Sunday, January 31, 2010

Eagle Release Day!

( Photo: Aprill tubes the adult male Bald Eagle #286-09 electrolyte fluid to make sure he is well hydrated after an exhausting hour-long- plus chase to catch him in the flight building. We had some too! :)) )

( Photo: #218-09 is a female Bald Eagle from Stevens Point. She suffered a broken wing after fledging her nest. She is a huge female and very dark in color. Aprill was an intern at REGI this summer when this beautiful eagle came into care here. )

( Photo: Jen holds #402-09, the female 4th year Bald Eagle while I examine the wing that had been fractured in October.

Today is the day! The Bald Eagles we will be releasing are...

1. #218-09 A Juvenile Female that was found on the ground with a broken wing soon after she fledged the nest at the Country Club in Stevens Point. She is a stunning dark bird that was cared for at REGI by our foster parent Bald Eagle during the early stages of her recovery. She came into rehab at REGI on 7-1-09. Steve Fisher, REGI's Education Director, helped me capture the eagle on the golf course.

2. #402-09 Another female Bald Eagle, but this time a 4th year bird with lots of white through her plumage. Another big lady, she is from an area near Mead Wildlife Center and was rescued when citizens found her in their corn field unable to fly. She also had a broken wing (L.) She came into REGI's care on October 10-26-09. She was captured by Tom Meyer of the WI DNR.

3. #286-09 An adult male Bald Eagle came into care when Ron Drayler happened across him in a woods near his home. The eagle was unable to fly and was lethargic. He has been with REGI since 8-2-09. He had a wing fracture and also suffered from lead poisoning. He is now perfect, and it took us over an hour to catch up in the large flight building. He is from Marathon County. I caught this bird up in a swamp with the help of Mr Drayler and a group of my summer interns.

Yesterday was a busy one for us with the physicals on these birds and evaluating others that were not quite ready to leave rehab yet. It makes for a stressful day, since even the most minute details have to be considered to assure the birds are release-ready.

More photos on the process tomorrow or early in the week, but NOW.. I am off to catch up these three beautiful Bald Eagles for their transport to the Lower Wisconsin River and their release. Hope to see some of you there. If you are not able to make it, I will have photos.

Have a wonderful day everyone and think of us at noon today as the birds begin to take their freedom once more.

Marge Gibson © 2010

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A few photos more to follow, Exit Exam Day Pre Eagle Release, Paperwork DONE:)

( Photo: Jen holds the young Bald Eagle while Aprill records the important data in her chart. This will be the last entry in her medical chart other than tomorrow when it will say " released to the wild". )

( Photo 4 year old female Bald Eagle caught up for her exit exam. She was not pleased.)

( Photo: Two of the eagles that will be released tomorrow in flight for one of the last times in the flight building. Blurred photo because they were flying overhead.)
Good Morning Everyone,

I am in a great mood today! My end-of-year paperwork is DONE and submitted. If there is a part of this work that I don't like, and maybe even stronger than don't like, it is the end-of-year paperwork. I have many separate permits, so that task is daunting. I spend much of January crabby in anticipation of the inevitable.

We will be catching up eagles this morning and doing the exit exams for them. I will get photos as we do this today and post them through the day. It is a full day. First we have to catch the eagles to be released in the large flight building. We have 10 eagles in the building now, so that in itself will be a challenge. The eagles that are being released are back to 100% wild Bald Eagle at this point. They are fully recovered from whatever issue they had; they are fully conditioned so they have endurance, and they have honed their skills and are prepared to catch their dinner tomorrow night.

The conditioning is a major element to the success of the birds once they leave us. As an example, it is much like a person running a marathon after being ill. If you crawl out of your sickbed and take off running that marathon, you might make it out of the driveway, but there is zero chance you will make it to the end of the race and be alive. Conditioning is important to any athlete and raptors are amazing athletes.

Raptors are especially at risk if not conditioned well, as they not only have to fly, but, as predators, have to catch their dinner. Their wings and flight have to be perfect. They have to be able to make sharp turns and dive and do all the things that any wild eagle does. To do aerial acrobatics birds have to have perfect feathers. A broken-off tail is the same as an airplane missing part of its tail section. Birds are shaped perfectly for their life in the wild. If we compromise that in any broken feathers on the wings or tail, we might as well keep them in captivity, as their chance of surviving is not good.

The eagles we will catch up today for exams have not been "in arm" for at at least two months and longer in the case of one of the birds. They have no "tameness". They just want to get out of here and get back to their life as it should be.

We will weigh each of the eagles and check its body mass as well to make sure all the muscles are recovered and equal. When a bird has a fractured wing, it is exactly like a broken arm in humans. The affected side remains weaker without physical therapy. One of these eagles was hit by a bus. Honestly, hit by a bus! He had a broken wing and a broken leg, but if you are at the release, you will not be able to notice anything about him different from the wild eagles that are in the area. That is how it must be.

Each eagle will have its eyes checked and feet "pedicured" to add extra lanolin that it will need once it is released. The feet of any raptor are ultra-important. This is what they hunt with, and the feet have to be perfect.

Getting a patient release-ready is complicated. We are giving them a second chance at life. They have all come so far. I don't want something that we neglected to do to alter their course. My staff ( and family) will tell you that while in most of my life I am pretty laid back, when it come to the birds... I am the opposite.

And for those of you who wonder if I will miss the birds that are being released, I always think of them. I have cared for and released hundreds of eagles and thousands of other birds, and yet I can remember each case. Never for a second do I long to have them stay with us. They are wild, and our work is to get them back into the wild so they can start again.

I am off to catch up some eagles, get some photos to share with you, and then prepare the van for tomorrow.

Marge Gibson © 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Beautiful Swan Story, Trumpeter Swan Lead Poisoning, End of Year Paperwork

( Photo: 86C is a female Trumpeter Swan that recovered from lead poisoning at REGI three years ago. Her mate died of lead poisoning, on their breeding territory just before she was brought in for rehabilitation. This fall she found a new mate, 56A, who also lost his mate to lead poisoning. 86C has taken on the role of step-mom to youngster, the cygnet 41N. The cygnet's mom died of lead poisoning this summer. )

Soap operas don't only happen on our televisions. The story on the Trumpeter Swan family above is an interesting one and has all the intrigue, despair, compassion and love as any soap opera created in Hollywood. Since this story is true and stars a former REGI patient, we are even more excited. The photo was taken by friend and swan aficionado Barry Wallace, Hudson, WI. I have discussed Barry and his amazing contribution to the Trumpeter Swan population of both WI and MN in an earlier blog posting. If you have not read it, just believe me, he is one terrific person.

The swan wearing the yellow neck collar 86C was a patient at REGI three years ago. She and her mate both had lead poisoning. Her mate died before he could be captured, but 86C survived and was brought to REGI for rehabiliation and released two years ago.

State of Wisconsin Avian Ecologist Pat Manthey e-mailed the following history of the swans in the photo.
" Here's the story. 41N is the son or daughter of 56A. The mother was 24C. She was found dead of lead poisoning mid-summer. In the fall of 2009, 56A found a new mate. The new mate was former REGI patient, 86C, who lost her own mate to lead poisoning, when she herself was poisoned over three years ago. They found each other when 86C had flew into his (56A) nesting pond with several other swans. The site is privately owned beaver pond near Hayward; we call it Chippanazie Lake Beaver Pond. We know all this because the landowner is a close observer of "his" swans. He retrieved the dead 24C so we could get a necropsy, and he observed the new pairing-up of 56A."

I hope you have been able to follow all the references to "numbers". The State of Wisconsin, as well as several other states, uses an alpha numeric system on neck collars of Trumpeter Swans as a way to identify the birds in field situations. That way, it is easy to document the swans' movements, migration and breeding success or failure. Trumpeter Swans were on the Endangered Species list until last fall in our state but are still endangered in several other states.

( Photo: Lead pellets in the digestive system of a Trumpeter Swan. Lead poisoning is a terrible toxin. Swans have access to lead pellets and sinkers that lie on the bottom of ponds and lakes. The swans' method of eating is to strain mud for invertebrates. Tons of lead lie on the bottom on our lakes in this country. The swans are poisoned when they accidentally swallow the lead in the process of eating. It takes a bit of lead the size of a grain of sand to poison a human child. You can see the size of the sinkers and pellets in the x-ray of the swan and can understand why so many die before they are ever found.)

( Photo: Another x-ray of a Trumpeter Swan with lead pellets. They are the light-colored round solid bits in her lower abdomen.)

This week we will be doing several pre-release physicals or "exit" physicals, as I like to call them. This will be the last time we examine the birds before they are free birds once more. Most of those physicals will occur on Saturday because we are releasing the Bald Eagles on Sunday the 31st. However, one will be done on a Trumpeter Swan that has been here since spring. She came in with lead poisoning. It has taken these months until she is ready to take her place in the wild once more.

( Photo: This Trumpeter Swan will be released early next week in Hudson, WI after recovering from lead poisoning at REGI.)

I am finishing the "end of year state and federal reports" today. If you call and find me grumpy...well, I will be.

Send some zen in your thoughts to me today. ( I hate paperwork.)

Marge Gibson © 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bald Eagle Release This Sunday!

If you have never seen a Bald Eagle returning to the wild, it is truly one of the most beautiful and exciting things you can experience. This Sunday, January 31, REGI will be releasing 2 (and possibly more) eagles that have been fully rehabilitated to the place where they belong! This is your chance to witness these powerful birds' return to the wild. REGI's goal is always to rehabilitate our patients to 100% before release. These birds are some of our success stories.

The release will take place at high noon (12:00 no later!) so make sure to be there on time if you want to see it happen. The eagles will be released from the VFW Park in Sauk City, WI. The weather forecast calls for 20 degrees and partly sunny, but in the case of bad weather any cancellation info you can go to the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council website. The Ferry Bluff Eagle Council website also has directions to the VFW Park in Sauk City, WI. We hope to see you there!

-Molly McKay

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bald Eagle Updates, New Treatment Options

( Photo: The Bald Eagle we call "Trapper," was caught in leg-hold trap in October. His story was on the blog in October and on the back page of our recent newsletter.)

We have updates on our Bald Eagle patients. The photo above is "Trapper," the adult Bald Eagle that was caught up in a trap in October. He continues to improve. He does not yet have full movement of his toes on the left foot due to the swelling. He is using the foot, however, and we remain hopeful he will regain full use of his foot. It is a long process for the tissue and the nerves to repair in a compression or crushing injury.

News reports from the recent earthquake in Haiti brought to light the horror of crushing injuries suffered by victims of the quake. We read about shocking field amputations of limbs. It is the same kind of injury a leg-hold trap causes on the foot/leg of a trapped animal. Before anyone gets upset thinking I am comparing the horror of the earthquake to our patients, I am not. It is just a reference, since the serious type of injury to tissue and nerves is involved. When nerves and tissue have been too long without circulation or the injury to too severe, the only option is amputation.

(Photo: The treatments for injuries suffered by leg-hold traps are varied. They are all labor intensive for both the patient and the REGI staff. Here the adult Bald Eagle admitted last week has his leg soaked in very warm water to stimulate circulation to the affected leg and foot.

Just as each of our patients is different, so too are their injuries. While all leg- hold trap injuries have similar problems, some require more intensive or creative approaches to give the best possible result. We are constantly trying to improve our techniques and in some cases try new approaches to the medical problems. Recently, we started using leeches on the feet of patients with crushing injuries. The jury is still out as to the success of the new treatment. We hope the leech therapy will increase circulation and shorten the time the birds spend in rehabilitation.

(Photo: This adult Bald Eagle has a medical leech on his foot. Notice the dark area on the toes.)

We have several patients we are using leeches on, including the Great Horned Owls with trap injuries. Leeches, and age old therapy, are being used more frequently in human medical we may find success. We hope so.

( Photo: This adult Bald Eagle is taking a bath/shower. The fuzzy photo is a result of his vigorous bathing not a moving camera. )

I will leave you this mornng with a fun photo. This is the Bald Eagle admitted under the title "Double Whammy from Marathon County." Birds love to bathe. When they are indoors in intensive care or winter quarters, it is hard to have tubs or pools large enough for them to bathe on their own. Instead, we put them in a shower and they have learned to use it for their bathing needs. They enjoy the time in the shower, as you can see in the photo above.

We have had several new admits this weekend, including another lead-poisoned Bald Eagle. My camera had an accident the other day, and we were not able to get any photos for you. I will soon.

Have a good day everyone.
Marge Gibson ©2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

The REGI Education Department Has Some Changes

Change in personnel is hard for us at REGI. The thing is, we are all very close and function almost as a family rather than just work friends. That is in part because of the work we do. With our patients we are in constant state of emotional ups and downs. We bond in a different way than most workplaces. Our Director of Education, Nicole Swanson, has been a bright light for us for the past few years. She is relocating, however, and was offered a wonderful position at UWSP! As much as we will miss her, we are thrilled for her opportunity for the future.

(Photo: Nicole surrounded by REGI staff at her Going-away Party.)

( Photo: Steve Fisher is our Education Director.)

We are increasingly busy with education programs. Nicole's departure made us realize we needed to make a few more changes in the department.

Steve Fisher has been with us for almost six years now as an educator and many more years before that as a volunteer, transporter, eagle rescuer, etc. It was time to make him Education Director. Those of you who know Steve will be as happy as we are that he accepted the new position and added responsibility.

( Molly McKay was hired as our Environmental Education Coordinator.)

Molly McKay came to us from UWSP. She will be the Environmental Education Coordinator and has started the position with enthusiasm. We welcome Molly to our REGI family.

( Photo: Nicole's last ::(( pizza party at REGI.)

We wish Nicole the best for her future. We will be keeping track of her:). I know someday we will be saying "We knew Nicole when..." We are thrilled for this opportunity for her, but we will miss her too. We welcome Molly to our REGi family and look forward to our future with her as well. AND... we are so happy Steve is staying on FOREVER.

Marge Gibson 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shot Screech Owl Admitted,Updates on Saw-Whet Case

( Photo: This male Brown Screech Owl was shot when the hunter mistook him for a grouse.)

We got a call from a very upset hunter on Monday night. He and his friend were hunting grouse. A brown phase ( x between a red and a gray) Screech Owl flew out from a tree and he mistook it for a grouse. The only good news was they knew they had made a BIG mistake. They collected the little guy and brought him into REGI for care. That act was honorable on their part. They could have left him die in the woods, as less responsible hunters may have done.

( Photo: The little Screech Owl suffered a fractured wing and has a head injury we are still evaluating. He was dehydrated from blood loss when admitted.)

He is stronger this morning.

Unfortunately grouse, and therefore this Screech Owl ,are often still hunted using lead shotgun load. If the Screech Owl has retained any of the lead pellets he could well suffer from lead poisoning as well. We will have to monitor him for any neurological problems that may indicate lead toxicity.

The incident was a teachable moment for the young hunter and his friend. I think it may change any casual approach to the sport in the future for them. We were able to give them information about lead poisoning in hunting and some lead alternative fishing tackle to make them aware of that issue too.

( Photo: Saw-whet Owl from two weeks ago that was wrapped in plastic string is better.)

The Saw-whet Owl that was admitted unresponsive on New Years Day, has made wonderful progress. She is flying and is back to being a normal Saw-whet Owl with the exception of having some vision loss in her left eye. We are still waiting to see if the eye will recover, but it is not likely. There have been studies done on owls with vision loss in one eye and they are encouraging that they can still be released with good success in the wild. Unlike hawks and eagles, owls use their hearing more than vision when hunting. We will continue to evaluate her.

( Photo: This is what the Saw-whet Owl looked like when admitted on New Years Day.)

The geese are all well and happy. We are busy with end of year paperwork, my least favorite part of this work.::((

Have a wonderful day everyone! Happy Birthday to our wonderful volunteer Lil Tower!

Marge Gibson © 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Betsy Popp Art is Back on eBay!

If you thought you missed out on your chance to purchase some of Betsy Popp's beautiful prints on eBay your second chance has just arrived! Betsy Popp is a north woods artist who utilizes a wide variety of media. She has generously donated prints for REGI to sell.

All prints are being sold on eBay auction starting at $100. They are each signed and numbered. 100% of the proceeds will benefit REGI. There are 3 different prints being sold; Post Position - An American Kestrel, Seeing Red - A Collage of Red Tails and Simply Red - A Red Tail Hawk. You can also contact REGI directly (call 715-623-2563 or email to purchase one of these amazing prints. These prints will be available through eBay until Monday January 25.

Thanks for all of your support!
Molly McKay

Saturday, January 16, 2010

MacKenzie Friends Group Presentation, More Bald Eagle Leg-Hold Trappings

I had a terrific time Thursday night talking to the Friends of Mackenzie Environmental Center in Poynette. What a wonderful group of people. We had a nice time, even though most of my power point presentation disappeared into cyberland somewhere. Gratefully, we were able to enjoy the birds I brought. I neglected to get some photos of the presentation. Perhaps some of the folks will send me a few so I can get them on the blog. Thanks to everyone there. Friends groups are invaluable volunteers for groups like Mackenzie and REGI, and no one knows that or respects their contribution more than I do.

It was late when I got home. I was tired, but happy to know such good folks are working for wildlife and the environment in our state. It will take everyone doing their part to make a difference in our world. That is a fact.

( Photo: Adult male Bald Eagle with severe injuries to his left leg and foot from a leg hold trap set for a coyote.)

Friday morning hit with a bang with a call about yet another adult Bald Eagle in a leg-hold trap set for a Coyote. This time it was an illegal trap set in a nearby county. The DNR Wardens and Biologist were called to investigate and found the Bald Eagle caught up in the trap. They were able to get him out of the trap and transported him partway to REGI where I met them and took him the remainder of the way to the clinic.

( Photo: This banded adult Bald Eagle has a crushing injury to the leg, high up in the feathered area, as well as the toes. )

The injuries in the photo look like little "cuts" but reality are crushing injuries that destroy nerves and cause tissue death. This is particularly true in cases where the bird is held in the trap for an extended period. ( traps are not always checked everyday and in some cases are not required to be.) The pressure of the jaw trap cuts off circulation to the leg/foot. In cold country like WI, that lack of circulation makes the leg susceptible to frost bite. Now, you have not only a compression of the tissue and nerves but tissue death from freezing.

This adult Bald Eagle was banded in the nest. We have already called the band number in to the Bird Banding Laboratory. They will be able to tell us who banded him, where he was banded, and even the date he was banded. The researcher may well know who his parents were, etc. Sadly, with the State of WI cutbacks, the eagle and raptor banding programs were pretty much eliminated ten years ago or more. These days, raptor or avian biologists band birds on their own time when possible, but it is no longer part of the state program. We've learned so much about various species including Bald Eagles through the years banding was done. There is still so much to learn. It is a shame the banding was not able to continue. It is one of those programs the public is hardly aware of until it is gone, along with the future data.

The prognosis is not good for this Bald Eagle. An eagle with one leg cannot survive in the wild because it cannot hunt adequately to feed itself, let alone a family. A heavy-bodied bird like an eagle cannot even live in captivity with only one leg. The eagle's entire weight centered on only one foot creates a fatal foot problem called Bumblefoot.

We are going to do everything possible, as we always do, for him and hope we beat the odds.

I feel like I have to apologize to these magnificent birds that have survived the 60-70% mortality of first-year raptors. Only the best of the best live to become adults and then they are taken in such a horrible manner.

(Photo: Some of the wonderful people that rescued the Medford Mill Pond,Domestic Geese on Friday afternoon. )

We did have some good news yesterday afternoon. The group of seven domestic geese that were dumped on Mill Pond in Medford were all rescued without so much as a ruffled feather, at least on the geese. They were transported to a terrific hobby farm where they can live out their lives with other geese. By all accounts the geese were visibly relieved to see a barn with straw, protection from predators and other geese. Thanks to the group of people that came together to save them.

Rosie, the domestic goose encased in ice that came into care at REGI last week, is doing wonderfully. She and our resident gander are happily in love, preening and caressing each other with great vigor. She does have vision loss in the eye near the site where the dog bit her head, but that should not be a problem as long as she lives in a protected environment.
And.. the gander seems not to care. :)

More patients keep coming in and I am up to my eyebrows in end-of-year paperwork.
Have a good weekend everyone.

Marge Gibson © 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lead Poisoning Solution Possible! Please Help!

(photo: The Bald Eagle is too often the victim of lead poisoning as it preys upon game which has been shot with lead.)

If you have been following our blogs you may realize the huge impact lead shot and lead sinkers are having on birds. We all know about the dangers of lead in humans, that is why it has been virtually eliminated from our lives. Lead has equally dangerous effects on birds and wildlife. Many of our patients come in poisoned with lead and in desperate need on chelation treatments to cleanse it from their bodies. A great article to read to learn more about why and how this happens is Get the Lead Out.

It is easy to feel helpless about what is happening in the world at large. We all know that we need to make personal changes and stop using lead in our hunting and fishing practices ourselves. Here at REGI we just got wind of something more that we can do and you can as well!

The US Department of Interior and the USEPA have started discussions on creating rules to ban the use of lead tackle and shot. I urge you to join our letter writing campaign and urge officials to make our environment safe for our feathered friends. We have heard that hunting and fishing lobbies have scheduled a meeting with Ken Salazar on January 26th to discuss their opposition to a ban on lead hunting and fishing products, so time is of the essence. It is important that you write a letter in support of a ban on lead IMMEDIATELY! It is best if these letters are not form letters but personalized letters. National Park Service is the agency that is closest to taking action, so letters sent to Mr. Salazar should focus on NPS actions to limit the use of Pb in national park lands. We recommend that letters to the president ask for attention and action by the EPA, since this is the agency that regulates the introduction of toxics into the environment. It's time for ALL conservationists (whether our interests are consumptive or non-consumptive) to step up to the plate and work towards the elimination of a toxic material into the environment.

You may find these talking points useful:
Lead in almost every other aspect of our life has been removed from paint to fuel for our automobiles. The use in sports such as hunting and fishing is a last hold out even though solid scientific studies show the effect on human health as well as wildlife.
  • There is a lot of good scientific evidence that shows the significant acute and chronic effects of lead on humans, domestic animals and wildlife.
  • There are lots of NON-lead options for alternatives to lead hunting and fishing equipment and they are not prohibitively expensive.
  • Hunters and anglers have always been thought of as active conservationists and there is an important role for them in making this change -- to protect health, to protect the environment and to protect the resources that we all cherish.
Please encourage your friends, family members and co-workers to join you in supporting measures which will help us eliminate lead for the safety of birds as well as ourselves.

Please write a letter to your local representatives as well as our president and the head of the department of interior.

Barack Obama, President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Ken Salazar, Secretary
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Thank You!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More Leg Hold Trap Injuries, Red-tailed Hawk, Great-horned Owl

It has been a whirlwind of a few days here at REGI. I have several lectures coming up starting tomorrow, the education team is busy with school programs and the rehabilitation team is also busy with some awful new cases.

( Photo: This adult Great-horned Owl was caught in a leg hold trap. He voiced his opinion about that loudly and often today as we tending his injury.)

( Photo: The toe of the Great-horned Owl was caught in a leg hold trap meant for a coyote. A large trap, it did some real damage to the toe. Notice the swelling of the digit due to crushing of the bone and tissue. Owls need all of their talons to be in working order to hunt adequately. We hope this one can recover and be released again. But, he will miss breeding season this year. )

Sadly, we have had even more leg hold trap injuries. They are not for the faint of heart, but it is something we deal with often. Stop here if you don't want to see some awful stuff.

( Photo: This beautiful adult Red-tailed Hawk was trapped in a jaw leg hold trap likely meant for a Coyote, Bobcat or Muskrat. )

I think the only way to discourage this careless activity is for everyday people to see what happens way to often to protected "non-target_ species. People tell me that we must " get used to it", but you never do. The Red-tailed Hawk in these photos was obviously "released" from the trap by a human. He was then left to starve since he was unable to hunt. The injury occurred at least a week before he was found and brought to our clinic. I cannot even fathom the pain he was in for that time. He was humanely euthanized upon arrival at REGI. You also never get "used" to that.

( Photo: Leg hold trap injuries are brutal. This leg and the life of the bird, could not be saved as the foot had lost circulation days before the bird was brought into REGI.)

These injuries were "accidental" as the raptors are non-target species. They were likely legally set traps. Trappers have to be aware of "non-target wildlife" when they place traps. Sadly many appear to not have that knowledge.

But enough about my day. :( We hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Please remember the people in Haiti tonight, as I will. They have a struggle ahead that we can only imagine, after the tragic earthquake yesterday.

Marge Gibson © 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pedicures Raptor Style, Getting DNA

( Photo: Bart, our gray-phase Screech Owl remains unimpressed as we do a pedicure on his nails. )

Our education birds are important to us. Those of you that have seen our programs understand our philosophy when we call the birds our "partners in education". Most of them have a disability and are unable to be released to the wild. They count on us to provide them with everything they need for a good, low-stress and enriched life. Sometimes that included things like doing pedicures on their talons and trimming beaks. Because the gender of raptors is not always obvious, we can do DNA blood testing, so we can get their gender right.

( Photo: Bart, a Gray Eastern Screech Owl ,is pretty laid back and trusts us. I am taking a blood test in this photo for DNA testing to make sure Bart is a male. The weight and size indicate Bart is a male. )

Many birds have visible gender differences. The male Northern Cardinal is bright red while his mate is dull in color. Many birds of the passerine family have flashy colored males and more camouflage-colored females.

In raptors, gender color differences exists only rarely. The Northern Harrier is one raptor in which genders have different plumage color, as well as the more typical reverse size dimorphism that is found in most raptor species. Simply put, female raptors are generally about one-third larger than the males. As you can imagine, variation exists such as a small female or large male,and they can overlap in weights, etc.

( Photo: One drop of blood is all it takes to test for DNA to determine gender. It is expensive, so it's a luxury we don't do often unless we have a specific need. Gender is less important to us than how the birds are housed or treated. We do not breed raptors at REGI. )

( Photo: We have just requested this Short-eared Owl be added to our education permit from USFWS. She had a serious wing injury and is not releasable. Here I take a blood test while Alberta holds her and Katie looks on.)

( Photo: Getting her nails trimmed is not something this Short-eared Owl complains about. No nail polish on these talons. )

( Photo: Do I detect a scowl on the Short-eared Owl's face when she has a bit of a beak trim? )

( Photo: Snowy Owl, Yeti, stands quietly when he is weighed. )

When we are not busy with patients, we still have lots to do with keeping our education "team" of raptors in top shape.

We have some results of the DNA tests. Guess what? Bart, the handsome Gray Eastern Screech Owl, is a lady owl. Who knew? So do we continue to call "her" Bart or come up with a new name? Yeti, the Snowy Owl, is a male. The lovely new little Short-eared Owl as yet unnamed is a female.

Poor Bart...

Have a great week everybody.

Marge Gibson © 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Betsy Popp Prints for Sale

Northwoods artist Betsy Popp has generously donated some of her beautiful prints to REGI to use as a fundraiser. Betsy Popp is a very talented artist who has worked as an artist in residence at National Parks across the United States. She works with a multitude of media including wood sculptures, oil paintings, water colors and fine pencil drawings. One of the preparatory sketches for a print that Betsy has donated to REGI, Seeing Red, is on the permanent collection at the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, WI.

Betsy Popp has donated 3 different sketches to REGI; Seeing Red - A Collage of Red-tailed Hawks, Simply Red - A Red-tailed Hawk and Post Position - An American Kestrel. These prints are each signed and numbered. All 3 prints are currently available on eBay auction until Sunday, January 10 for $100.00 each. 100% of the proceeds from these sales will benefit REGI. You can also purchase them by contacting Molly McKay at Don't worry we do have more than the 3 copies which are available on eBay currently so if you miss those auctioned on eBay you haven't missed your chance.

Molly McKay

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


The first week of the new year has been one filled with owls. Beau Mihalka, a volunteer firefighter from Argonne,WI, was driving on New Year's Eve. He witnessed a Barred Owl hit by a car. The car didn't stop, but Beau did. There was a major snowstorm happening at the time, so he kept the bird safe in a quiet place. ( cardboard box is always the best) He brought the owl to REGI the following morning.

( Photo: This Barred Owl from Argonne, WI was hit by a car on New Year's Eve. He has a soft tissue wing injury, with significant bleeding from abrasions on the wing and a swollen Rt. eye. The blood on his chin in this photo is from the food he just finished eating, not his injury. )

We took photos of Beau and the Barred Owl he rescued when admitted. Unfortunately my camera card had a malfunction. The images were lost. The photo above was taken on Sunday, two days after the owl was admitted. Many thanks to Beau for taking the time during a snowstorm and on a holiday night to care for this beautiful owl.

( Photo: This Saw-whet Owl was wrapped tightly in nylon thread frayed from a tarp. She was non-responsive when admitted.)

Sometimes things we least expect can pose a danger to wildlife. Who would think that an owl could become so entangled in nylon/ plastic string that it would be life threatening? That is, however, exactly what happened to the Saw-whet Owl in these photos.

( Photo: Green nylon/plastic string was around both wings of this Saw-whet Owl. One wing was fractured, the other just sprained. In this photo we thought we had most of the string cut off and then found it was still wrapped tightly around her neck.)

( Photo: We thought we had lost this lovely little Saw-whet Owl when she remained unresponsive long after the string had been removed.)

( Photo: Imagine our joy when, 36 hours after she was found, the little Saw-whet Owl opened her eyes.)

She is doing well, better than we ever imagined. She has a dilated pupil in her left eye. It is hard to know if that was present before she was entangled, or if it was the result of oxygen loss when she had the string around her neck.

Today she is on a higher perch looking bright and cheery. She is eating well. It looks like she managed to squeak through an impossible situation.

It is something we can all be aware of. String, frayed tarps, or other line such as fishing line can be deadly to wild animals and birds. We usually find fishing mono- filament line wrapped around various parts of the anatomy of eagles, ospreys, and sea birds, including gulls and terns and pelicans. If you see string lying about, cut it in small bits and throw it away in protected bags. It is good to remember that birds can access it once it is in the dump as well.

A Great-horned Owl was just brought in from the Wisconsin Rapids area. He has a broken wing and some internal injuries.

Have a great evening everyone.

Marge Gibson © 2010