Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – August 18, 2021
In Phoenix, Arizona, today, the mountains are green. For those of you not familiar with our usually brown land features, that probably doesn’t mean much. But, to those of us desert dwellers it means a cascade of things.
First it means we are getting rain in our normally dry environ. I am always amazed at how quickly things green up, and I am pleased. Our monsoon storms pretty much ignored us last year, and all things desert suffered. It is that time when humans, plants and animals all share the same stresses. Of course, the difference is that the lonely coyote can’t turn on the faucet to drink. The stately saguaro can’t move to the nearest golf course lake to dangle its roots, and the avian creatures who depend on getting their moisture from the foods they eat or the water spots they are familiar with are left lacking.
Although there is no faucet for them to depend on many animals have evolved slick methods of dealing with drought. There is rain harvesting, sort of like we do at Liberty Wildlife, but with a twist. Lizards make use of the ants driven out by the rain to snatch those little moisture filled biters to satisfy a lizard’s need for water. Some beetles have bumps on their backs that force water from the mist to turn into droplets and roll into their mouths. Some chimps roll up leaves and scoop water out of water holes or mush up leaves and use them like a sponge, and there are water birds who soak up water in their feathers to take back to their young in the nests. Nature does a very good job at adapting to the needs of her denizens. But, the water still must come from somewhere.
I listen to the prognosticators who talk about El Nino and La Nina and try to make sense of it. The winter El Nino, the warm phase, impacts our monsoons and the La Nina, the cool phase, looms over our Fall and Winter. The monsoon rains are critical, but so is the snow pack in the northern part of our state. Our monsoon period is usually between June 15 and September 30, and while all of this is difficult to grasp and make sense of, the reality of it is critical to the well-being of life in the desert. The water must come from somewhere for the cool adaptions to work. And, we ALL need water.
Our monsoon brings all of the excitement of storms in the desert, with thunder and lightning and blessed rain drops. Sometimes it can be vicious with trees uprooted landing in unplanned places, water rises and invades the sanctity of our homes, washes run unpredictably, and the rain storms bring out the ants. Everything at this point is trying to make a living. The spade foot toad lays its eggs in a quickly shrinking puddle of water, yet toadlets result.
When I find myself irritated about the mud tracks dragged in, I need to stop and be grateful for the fact that there is water to make mud. I need to stop worrying about the lightning and wind that I can’t control, but that is the harbinger of food and water for our wildlife neighbors…neighbors who suffer in silence when their basic needs are difficult to attain. Or, whose lives are cut short for lack of a basic need provided by the presence of water.
Truth be known, we all need water…desert-adapted or not. We are all connected in this way…bring on the rain.
We have just experienced the wettest July in 127 years. Still, the drought remains but is improved. We have progressed, at least, from the driest monsoon season on record in 2020 (not much good about that year!). But, we can’t rest on our laurels. Any effort we can make to save the water that we have should be accomplished for us and for the wildlife with whom we share the planet.
I just keep hearing in my head the viral country western classic….”All day I face the barren waste, without a taste of water, cool, clear water”….bring on the rains. I’ll bet you hear it now, too.
This Week @ Liberty – Aug 18, 2021
We’re currently 716 ahead of last year on this date, and we’re in the middle of some real monsoon activity. Our rain harvesting cisterns are full again so we don’t need to tap into city water for a few months, and we have a team set up to clean the PV solar cells on the roof so we are headed for a low environmental footprint again fairly soon. In view of the somber report from the UN on the progress of climate change, that’s a good thing. No one person or entity on their own can stop the average global temperature from edging higher, but if everyone does what they are able to do, we can make a difference. We all need to pitch in because the other animals on the planet can’t do much except adapt the best they can. Birds and animals can change their migrations and possibly the areas they usually inhabit and maybe even their diets, and some have already begun to react to the rising average temperature. But some are slower to adapt and some may not be able to make the required changes fast enough to survive. Let’s do everything we can to take care of this planet. It’s the only home we’re going to have for a long time to come…
Although we do not offer public hours during August, and we are severely limited in our educational efforts by the restrictions imposed on us by the COVID pandemic, our Education Team remains active. Between outdoor programs and ZOOM presentations, the word is still getting out. We regularly go up to Clarkdale to present our ambassador animals in support of the Verde Canyon Rail Road. And if any group has the need to get a dose of “wildlife education,” we have the tools to provide interactive programs via Zoom and other virtual media. Not even a pandemic can keep a good organization down!
Look for 3 pictures
Certainly one of the busiest areas at Liberty Wildlife each spring/summer is Orphan Care. It’s hard to appreciate just how many abandoned and otherwise orphaned birds and mammals are brought to our facility requiring help. These mostly helpless little creatures have little chance of survival absent the help from dedicated Liberty volunteers who are trained to feed and care for them. Working the Intake Window, it’s apparent that most people don’t realize that what most babies are fed is important, but how they are fed is also critical. While the use of an eyedropper to give food to a gaping baby bird seems to be a universally accepted practice, it is remarkably dangerous and rarely used by our volunteers. This is why we use non-releasable foster parents for the raptor orphans that come to us. Real parents are able to feed the infants properly and do so while imprinting them properly on their own species, making them ideal candidates for ultimate release. As for passerines (perching birds), the species will determine the protein content of the food given which can vary with the type of bird with which we’re dealing. Our staff is also able to diagnose any injuries that the little peepers might have sustained and have those treated properly by the Medical Services volunteers.
Among the never-ending stream of doves, grackles, and sparrows, we do get in a few “celebrity” birds now and then. Currently, the top “A-Listers” are a baby cactus wren (our state bird) and a pretty baby flycatcher.
There’s a lot more to raising wild orphans than most people realize!
Look for 8 pictures
If you have been following TW@L over time, then you know that on Tuesday afternoon, several of the volunteer veterinarians and veterinary students come to Liberty. Pretty much all patients are systematically brought to Triage or the ICU to be examined. Their general wellness is checked, as is the progress of their treatment. The weight of each animal is recorded and the condition of any wraps or bandages is assessed. Any changes in their status is noted and if required, modifications to their care is recommended. All of this data and any further comments are recorded on the patient’s permanent medical record to be reviewed on subsequent examinations. It’s truly a professional operation!
Look for 14 pictures
There is a natural progression when a bird arrives for rehabilitation. After the initial physical assessment, the Medical Services team prescribes a course of treatment for that individual. After that, the patient’s progress is monitored at appropriate intervals. When it is determined that the animal has sufficiently improved, they will most likely “go outside.” This is an important step as it allows the animal to regain flying skills and acclimatize to ambient conditions before release. Sometimes after a protracted period in an indoor enclosure, beaks and talons have become overly long due to inactivity. In these cases, the overgrown appendages are manually clipped, trimmed and shaped by the Medical Services team. Finally, before the patient can be placed in an outside enclosure, a colored or numbered band must be installed so they can be identified while they are in the larger area. This will be removed once the animal is eventually released.
It’s always a good sign when something gets to “go outside”!
Look for 11 pictures
I happened to find this cicada on Liberty’s front sidewalk last week. Having grown up in Northern Illinois, I recognized it immediately and took this photo. Unfortunately the animal was deceased, but the fact that it was here in Arizona I thought was significant as all the maps I’ve seen as to the emergence of “Brood X” has them mostly in the east.
Posted by Terry Stevens
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer