Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – April 21, 2020
Wow! Fifty Earth Days. Count them. It seems like ages since my 9th grade students in Austin, Texas planted trees on our campus to celebrate the first Earth Day. I haven’t been back to see them, but it is my greatest hope that those trees are prospering–providing shade, clean air and habitat through all of those fifty Earth Days.
When I think of my current investment in Mother Earth and her inhabitants, I realize that those past Earth Days represent a continuation of my need to do my part. And, despite myself, I can’t stop hoping that everyone will do his or her part to lessen the human impact on the only home we will know.
At Liberty Wildlife, we have been assisting wildlife for almost 40 of those 50 years. That adds up to a whole lot of animals. These injured, orphaned and ill animals were provided a second chance because many people did their part. But, at Liberty Wildlife we didn’t stop there. Our mission grew. Through our educational efforts, we have spread the word about nature to hundreds of thousands of students…all ages…about the beauty and benefits of the creatures that inhabit our earth. Through close encounters with wildlife we have sparked a light in learners’ eyes…the light that reveals that something special has happened…the light that shows a spark has been ignited…a light that will not go out…a light that will spur on protection of the natural world. Without nature, we are bereft. Existence just doesn’t seem to be enough…we are all better off if we feel a connection to our mothership…and to other of her inhabitants.
In this trying time for all of us, there is a little bit of irony. Not because we wanted to, we have been forced to look at other daily options. In our exasperating need to “do” something we must struggle to keep that light going within ourselves. Until recently there have been many temptations to lure us away from our earthly connections, but recent events have caused us to explore “new” old things…the things we did before screens, before malls, before all of the noise and distractions.
Many of us have decided to practice social distancing by going outside to hike, to bird, to nature walk, to listen to the wild, to smell the roses, to notice the resurgence of our wildlife neighbors. And, what a glorious thing that has turned out to be for us, for nature, for our wildlife. We have begun to realize that what is special for us now, should also be special for generations to come. Maybe this resurgence into nature has unforeseen consequences.
We have been asking ourselves why the numbers of animal intakes has soared so high this year. Is it because more people know we are here to help? Is it because the weather patterns have changed? Or, is it because people take the time to stroll through the neighborhood discovering the treasures of “wildness” just blocks from home? Those wild places have been there awaiting your visit. They have been available to explore revealing the homes and activities of critters who have been there for the whole time you have….possibly longer. They have just gone undiscovered, unappreciated, unvalued….until now.
I hope that this virus menace leaves and leaves quickly. I hope that jobs return. I hope that wellness returns, and that families heal. But, I also hope that the air stays clean, that our harsh noises no longer cancel the chilling sounds of the wild, that our busy lives now allow time for a more balanced life journey and a renewed appreciation of the natural world.
Back then, Earth Day 1970 seemed so ahead of its time. Now it seems so timely. Go figure.
Posted by Terry Stevens
This Week @ Liberty – April 21, 2020
It’s hard to believe that we’re over 500 intakes ahead of last year as of this writing. AND, we’re doing it with fewer volunteers! The temps are starting to climb and they’re predicting the first three digit readings within the next two weeks. The rush of babies is somewhat mitigated by the fact that we haven’t had any big storms yet this spring, but I’m sure they will come. We’re trying our best to comply with CDC requirements for “social distancing” while processing intakes, and the volunteers are holding up well given the conditions under which we all must work. The public has, for the most part, also stepped up and are providing welcomed donations which, with the current unemployment situation, is heartwarming. It’s even more gratifying for us since all of our fundraising events have either been postponed or cancelled. Please keep checking the website for details of supplemental programs that Liberty Wildlife is running to keep all of our supporters close and informed!
We get asked quite often if we just take birds. Naturally, the answer is we take just about any native animal, whether it’s avian, mammalian, or reptilian. We have been getting more baby mammals this year, probably because people are out walking around looking down. In addition to dozens of baby cottontail bunnies, we have several tiny chipmunks, a bunch of round tail ground squirrels, and some little baby pocket mice that were turned in. The volunteers that take care of our little mammals have had to learn some new biologies other than cottontails this year!
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We had to expand the Orphan Care operation due to both the number of babies taken in, AND giving the OC volunteers the room to maintain their social distancing. Consequently, Orphan Care has moved some of the overflow crowd into the Isolation ward so we can maintain 6ft between volunteers, as best we can. Kathleen and Mel are doing a nice job of adapting to the new normal and providing their OC team with a safe environment in which to help the orphans make it through their first critical weeks of life.
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Long time Liberty friend and volunteer Art Smith and his friend Paul Stinson have been working for weeks on a new enclosure for the passerines (perching birds) that graduate from rehab to the outside. The new structure is most impressive and will provide needed space and safety for the soon-to-be-released little birds. Not only did Mr. Stinson help Art with the construction, but in addition he donated a large quantity of paint to Liberty for which we are also very grateful!
We also have a new enclosure for our Landscape Team (the goats!). It’s on the north end of the modular building and gives them a shady and protected place to hang when they’re not munching on foliage.
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One thing is certain: this time of year, we will have LOTS of great horned owls of all ages in our care. Each week during Tuesday “Vet Night”, several GHOs in a variety of stages of development will pass though triage to be examined by one or more of the vets who volunteer for us. Some are injured, but most are just kids who left the nest prematurely for one reason or another. In years gone by, a fledgeling GHO would have “branched out” and ended up on the ground where he or she would have been watched and fed by its parents until it was able to feed and fend for itself. But in this mostly urban environment, they end up amidst a sea of red tile roofs, beset on all sides by dogs, cats, kids, pools, and cars, none of which is conducive to a developing young owl. In the past we might have placed the youngster back in its nest, but usually by the time the rescue volunteer has reached his car, the bird is back out again. There’s a lot to be said for Liberty’s foster parent set-up for owls!
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Among the “usual suspects” that present at vet night are an assortment of kestrels, barn owls, ravens, and peregrines. Each bird has a story, although we might have to scratch our heads to figure out what that story might be. For example, the raven pictured above has feather damage to the trailing edges of his primary wing and tail feathers. Did he back into a fan? Was he caught in a machine of some sort? it’s interesting to speculate. In any event, he will spend several months in our care as his damaged feathers are replaced in a molt.The little kestrel presents foot and leg injuries that might have come from the same kind of leg trap as the meadowlark in the last TW@L post. The barn owl injuries are another mystery which may never be solved. But the exact cause of the harm is not as important as the repairs that these and all the birds get when they arrive at Liberty. Years ago, there was a billboard out on one of Phoenix’s streets that said “Liberty Wildlife: We find ’em, fix’em, set ’em free!” it still works that way today!
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A gentleman brought in two little fledgeling red tail hawks last week. He said they were found on a golf course in the Phoenix area. Both birds presented dehydration and needs food badly. Otherwise, they seemed intact despite apparently falling from a nest in a tall tree on one of the fairways. They were both examined by the veterinary staff and given fluids and lots of food. They will be observed for a short period and then most likely go outside to be placed with foster parents on the rehab side. The gentleman who brought them in also gave us a very nice donation to help with their care. As I tell people every day at the intake window, the only down side to having a nice new state-of-the-art facility is that, unlike when we were in Dr. Orr’s back yard in Scottsdale, now we have to make a mortgage payment! Thanks to all who donate to keeping our mission going!
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