they gather in flocks. Just like when we are in groups the attention to details are less in most cases and they do things like hit lines and windows in multi story buildings.
( Photo: The Canada Goose is a common, but non the less a fascinating species.)
It is hard to believe that not all that long ago the Canada Goose was actually "reintroduced" to our state. Quite a success story I would say. The Canada Goose in the photo came in from Stevens Point. He was apparently thinking of shopping at a local furniture store and took up a place on the sidewalk. He does have vision problems however so we can forgive him. He certainly knew where to find help. I am constanly amazed at the situations that wild birds find themselves in.
( Photo: This young male Northern Cardinal met up with a cat shortly after he broke his wing. Not a good thing, but he is doing well and once he molts in some feather we think he will be released to the wild.)
The Northern Cardinal above is a lucky bird now, but he had a real bad day a few days ago. He was likely hit by a car in a residential area of Wausau, WI. The impact broke his wing. He was helpless on the ground still trying to recover from the accident when a cat ran over and grabbed him. Fortunately someone saw the situation as it occurred and called REGI. Cats kill so many songbirds. When a bird is bitten they have to be put on antibiotics quickly or a fatal infection results.
Thanks to all of our transporters that have been busy this week bringing birds from the far reaches of the state. Without you we would not be able to help so many of these amazing birds. Thank you so much.
I am off for tonight. Have a great tomorrow everyone.
Best to all,
Marge Gibson © 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
( Photo: The last photo taken of the Post Lake Bald Eagle on Friday with Alberta holding her in the clinic. The eagle developed sudden breathing problems, a sign of aspergillosis, at that time. Last night she gave up her fight and died quickly. )
We knew if was a long shot for her to survive when she was admitted with such high blood lead levels. We are however committed to giving each of our patients our best and that is what we did with this eagle. I feel as long as they are fighting and show the spirit to live we are willing to do what it takes to help them in that effort.
As you read this you can understand why releases are so special to us. Had she lived, the Post Lake Bald Eagle would have had a joyous release. No one here would have been sad in the slightest to see her spread those huge wings to the world again. It would have been a celebration. I am asked so many times if I am "sad" to release the birds we rehabilitate. The answer is a resounding NO WAY! The only reason we do this work is not to have wild "pets", but to get the birds back out where they belong. We work hard to give them a second chance at life, not to keep them with us.
In this case as in all cases of lead poisoning and some other toxins I feel a special responsibility to try hard to save the a patient. This is an entirely human caused event. It seems someone has to take the responsibility to correct it. Wildlife rehabilitators are those people for now. At least until we ban lead for hunting and fishing in this country as we have in paint and things that affect "US" directly.
There is nothing "natural" about death by this toxin. This was a huge female Bald Eagle that was meant to be a survivor in her world. In the wild at least 60% of raptors die their first year of life. Only the best of the best make it to adulthood and she was there. Her sin was eating a fish that had a lead sinker in it or eating from a carcass that had been shot with lead ammo. She could not have known.
( Photo: Lead is a toxin and affects so many species of wildlife but especially bald and golden eagles, loons and swans.)
Wildlife rehabilitation is a roller-coater ride. There are times when we get easy cases that require only a short period until they are back in the sky again. We love those cases. Then, there are times like with this eagle that we put a huge amount of time, money and emotion into the bird, and in the end, they die. We hate that. I wish there was an easy way. We could euthanize all birds that are critically ill and not put staff through that awful ride. I think I speak for all of us here at REGI when I say, that is not acceptable unless the bird is in terrible pain or discomfort and has lost the will to live. We have to look in the mirror each morning and know we have no regrets and have done our very best for all the birds in our care.
The worst news is we will not have to wait long before another and then another case of lead poisoning is admitted. With our fall hunting season looming our December and winter months will be especially busy in this regard.
I hope her story inspires some of our blog readers to think about the wildlife when it comes to human caused events including but not exclusively lead poisoning. You are somebody and you can make a difference for them. There is so much we can do but don't because it seems like a tiny thing. One person NOT using a lead sinker would have made a difference for this eagle.
We have lots of cases in, and about 100 patients that need my concentration. It will be a busy day. Being able to write my frustration helps.
Marge Gibson © 2009
( Photo: Baby mergansers when they were admitted in June. Now grown, they have been released. See release photos and story below.)
(Photo: This Great-horned Owl admitted early a.m. after he was found on the side of a road. He has quite a headache,and a broken wing but is improving rapidly.)
My doorbell was ringing very early the other morning. I sprang from bed to find a citizen at the door. He found a Great-horned Owl on the side of the road and didn't know what else to do so he put it in his trunk and raced to REGI. Since I live on the property I am often jarred awake by ringing phones or doorbells for an emergency that occurs WAY out of normal hours. That was the situation with this Great-horned Owl.
The owl was unconscious when found and remained so for most of the day but has made a remarkable recovery thus far. Often owls with head injuries such as this owl has have vision problems even after recovery. This owl however has good pupil reaction in both eyes. He is also regaining his stamina quickly.
A few hours later a beautiful Red-tailed Hawk was admitted from the Mosinee, WI area.
( Photo: Red-tailed Hawk admitted from Mosinee, Wi with a wing injury of undetermined cause.)
As you can tell from his photo, this red-tailed hawk is intelligent and displays amazing curiosity about "us". The photo was taken minutes after he arrived at REGI. You notice there is no fear in this lovely face. His feather coloration, size and behavior tell us he is most likely from the far north. Where he was hatched there are more animals than people. While he knows all about four legged and winged predators he has no idea what people are all about. Not being aware of, or afraid of people can be a real problem for many northern species including Rough-legged Hawks and Snowy Owls. In their curiosity about us they are often injured or get too close to those that might cause them harm.
Our former ducklings are all grown now and were released. It was great to see them go off on their own after all these months of care. They have spent the past 6 weeks in a pond/lagoon area away from humans with their foster parents.
We were the last people they wanted to be with and that is exactly the way we wanted it to be before they are released. Rearing wild animals that have a hunting season on them makes contact with humans a dangerous thing. After their initial baby stage we limit contact quickly so they do not have a disadvantage once released. Enjoy the photos of the Mergansers, Wood Ducks and Mallards as they were released. They took off flying so fast, getting any photos was a challenge, but here are some so you can share our joy of seeing them finally in the wild.
( Photo: Our former ducklings, now grown ducks about to be released. A quick photo with the camera venturing a peek into their box shows Mergansers, Wood Ducks and Mallards just seconds before the box was opened.)
( Photo: Look at those strong wing beats as our ducks take their place in the wild world. They have been with us for several months being reared by foster parents in a pond area.)
( Photo: Some of the ducks as they settled to the water after release. )
( Photo: This great photo was taken by REGI's Katie Farvour. She got the water coming off the head and "duck tail" of one of our young mergansers. Check out that cool beak shape. Perfect for catching fish and other invertebrates.)
Have a great tomorrow everyone,
Marge Gibson © 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
( Photo: A close up of the face of a Harrier. This hawk was formerly called a Marsh Hawk. Notice the facial disk on this beautiful bird. The facial disk aids the hawks ability to hear voles and rodents as they move through grasses in fields. It is similar to an owls facial disk.)
The population of all ground nesting birds is in serious decline in some parts of the country. We are always very happy when we have the chance to save some of these terrific groundnesters.
On Wednesday we released the last of the Harrier that come into rehab as youngsters. Harriers nest on the ground, often in fields of alfalfa or other agriculture crop. With the new hay mowing practices the birds do not have time to fledge their young before the hay or crop is cut. The adult and chicks are helpless on the ground and no match for large farm equipment. The Harrier chicks that were raised here were actually the lucky ones because most are killed without the farmer even knowing they ran over the nest. The real tragedy is Harriers and Short-eared Owls, and other ground nesting raptors are very beneficial to agriculture, the same profession that is in large part causing their demise. So many could be saved with through simple education. I am constantly amazed at how few people realize that many species of birds nest on the ground.
( Photo: The Harrier has a long tail in proportion to its body and wide wingspan. Both elements enhance the birds ability to look as if it is "floating" low over fields as it searches for rodents.)
Harriers will be migrating from our region within the month. While some birds will stay in the southern U.S. many will migrate as far as Brazil. Harriers feed mostly on rodents. So, wherever they go you can bet there will be a good supply of rodents when they arrive. You can also be sure that rodent population will have a significant dent in it before they leave.
( Photo: A female Harrier flying in our flight building before release. The 28' high ceiling allows the birds to gain valuable exercise as they put many miles on those long wings before they are released to the wild.)
( Photo: I am holding two female Harriers after their final physical before release.)
( Photo: Katie and Alberta carry two of the hawks to the field near the hack tower for release. This is their last seconds as captive birds.)
I have always loved Harriers. There is something about the way they seem to float over their grassland world that is spellbinding. I could watch them for hours as they hunt. In the photo below taken nearly 50 years ago. I was a young teenager when I rehabilitated my first Harrier patient. We have learned so much since then about proper caging. The chicken wire in the background of this old photo has me shaking my head these days. Wild birds should never be held in any wire cages. By some miracle the Harrier in this photo did well and was successfully released.
Off to do some more work before I sleep.
Have a great tomorrow everyone,
Marge Gibson © 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Due to popular demand and interest REGI has extended the tour season until the snow flies! Hopefully, the snow won't start flying until November so that leaves us another month and a half of beautiful fall weather to enjoy. If you ran out of time this summer come and enjoy the beautiful fall colors with us and see first hand what our facilities look like. Even if you have seen REGI at an off site event it is worth it to make an extra trip up to Antigo, WI to see us in person. On a REGI tour you may see some of your favorite education birds but you will also see some of our birds that travel off site less frequently, like our Bald Eagles, Golden Eagle, and Turkey Vultures.
Does your child or grandchild have to do a report for school this fall? Do a report on birds and visit REGI as a fun educational activity with the kids. REGI's professional education team and rehabilitators would love to answer any questions you may have about raptors.
REGI is really a great stop for people of all ages. Suggest REGI as the next field trip excursion to your church group, 4-H club, school, home school group, Red Hat group, youth group, gardening club, bird club, neighborhood event!
Don't forget to bring your camera because you will get an up close and personal view of many of our birds.REGI is open for tours Monday-Friday by appointment ONLY. Please call ahead to make sure we have space (715) 623-2563 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
** For smaller groups we have a minimum donation of $50. Groups over 10 people is $5 per person. We try to keep groups to no more that 25 people due to our limited seating.
Things to Consider:
- Tours are about 1-1 1/2 hours in legth.
- Tours are completly outdoors so dress for the weather
- Small amounts of walking and standing is involved
Friday, September 11, 2009
( Photo: Taken today, this photo shows the Post Lake Bald Eagle is sitting on a perch in a critical care enclosure rather than a more confined box! She is making progress. )
( Photo: Alberta holds the Post Lake Bald Eagle ab out noon today. She is a huge bird as you can see as she makes Alberta look like a tot. This is just before I gave her CA EDTA shot for round three of the chemical to chelate the lead from her blood. Notice she is not happy with the situation. )
The Post Lake Bald Eagle is making real progress this week. We delayed her third round of CA EDTA in hopes that her lead level would stay down to an acceptable level. That didn't happen, but she is so much better.
I hate to start celebrating too soon because so much can happen with lead poisoning cases, but lets say I am feeling optimistic for the first time.
The photo of her when she first came in below shows her capture when she was so weak and sick she was unable to walk let alone fly. I remember that first night I didn't think she would make it through the night. When she did I was surprised but the next night was even worse in terms of her convulsing and being near death. No one was more shocked than I that she has made the progress she has. We do our very best for the birds here as we have with her, but still she was so very critical.
( Photo: The day she came into care. Very sick and near death.)
( Photo: Post Lake Bald Eagle during her capture on August 22)
Thanks again to everyone that is following her story.
The young Peregrine Falcon is also making progress. I do not have a photo to publish but he is sitting on a perch now rather and is on his way to what we hope is a full recovery. He did have some problems with his right eye a few days after he came in, but that has cleared up. He is still not excited to eat on his own, but it getting the idea that if he does not we force feed him and that is not his favorite activity.
Best to all,
Marge Gibson ©2009
( Photo: I am preparing to release this beautiful Adult Bald Eagle. She came in with two broken wings and internal injuries after having hit a semi. She flew so strong and soared until she was out of sight. She was an incredible case. Watching her fly away after caring for her when she was so critical was like watching a miracle. We hope she is back home in Shawano now and has an uneventful remainder of her life.)
( Photos: Katie and Alberta prepare to release this American Woodcock after successful rehabilitation. I can never get enough of photos of that amazing face with huge eyes and long flexible beak.)
To say this has been a busy week is an understatement. I have tried to get to the blog but am exhausted by the time night comes. I will share some of our recent releases with you today. The best part of doing wildlife rehabilitation is the release of a bird that is 100% ready to take his place in his own world again. Sometimes we are asked if it is hard to let them go... We sure think about them after they are released but not in the longing way of wanting them with us. We are just grateful to have had the opportunity to give them a second chance at being wild birds again.
( Photos: A young Cedar Waxwing and a young Barn Swallow while they were still in a small aviary. They have since been releases along with other swallows, swifts and countless other patients from woodpeckers to and through Bald eagles and many species of ducks.)
Migration time is always busy for us. Birds coming through Northern WI from more northern regions including Canada and Upper Michigan can end up in our clinic with a variety of reasons. Last time we went over some things that happen to the Common Nighthawk. However the boreal forest to our north is home to some of the most sensitive and secretive birds on wings. Warblers are now making their way to the tropics and come grace us with their presence on their way. Many times warblers hit radio or TV towers or even tall buildings and come in with everything from slight headaches to broken wings or serious head injuries. These birds migrate at night and do not see the guide wires that hold up the very high towers. Just as if we were to run head on into a wire stretched across our path, wires pose a serious threat to migrating birds. Most are killed rather than injured. It is the lucky ones that end up in rehabilitation facilities.
(Photo: This female Bald Eagle was hit by a car near Ladysmith, WI. She has a wing fracture and internal injuries. )
The Bald Eagle in the photo above just admitted this week. She was hit by a car near Ladysmith, WI. We can expect that more eagles will be hit by cars as our deer season opens soon. Eagles do like carrion and make use of animals that are killed by cars or the die near roads and highways. If they have a full crop of food they do not fly away as quickly as they could without that extra weight on board. Kind of like after a Thanksgiving dinner. If you are driving please be aware of the extra danger to wildlife during the fall and winter seasons.
This patient is doing well and for the most part eating on her own now. She loves fish. Interestingly most bald eagles when admitted with medical problems prefer meat such as venison or beef heart as a first food.
I am off to do more releases. I promise to update the lead poisoned Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon soon.
Have a great weekend.
Marge Gibson ©2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
( Photo: The wing of a Common Nighthawk is slender, long and pointed wings with a "window" of white. When these birds are flying overhead that white spot is a wonderful aid in identification.)
Fall migration is well underway here in Northern WI. It is an atypical year. Our resident Barn Swallow family left the property in July 24th. That used to be summertime in my memory. Apparently this year, July has become autumn.
The migration time for the Common Nighthawk begins in our area August 22nd. We don't have a firm grasp on how the birds do it, but come August 22nd unless there is a downpour of rain or worse, you can count on seeing flocks of nighthawks soaring and swooping to capture the insects that "bug" us humans.
The winter home for the Common Nighthawk is in South America. When you look up and see these magnificent winged creatures, just think about the long journey they have ahead of them to South America, as far as Argentina, and back to our region before they breed again. They are miracles on wings!
The Nighthawk is an amazing bird. They eat only insects. Their method of capturing insects is to swoop though the air with their huge mouth open trapping insects as they go.
(Photo: A Common Nighthawk being fed a high protein mixture with supplements. Note the huge mouth that opens like a garage door. The mouth opens all the way to the eyes. )
Unfortunately, when these elegant birds are doing all that that swooping, they occasionally dive in front of a car. That, is where we are REGI come in and admit them as patients. Sometimes it is a small injury but it is happens to be something major we have to "send" them to the southern states via jet plane after they have recovered or if they cannot be released they can be placed with a captive care situation.
( Photo: This distinctive light colored female Common Nighthawk was rescued by Michelle from Gleason, WI. Michelle helped capture and insisted on finding help for this beautiful bird. We are grateful. Way to go Michelle!)
People are sometimes afraid of these gentle birds in part due to their name. The dictionary definition of "hawk" includes the word as a verb which means "to swoop and strike in the manner of a hawk" . They swoop after insects with a wide open mouth measuring up to 2 inches wide. That is a BIG MOUTH!
Scientists that study such things have found over 2000 small insects in the stomach of one migrating bird at one time! Another bird held over 500 mosquitoes when examined. The Common Nighthawk is definitely beneficial to humans and a bird that we need in our lives.
( Photo: The Common Nighthawk is s gentle bird with huge eyes and mouth and a ravenous appetite for insects.)
Long ago, when birds were being named, people likely didn't quite know where to categorize these interesting looking birds. They are in the family Nightjar or sometimes Goatsuckers. We can understand the Nightjar part, but the term Goatsucker has an interesting story behind it. Long ago there was a legend that these insect eating birds sucked the milk from goats at night. As odd and even hilarious as that sounds today, people actually believed it way back when. Nightjars were killed to protect the goat milk supply. People have an active imagination especially when they feel vulnerable and not totally in control of things like at night.
So there you have it. A rundown on the amazing Common Nighthawk. We currently have eight in our clinic. I am amazed each and every time I see them.
Have a great day everyone.
Marge Gibson ©2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
( Photo: An immature Peregrine Falcon was found injured by the Columbia Generating Station near Pardeeville, WI. Here he is with REGI staffer Aprill Jeager.)
Another busy week here at REGI. Time gets away from me when patients flood in.
We admitted an immature Peregrine Falcon from the Columbia Generating Plant near south of Portage, WI. He was one of three youngsters hatched from a nest box put on the plant in efforts to provide nesting areas for peregrines in the Mid-west. All of the young Peregrine Falcons are banded and followed closely by a great group of folks including Greg Septon of Wisconsin Falconwatch. This young bird was named Larry by the team at Columbia Generating Plant.
( Photo: Here we are re hydrating the young Peregrine Falcon with oral electolye fluid to help stabilize him.)
We are not sure what happened exactly, but the young falcon was found on the ground unable to fly. His right wing is fractured as well as his right leg. He was weak and lethargic when he arrived, but has stabilized. He is doing well so far and has even begun to put gentle weight on the leg. That is a good thing. He is eating but not as well as we would like. We are supplementing his diet wtih force feeding to assure his calorie intake stays at a good level.
Peregrine falcons are very fast in flight. They have been clocked at diving at over 240 M.P.H.. When they are young and new to flying, they make mistakes. It is one thing if a young robin crashes on landing, but when diving at 200 M.P.H. and miss a landing, the consequences are much greater for the bird. It takes some practice before they are skilled at controlling the great speed they were blessed with. It is like giving a 12 yr old boy a race car and letting him use it at will. Crashes happen as you can imagine. When they crash they tend to get pretty banged up because of the rate of speed they are traveling.
( Photo: Young Peregrine Falcon rests as he recovers from a broken wing and leg. In photo taken on Monday. We think he looks a bit embarrassed to be in rehabilitation after what was likely a mistake in his judgement of speed and solid object.)
We certainly hope for a full recovery for this young super star. It is amazing to think that the species once had such low numbers people were worried they may disappear from our country. It is a testimony to a group of committed people to make a difference for a species. In this case The Peregrine Fund and Wisconsin Falconwatch as well as many independent biologists, breeders and falconers that made the difference for the Peregrine Falcon. These people often dedicate much of their life to the survival of this species. When I look at the young peregrine, I see the results of their hard work. Of course, I also see a strikingly handsome youngster all on his own.:)
Migration is in full swing here in northern Wisconsin. The leaves have begun to turn brilliant colors ALREADY, and we have had two nights when the temperature dipped below freezing and those were still in August. The Farmers Almanac indicates we are in for a bitterly cold and dry winter. That word BITTERLY is there word not mine. I am trying not to think about it.
More on the new admits and releases soon.
Best to all,
Marge Gibson 2009