Monday, May 2, 2011

A Big, Huge, Giant Update

We have had SO much going on around here and I need to try to fit it all into one gigantic blog update... Here goes!

The education team has been very busy with lots of programs. It's a good-busy though, we are not complaining! :D On Wednesday, Education Coordinator, Molly McKay and I did a program for the Tri-County Area School District after-school program in Plainfield, WI. On Thursday, Molly did a program for the Popplewood 4H club in Ringle, WI. We had a wonderful time at both of these programs! We never get tired of doing programs at new locations... or familiar locations for that matter! We are often invited back, and we love it! Everywhere we go, we meet so many great people interested in the beautiful raptors we work with. Rightfully so, the raptors will take your breath away! If you are among the lucky that have met some of our raptors, you know this is true. If you haven't met them yet, you really should!

On Friday, Molly and I did three programs for Edgar Elementary School. This was a very exciting trip for me because I grew up in Marathon City, only a few minutes away from Edgar, WI. In addition, my wonderful little cousin, Madison Borchardt is a 1st grader at Edgar Elementary, and was able to see all of the wonderful birds we had to share.

Photo above: I am teaching the students of Edgar Elementary School about owls with help from Barred Owl, Malcolm. (Photo credit: Molly McKay)

Photo above: Education Coordinator, Molly McKay teaches the students about Peregrine Falcons during our third and final program at Edgar Elementary. The arrow is pointing to my darling cousin, Madison. I love you sweetie!

On Saturday
, Molly and I traveled 7 hours round trip to Edgerton, WI to speak with members and friends of the Sterling North Society at Sterling's very own historic home and barn. Sterling North was an author and animal lover who grew up in Edgerton, WI. He has written many great books, the most well known being "Rascal," subtitled "a memoir of a better era," in which he writes about his trying childhood and special bond with his pet raccoon, Rascal. If you would like to learn more about the Sterling North Society, follow this link! Molly and I had a terrific time and want to thank everyone from the Sterling North Society for their wonderful hospitality!

Photo above: Sterling North's home in Edgerton, WI.

The rehabilitation team has also been extremely busy with many new patients. The baby season has arrived and tots have been slowly adding up.

We currently have three Bald Eagle patients in our clinic with a fourth on the way. That means we have 42 big, beautiful Bald Eagles under our care at REGI in addition to the dozens of other birds in need of help.

Photo above: This Bald Eagle from Birnamwood, WI is suffering from starvation. As you can tell, he is in very poor condition. We are tube feeding him several times per day in hopes that he will continue to fight. He is standing, which is a positive sign, but I'm tentative about being overly optimistic right now.

Photos above: This Bald Eagle from St. Germain, WI was found grounded under the nest he is guarding. He is eating well, and things are looking promising for him. We would like to get him back out to his nest as soon as we can to take some of the burden off of his mate, but he has some trauma from a possible fall.

Photo above: This Bald Eagle from Keshena, WI was admitted after having a "disagreement" with another Eagle. He is able to fly and is currently in a flight enclosure so he can maintain his flight muscles.

Photo above: This beautiful Red Tailed Hawk was found in someone's back yard in Wausau, WI. He has a broken right wing and is extremely thin, suggesting that he has been unable to fly for some time. How he broke his wing, we are unsure, but we do know that he wouldn't have lasted much longer without help. If this bird looks unusually light to you, you're correct. Red Tailed Hawks can have amazing color variations within the species, from deep browns to creamy tans. The more extreme the color variation, the less commonly you'll see them. This beautiful light male is less common and extremely gorgeous.

Photo above: This Great Horned Owl from Antigo, WI was found by some kind and observant turkey hunters with an injury to his left wing and smelling of skunk, a common occurrence when rehabilitating Great Horned Owls. These powerful and confident owls frequently take skunks, but when hunting for such large prey, they risk getting injured in the process. That is likely what happened to this fellow.

We also admitted our second baby Great Horned Owl. This youngster is underweight and needs to be tube fed several times per day.

Photo above: Even at this young age, Great Horned Owls have all the tenacity in the world.

Photo above: Tubing the baby. He's underweight and dehydrated so tube feeding is absolutely necessary to improve his condition. That doesn't mean they like it though...

Photo above: He looks pleased to have that yucky tube out of his throat. ;)

Photo above: As busy as we get, we always have time to pause to watch a baby swallow a mouse. It is such a terrific undertaking for an owlet to swallow a mouse, but they are able to accomplish it each time, and I am always amazed.

The first baby Great Horned Owl admitted last week is doing well. She is eating like a champion and growing quickly. We do have some concerns about her vision though. We need to do more vision testing, but if we do find that she has trouble seeing, it is likely that her parents noticed it before we did and bumped her out of the nest.

We also admitted two baby Pine Siskins found as orphans. One of the youngsters, the first to arrive, is in fair health and eating well. The second youngster is not doing so well. It appears that he may have tussled with a creature capable of fitting him inside its mouth, most likely a domestic dog or cat. Both babies are fully feathered and are already beginning to experiment with flight.

Last year
in late March, we admitted a baby Pine Siskin making it the earliest passerine chick and the first baby Pine Siskin in our 20 year history. This year, we have TWO Pine Siskin babies from two different nests! Both are from Marathon County, but definitely did not come from the same parents. The reason this is so strange is because in the Eastern half of North America, Pine Siskins nest in the North, farther North than humble little Wisconsin. They are frequent winter visitors of this area as adults, but have had very few recorded nesting events in Wisconsin. What is going on here?! At the risk of being controversial, I'll just say that climate change is a curious thing and it has consequences farther reaching than any of us can fathom.

Photo above: Baby Pine Siskin #1. As you can tell from the photo, Pine Siskins are fairly small birds, and as I have quite petite hands, this baby is tinier than you may think.

Photo above: Baby Pine Siskin #2. This little tyke is the less well of the two, but still is anxious for feeding time. You may be able to see that his wings look blurry and that is because, when hungry, young birds flutter their wings at a speed that would impress a hummingbird! They do this to tell their parents, "Hey! I'm hungry! Feed me first!", and it is terribly adorable to see an incubator full of fluttering babes.

Another early baby for this spring is a 6-week-old Common Raven. Admitting a baby this large so early in the season is a bit surprising, especially for a northern climate, but Common Ravens start early and produce very hardy young. This little guy (or gal) was found alone, and being so young, is still unskilled at flying. He has a misshapen beak and it is likely he was kicked out of the nest by his parents. It may sound harsh, but baby birds with birth defects are disposed of by their parents so more time and energy can be concentrated on the young with a better chance at survival. This also serves the species well because the individuals with lesser genetics are taken out of the gene pool right away ensuring healthier young in the next generation. Because of his deformity, he will not be released, but he will become an education bird and teach thousands of people about the wonderfulness of Ravens. He has a big job in front of him!

Photos above: The 6-week-old Common Raven spends a lot of time watching us, his human caretakers. Because he has a deformity, he is non-releasable, and it is OK for him to become habituated to humans being around him. In fact, we want him to be comfortable around people because he will be an education bird someday.

As promised, here's an update on the Eaglet. It has been one week since the last update and he has grown another pound! He's beginning to look more like a body builder than a baby bird! Right now, his body is spending a lot of time and energy developing muscles necessary for standing, and one day, flying.

Photos above: The eaglet is out for his weekly check-up. He has grown another pound and is beginning to really look like he could be the proud symbol of freedom Americans know and love. If you look closely you can see that he is crossing a milestone, adult feathers are beginning to peek out of his baby fuzz. His feet are also already gigantic! He has a long way to go, but he's getting there fast! I hope you all enjoy seeing him grow as much as we all do here at REGI.

Whew! That was quite the blog. Hopefully you were all able to get through it!

Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator

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