Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – August 31, 2021
This week we got an interesting lesson in the ways of nature, the circle of life, and going with the flow.
When I arrived one day last week, Nathan called me out to the back of the property, which had been the target for a weed clean up. But, instead of back breaking efforts, we got a little help from our friends…thousands and thousands of white striped sphynx moth caterpillars….everywhere the eye could see and in no time at all the weeds were spindly sticks….Yay!
And, in no time at all they continued their painfully slow race across campus. It quickly became obvious to me why there were so many of them. One, they were impossible not to step on and just so you know, it wasn’t very pretty. Then the ants also numbering in the gazillions moved in to start their carnivorous work on the juicy caterpillar carcasses. Even the mosquito fish in the wetland got into the action…enough said.
Those caterpillars had to work really hard to find the right place to dig in, bury themselves in order to pull off the transition to the moth they were intended to be. On the path to soft land conducive for burying themselves, they had to cross the creek that leads in to the wetland; they crossed the open area under the mesquite bosque; they crossed the sidewalk and attempted apparently to short cut through the building. That wasn’t pretty either. Some, now a smaller number made it into the education trail and environs.
Here is what Linda Scott had to say about that in her notes from Sunday’s hand feeding: Caterpillars are still on their search for softer ground in which to dig. Cindy noticed that about a dozen had found their way to the base of the palo verde by the stone wall that is lined up with the walkway between eagles and corvids. They were indeed busily digging under that tree. Emmitt – Emmitt was more than 30 grams up in weight from the last several weigh-ins…..he’s gorging on caterpillars! I watched him stand patiently at his west facing slats while two big fat caterpillars made their way to within striking distance. He shot a foot out through the slats, popped one down the hatch, repeat! I also picked up a very large, slightly yellow/green pellet in his mew that had no less than 10 caterpillar head plates in it – I don’t know what else to call those bubbles of keratin at their head end. Is it their face? I believe it was this morning’s pellet as it was damp. Anyway, he’s a fan of the juicy morsels.
So, nature provides through a nice monsoon starting that part of the cycle of life rolling. Apparently, the addition of water, signals a conducive time for the caterpillars to start their very cumbersome locomotion to soft soils and the flow of the circle of life continues. The caterpillars have morphed from eggs with two things on their minds…to eat voraciously and to enter the pupal stage, which ends with a moth and the cycle rolls forward. That flow branches out as the unlucky caterpillars are snagged by predators, like Emmitt, the re- tailed hawk, the carnivorous ants or the nipping mosquito fish….each with their own cycle to fulfill.
Overall, there is a flow. I am not sure we ever know when to step into the flow and allow it to lead us to our best end, or when to step out for a while and go against the tides. We may delay the ultimate end kicking and screaming or we may choose to go with the flow and allow our best outcome to unfold. Maybe it is a moth or maybe it is a meal…who knows what our ultimate purpose truly is…but maybe it makes sense to just go with the flow.
This Week @ Liberty – August 31, 2021
It’s been another couple of hot weeks as the temps climbed above 110 yet again. But since we actually got some monsoon rain recently, it’s not been terribly unbearable. However, we could do without the storm damage (read:power outages!) and the resulting equipment failures. The forecast is for more temps in the “as expected” range and possibly some more rain next week so all-in-all, a somewhat normal monsoon this summer. Another mass release took place this weekend and this will help set the stage for the anticipated beginning of Autumn in one month. As August comes to an end, we will again open our doors to the public three days each week and begin to accept education programs for the upcoming school year. Our major fund raising event Wishes For Wildlife, scheduled this year for Oct. 23, is also well into the planning stages so watch the website for updates and information on this.
Last week we noticed a mass migration of large yellow caterpillars moving across the facility grounds. These were identified by Orphan Care Co-Coordinator Kathleen Scott as White lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillars which are quite common in North America. These large caterpillars (the larval form of the White Lined Moth) are harmless despite their large size, and pose no threats to humans or the plants they touch or nibble on. Because the moths they will eventually become are important pollinators, it’s critical to preserve them where ever possible. In some areas, they are the only pollinators of certain plants that are themselves endangered. (So try to keep your kids from stomping on them!)
(Look for 3 pictures.)
Last week, the Intake Window took in two bats within minutes of each other. Since there are 28 species of bats living in Arizona (more than almost any other state), this shouldn’t be terribly surprising. Why this is somewhat unusual is due to the fact that bats are generally quite small and are mostly nocturnal. Healthy bats don’t normally become victims to the things that routinely cause injury to birds such as automobile collisions, electrocutions, gunshots, and household pets. In fact, in most cases, the bats that are brought to us are immature individuals that were unable to return to the roosting area before sunrise or orphaned babies that got separated from their parents.
In any case, bats are extremely important as pollinators as well as helping to keep the insect population under control. It’s possible for one bat to consume 1,000 mosquitos or other insects in an hour! Not aggressive towards humans, it is important to never touch a bat with your bare hands both for your safety and that of the bat. If you find a bat in the proximity of human activity, leave it alone if possible. Chances are as soon as the sun sets, it will fly off to join its colony. If it happens to be in a place where humans or pets are apt to come into contact with it, call a facility such as Liberty Wildlife to advise you or effect a rescue.
Both of the little animals in this article were otherwise uninjured and are good candidates for release as soon as possible.
(Look for 9 pictures)
Barbed Wire Collision
Over the years, we have seen several birds that have had a close encounter of the worst kind with a barbed-wire fence. It seems that great horned owls are a species that is prone to be the victim of these hazards. Maybe it’s their size, maybe it’s their hunting style, but for whatever reason, great horned owls seem to be the birds we are most likely to see with serious injuries from getting tangled in fences made of barbed wire. One such encounter a few years ago even made it on TV in an episode of “Animal Cops – Phoenix” on Animal Planet. Historically, the damage caused to the bird in such an event can be devastating, frequently proving fatal. Fortunately, with the volunteer veterinarians that Liberty has on our Medical Services Team and the equipment available to them in our current facility, such an accident is no longer an automatic death sentence. An example of this occurred last Tuesday when a great horned owl came in that had collided with a barbed-wire fence. When Dr. Wyman came in for “Vet Night”, she assessed the bird and determined that the damage was not as catastrophic as might be expected. There was some bone exposed but none were broken and the patagium (The patagium is the fold of skin in front of the main segments of a bird’s wing) was not substantially damaged. Dr. Wyman thought she could suture the remaining tissue back together and given enough down time, the bird could recover. She then spent the next half hour repairing the skin damage after which the bird was bandaged, wrapped, fed, and placed in an inside enclosure to heal. Its prognosis is good at this point.
(Look for 15 photos)
If you remember back a couple of weeks, we had two young brown pelicans in our care. Neither of these large birds had any significant injuries, but they were definitely not in the right place. Often, the immature birds make the mistake of riding winds off the Pacific or the Gulf of California, following the path of least resistance much too far. Eventually, the wind loses energy and they decide to come down discovering that they can no longer see the ocean. Some will simply starve, others crash onto a wet road that looks like water from above. The fortunate ones find some water where they can land and sometimes even find food (fish). The really lucky ones wind up in a place that they can be found by a wildlife rehabilitation facility that can get them back to saltwater. Liberty usually finds a few of these wayward birds each year, and when I was still flying for America West (remember them?), we set up rides for the big birds, taking them back to San Diego where they were transferred to Sea World for final disposition. Since AWA and US Airways are gone, this “pelican pipeline” is no more. BUT, we do have volunteer Doug Robb who, along with Liberty friend and CEO of Prisma Bob Anderson who stepped up and provided the flight. Doug took the pair from Liberty to the airport where he and Bob loaded them onto Bob’s Cessna Caravan and flew them to Montgomery Field near San Diego. They were met by Jeni Fain and a couple of other Sea World people who then took the birds over to the bird center at the main facility for examination and release.
Our heartfelt thanks to Doug for engineering the trip, Bob (and Prisma) for the fuel and piloting the airplane, and the staff at Sea World San Diego for getting these youngsters back home.
(Look for 8 photos)
TWAL OLIO for 8.31.2021
If anyone has noticed, lately I have been grouping the photos each update as to topics and content and putting a short descriptive title on each segment. I’m hoping this helps organize things if anyone wants to look for discrete topics and photos in the future. I usually have a couple of pictures left over that don’t easily fit into any of the segments so I am including a catch-all which I’m calling TWAL OLIO (olio meaning an assortment, miscellany or medley…) If anyone has any comments, please add them to the space provided.
A little late in the season for babies, but two little orphan Inca doves were brought in last week. They had fallen from their nest and were being stalked by the local cat. Both are doing well in Orphan Care.
Someone from the Arizona Game & Fish Department retrieved this orphan raven from under the bleachers at the U of A stadium in Tucson. Correctly surmising he would do better with others of his species, he was brought up to join our current group of orphan ravens.
The desert tortoise was apparently involved in a close encounter with an automobile and has some serious shell damage. Dr. Lamb used some high-tech epoxy polymer paste to repair the broken shell while it heals. He also has some external plumbing installed to help drain the wound while he recuperates.
And I wanted to get a picture of one of our grounds-keeping goats who was able to find at least a little shade east of the hospital wing. In Arizona, you don’t look for the closest parking spot, you look for the shadiest place!
(Look for 4 photos)
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Posted by Terry Stevens
I wanted to ask if I may about the treatment for the owl. It looks like he was not given anesthesia. Do you use some sort of local anesthesia before suturing or are there not many pain receptors in that part of his wing?
Yes, they do have pain receptors, and yes, we do use some pain medication, but usually only birds that are undergoing surgery or don’t tolerate the local anesthetics get general anesthesia.
Amazing work for these beautiful souls.
Thanks to all the volunteers & Liberty Wildlife donors!