Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – August 16, 2022
I don’t know anyone who mourns the end of summer in the southwest desert. It has been long, relentless heat lately married to punishing monsoons…basically just a whole lot of drama if you ask me. It’s all about the sun and heat morphing in to bruising destructive winds and pushy floods giving not a hoot to what is consumed in its path. Don’t get me wrong, I love the rain, but does it have to be so brazen…has it always been this way…all full of extremes?
I start to reflect on this turning of the planet as I walk and hike in the early mornings. It is easy to be numbed by the beige of my surroundings. The spring yellow and green time has been depleted by the harshness of the undeterred intensity of the sun, relentlessly baking out the colors of the vegetation.
But, then, early one morning, I quietly turn a corner and gasp at the bright red of the cardinal as it dashes, flashes out of the way of me and the dogs…but not in time to escape my delight. It just reminds me that along with the handsome bright yellow and black hooded oriole using my yard as a respite before taking off south with his family, that migration is part of the activity in changing seasons. While I will miss these handsome creatures, I will await their return next year as times change yet again.
And so, this season dovetails with the stirrings of migration, and what I am seeing are the shiny bright feathers newly minted to conquer the demands of long flights delivering the bundles of Herculean strength to their wintering grounds. In that process I am fortunate enough to spot the vibrant cardinal as it flits, or the boldness of the vermilion flycatcher as it perches on a twig in the bright sun for all to see. As with my hooded orioles they are all bulking up for the annual flights taking them afar to lands hopefully replete with their needs and to ready themselves for the next turning of the globe, catapulting them on the wing again for yet another round at producing the next generation. And, so it goes. The seasons turn and nature refunds the coffers…hopefully.
At Liberty Wildlife, we operate seasonally also. The Orphan Care season will soon be another one for the books this year as we continue to break record intakes. We operate according to the demands of nature, of course, but we also are tuned into the demands of our own making. As schools reopen, we are here to answer the requests for tours and field trips. We are happy to open to the public again in September as the relentless heat wans (and yes, it will!) and allows guests to experience our campus and its denizens, human and not! The migrating humans will show up as they look for ways to experience the southwest when “their” northern world turns frozen and unforgiving.
So, seasons turn in concert with the spin of the earth. I encourage you, if you don’t already, to pay attention, to catch that flash of red or vibrant yellow that flits through the sun-bleached foliage and tip your hat in appreciation of change and all of its glories.
George Santayana says it best: “To be interested in the changing season is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” …kind of says it all! Welcome fall. Welcome change. Welcome a happier state.
This Week @ Liberty – August 16, 2022
Taking full advantage of us being closed to the public in August, I traveled to New Orleans last week to visit with some friends and family. While there, we visited City Park, a 13,000-acre park in New Orleans, dotted with lakes, canals, and other water features. As we walk up to one of the ponds, we notice a medium-sized mammal swim ashore. What is that thing? A beaver? A raccoon? Not quite, as we realized it was a nutria, an invasive rodent species originally native to South America.
Nutria are medium-sized rodents about the size of a raccoon, with a large, rounded tail. It’s theorized that they were released into waterways across the South in the mid-1900s after the collapse of the fur trade. Nutria breed year-round and can have up to 13 babies at a time. They eat vegetation completely, root and all, creating erosion around waterways and making it harder for vegetation to grow back. This is a huge problem, making the nutria one of the most destructive invasive species in the South.
Here in Phoenix, one of the most common invasive species affecting our waterways are red-eared sliders. These turtles are originally native to the south-central United States but have been introduced to Arizona via the pet trade. They may seem like a great pet at first, but they quickly outgrow their enclosure. Unfortunately, when they outgrow their enclosure they are sometimes released into our waterways, where they have no natural predators. Red-eared sliders are omnivores and pose a severe threat to both native aquatic plants and animals, and quickly outcompete native turtles for resources.
While Liberty Wildlife does not take in surrendered pets, we do refer out to a cadre of other non-profits who give surrendered pets their forever home. The lesson here is that if you have a pet that you can no longer care for, never release it into the wild!
Barn Owl Caught in Chimney
Have you ever seen an owl get a bath? Well, now you have! We recently sent out a rescue for a barn owl that was found on the ground in Chandler. Upon assessment, it was found that its feathers were dirty, leading us to theorize that it had been stuck in a chimney before freeing itself and ending up on the ground. The prognosis is good for this owl, as it didn’t have any injuries and was a little skinny, but not emaciated.
I recently had the honor of attending a black-crowned night heron release at Tres Rios Wetlands in Phoenix. We released 11 black-crowned night herons that came to us after their rookery was cut down in early May. After 2-3 months of growing, they were finally ready to be returned back into the wild!
Animal Ambassador of the Week – Junior
While uncommon, black-crowned night herons can become imprinted if they are not raised by a licensed rehabber. He was found as a baby by a member of the public and raised for a month before being transferred to Arizona Game & Fish. Upon arrival to AZG&F, it was found that he was already imprinted, and therefore non-releasable.
Black-crowned night herons are found across North America and live in fresh, salt, and brackish wetlands. They are most active at night or dusk (hence a night heron) and are the most widespread heron in the world. They have been known to use “bait” to catch prey, by tossing a leaf or stick into the water, getting the attention of the fish, and then eating the fish when it comes too close.
Posted by Nathan Thrash
Public Outreach Coordinator