Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – February 02, 2021
The past year seems so much like a year of losses. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t experienced some kind of life changing event. It may have been the loss of a job, the cancelation of the celebration of a special occasion, the loss of a beloved pet or a cherished family member…the losses run the gamut. Although the physical “loss” is real, we can surely work towards maintaining a relationship with the spirit of the loss. One way this can best be done is by creating stories.
While it didn’t happen last year, one of my biggest losses at Liberty Wildlife other than the loss of dear friends, was the loss of a golden eagle, Phoenix, who became my secret favorite animal. I don’t like to admit that I had one. I warn everyone not to get attached. Things can happen. And, to Phoenix, it did. He fell prey to a silent little creeper, aspergilosis that eventually took this gentle giant down.
This was a hard one for me. I don’t want to forget him, ever. So I began to remember him through stories I told in my head. Memories of his piercing eyes…the kind of eyes that let you know right off that you had been seen. Woe be unto the hapless prey that fell under his stare. I remind myself of his golden mane that flowed along the nape of his neck…a reminder of his years and experience…and his downright beauty.
Another story I remember is about the incongruence of this mighty bird of prey as he appeared to cower when he noticed a “walking rock.” In reality it was a desert tortoise living outside his enclosure. When it started to move and walk in his presence, he noticed immediately and began to cower. To him, this moving rock made no sense. On a good “no rock” day, he would fly from his handlers into his enclosure at the end of the aisle. But, no, not when the moving rock was about. No, no, no…not gonna do it. Wary but strong…that was my remembrance.
When I remember his stories, I feel he is right here with me. As long as I remember his stories, I refuse to concede to loss. I encourage each of you to assess the past year….maybe more than the past year, if you are brave enough, and consider your perceived losses and know that as long as someone (you) remembers them, they are not truly lost.
In the Mexican culture on Dia de los Muertos, the ones who have passed are intentionally remembered and celebrated because of a strong belief that nothing is ever totally gone if someone remembers. Perhaps this festive celebration isn’t your cup of tea, but remembering, if just through stories, can still be an avenue to keeping the feeling of loss at bay.
I encourage you to begin to write your stories. Introduce your children and other family members and friends to the stories. If you are so inclined, share your stories by writing them down or in some way immortalizing them…you will not regret it. Perhaps a song….
Like the song from the movie Coco: Remember Me, by Natalia Lafourcade
Though I have to say goodbye
Don’t let it make you cry
For ever if I’m far away
I hold you in my heart
I sing a secret song to you
Each night we are apart
Though I have to travel far
Each time you hear a sad guitar
Know that I’m with you
The only way that I can be
Until you’re in my arms again
Be creative, be tantalizing, be in touch with the stories…. And remember. If your stories relate to nature or wildlife, please feel free to share them with me.
This Week @ Liberty – February 02, 2021
We got the first real weather of the new year last week, and thankfully it preceded the period in which most animals and birds breed. Periodic storms with lots of rain and wind later on in the spring and early summer can produce a huge influx of babies to our Intake Window. Currently we are seeing the usual species that are temperature sensitive such as humming birds and some types of bats. The good news is that many of these arrivals only need to be warmed and fed in order to be released. The downside is if a small animal becomes sluggish due to low temperatures, they can become more prone to attack by house pets like dogs and cats. Regardless of the reason, when something presents itself at “The Window,” our wonderful intake volunteers get it to the Medical Services staff and it will receive whatever treatment is appropriate. We all know that in a couple of months, the flow of new patients will be steady from the time the Intake Window opens to the time it closes, seven days a week. This is truly the “Calm Before the Storm” (or Storms…!)
There are over 1,400 species of bats in the world, and Arizona is home to 28, second only to Texas. These long lived little mammals are an extremely important pollinator and are protected by law. Although they are a known rabies vector species, less than 1% of all bats carry this disease. If you find a bat on the ground, it probably needs help as they cannot take off from the surface. In any case, don’t touch it. The best course of action is to call the Arizona Game and Fish Department or Liberty Wildlife for advice and assistance.
There are two types of desert tortoise in Arizona, the Mohave (Gopherus agassizii) and the Sonoran (Gopherus morafkai). The Mohave lives mostly north and west of the Colorado River while the Sonorans are found mainly south and east of the river. Desert tortoises are susceptible to URTD (upper respiratory tract disease) which they can pass along to others of their species. Therefore it is inadvisable to handle one of these reptiles in the wild.
We took in the first great horned owl baby of this year recently. This little guy was not the tiny fluff ball we normally might see this early in the year, but a good-sized “baby” who will be placed with one set of our foster parent great horned owls.
(Look for 4 pictures.)
I’m usually on the lookout for the rare visitor specie or something a bit rarer to present here, but sometimes the more common birds show up and require our help. As we’ve said before, even though pigeons and ducks are ubiquitous in almost every habitat, they are still birds and sometimes require help to make it through life. We try very hard not to judge what is deserving of our help and provide care for any animal that lives in Arizona. Pigeons are found almost everywhere and get whatever help we can provide when they are brought in to us. This bird was checked for canker and other known pigeon afflictions.
The gadwall we recently took in is often overlooked in a flock of feeding mallards in local lakes and ponds. Smaller than most of the local variety of duck, they have very subtle markings and are quite handsome in overall appearance. They are known for their behavior in that they can actually steal food from diving or dabbling mallards. The suspicion is that this pretty little duck has a central nervous system or back problem. He is under observation.
(Look for 4 pictures)
Hummingbirds are some of the first birds we see each year in any numbers. One reason is they are quite sensitive to ambient temperatures. Among vertebrates, they have the highest metabolism for their size. A human will become hypothermic if their internal temperature drops 2 degrees, but a hummingbird will drop their body temperature as much as 26 degrees when it gets too cold for them. This condition is called a state of torpor and allows them to conserve energy. Their heart rate can drop from 1,000 to 1,200 beats per minute in flight to 50 BPM in torpor. When people find them like this, they suspect they are dead or dying. In many cases, especially in the spring and winter, all they need is to get warm and some food to recover fully. We can count on taking in a number of torpid hummers when the temps in Phoenix drops down to around 50 in the fall or winter.
(Look for 3 photos)
We see our fair share of Ravens each year. They and other Corvids are among the smartest animals on the planet, but still they sometimes get into trouble. Maybe they attempt more dangerous activities because they are so smart. Sometimes the smartest birds have a diminished fear of humans which leads to unfortunate outcomes from contact with our activities. In any case, Liberty is here to provide the best medical care (including radiological services) to injured birds like ravens.
(Look for 4 photos)
Red tailed hawks are one of the most common raptors in North America so it only stands to reason we see them more frequently than most other birds of prey. The good news is, our veterinarians and techs get lots of experience dealing with this over other species. This time of year, we are seeing a huge explosion in raptor numbers in general and the red tailed hawk population in particular. The increase in the density of the RTH distribution leads naturally to more human/bird interface which in turn leads to more damage to the birds. Between automobiles, electrical equipment, collateral poisoning, and gunshots, the birds that are going to survive are the ones that maintain an appreciable distance from humans and our activity. But as always, when a hawk has a close encounter of the worst kind with the human world, Liberty is waiting to help!
(Look for 11 photos)
The most frequent problems we see in roadrunners are leg issues. It is a common misconception that roadrunners don’t fly. Actually they fly very well, but their usual success strategy doesn’t include flight. Because they don’t hunt by flying, there is not much sadder than a roadrunner with a broken leg. This all being said, recently we took in a couple of roadrunners that we suspect had vision issues. A little out of the ordinary, we still gave them the best treatment possible!
(Look for 2 photos)
Liberty usually gets in a few pelicans each year. There are basically two kinds of pelicans in Arizona, the brown pelican which is somewhat smaller and normally hangs out on the coast, and the white pelican which is a little larger and is a fresh water bird. The brown type dives into the water to catch the fish they eat, while the white pelicans skim the water with their beaks to scoop up their food.
Recently R&T volunteer Mark Kroepler brought in a white pelican that was the victim of an encounter with some discarded fishing gear (DON’T GET ME STARTED!). The bird also had an injured wing joint, probably as a result of the fishing gear interfering with his flying ability. After being weighed (he stood up on the scale by himself!), a physical exam, the injury to his wrist was addressed and he was taken to an outside enclosure. As soon as the wound heals, he’ll be taken back out to rejoin his flock.
(Look for 6 photos)
Posted by Terry Stevens