Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – Jan 05 2021
As you know if you read this blog consistently, we accomplished a great deal this past year despite the issues we all faced.
For one thing, we went from 9,910 animal intakes in 2019 to 12,156 animal intakes in 2020. That is pretty much off the charts. To say that we were busy is an understatement. That included working with everything from California condors to hummingbirds, rabbits to bobcats and foxes, and assorted reptiles. The total number of species helped will be tallied in our end of the year report sent to the state Game and Fish and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. We will know for certain what our release rate is when the end of the year report is finished, but, in general, we are in the 50% release statistic… at or above the national average.
A specifically successful release of the rehabilitated Swainson’s hawk with GPS equipment showed it flying all the way to Argentina in migration after we released it. It is a 6,000 mile or thereabouts trip for a bird that had been near death months before. It is always reassuring to see that the process can and does work.
Despite COVID restrictions, we managed to continue with our educational programming. We added a number of non-releasable animals to our educational ambassador line up, including the beautiful white tailed hawk, a barn owl, a turkey vulture, two great horned owls, a peregrine falcon, a ring-tailed cat, a long-nosed snake, and two bark scorpions to our interactive room collection. I know…eeeek…but it is important to be able to identify them in order to avoid them.
We have made the pivot to Zoom classes and have worked with organizations like the Arizona Sci Tech Institute in their annual festivals. Our field trips continue although a bit more sparse than usual and all COVID restrictions apply. We have become a popular site for home school groups and individual personal tours. Our Open Hours continue and, although the numbers aren’t the same, we still provide programming and have educational animals out to greet the guests.
The virtual world hasn’t escaped us. Our annual fundraiser, Wishes for Wildlife, went virtual this year. It was a little scary and none of us knew what to expect, but to our delight, it was very successful. We had attendees from all around the United States and that was refreshing. We aren’t totally sure how this year’s event will unfold, but it is pretty hard to resist a national audience.
Our staff had a few changes. Carol Suits our Volunteer Coordinator was allowed (J) to retire this summer, except for her HR expertise and contributions to KidStuff in the Nature News. Nathan Thrash joined our team to learn from the best and added new dimensions. Terry Stevens, our long time Operations Director, has also taken a well-deserved retirement… except from this blog, educational programming, rescues, and building stuff… doesn’t sound very retired…does it? Debbie Ordorica has taken the spot of Hotline Coordinator as Katie La Prade retires after a long stint of overseeing this important function.
I will report on the Liberty Wildlife Non-Eagle Feather Repository when those reports are complete later this month, so stay tuned.
And sadly, we have had to say good bye to Sam Fox, a long-time wildlife champion in the north valley. She dedicated her life to helping desert critters… owls being her favorite. So long, Sam, fly free and unencumbered.
This Week @ Liberty – Jan 05, 2021
The total number of intakes from last year ended up being 12,156. That number is truly remarkable. As the year began, we were wondering if we’d hit 10,000 after coming so close the previous year, but no one expected it would go as high as it did. As always, the workload remained mostly manageable, except for the deluge that occurred on the day between May and June when we took in 199. But we survived even that. We don’t have any idea if last year was the new normal (OMG, I hope NOT!) or an aberration due to the pandemic, but in any case, we’re ready to start off fresh in 2021. Again, thanks to all who helped us survive the dumpster fire that was 2020. Let’s move on into this year with hope for better times ahead.
We see quite a few lizards come through the facility, but we don’t seem to get many desert iguanas, despite the fact that they are quite common in this part of the country. This little guy came to us from a construction company who happened to dig him up while he was brumating. Luckily they saw him and thought to bring him to us.
Generally, some of the first birds we take in each year are hummingbirds. That’s probably because when it gets cold outside, they slow down and are frequently found by people who think they are in distress because they aren’t moving and may be on the ground. Quite often, all we need to do for them is give them a bit of heat so they can warm up to their operating temperature, and if it’s not too cold outside, just release them back to the wild.
Greater roadrunners are quite common to this area and when they get into trouble, Liberty is ready to help out. There’s not much sadder than a roadrunner with an injured leg. Luckily, our vets tend to be true miracle workers with Arizona birds and many are rehabilitated and released when they again become healthy and able to perform as designed.
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Quite often, people are surprised that we offer help to species such as pigeons. Our policy is that these ubiquitous birds can’t help what egg they came from and everything gets help if it finds its way to our door. Recently, someone brought three pigeons to us, all of whom had been burned in an electrical accident. It seems several of the birds were huddling together on some equipment and managed to touch two wires, making a connection. The resulting flash killed a couple of the pigeons and injured these three. We have seen this type of damage before in larger birds, like owls and hawks. If the damage is caused by a flash of electricity, sometimes only feathers are burned and as soon as these are replaced naturally by molting, the bird can be released. If, however, the current passes through the tissue of the bird’s muscles, bones, or internal organs, the damage is more catastrophic. These three birds were lucky that the damage was largely superficial and they will most likely survive.
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A pretty little saw whet owl was brought in from north Scottsdale recently. Saw whets are common to coniferous forests but during migration, they do venture into areas like the valley. Like many owls, they are mostly nocturnal, using their asymmetrically placed ears help them to find prey aurally. This particular bird possibly has a skeletal injury inhibiting his ability to fly properly. He will be observed carefully for a period for evaluation.
We get a lot of kestrels through our doors each year. They are among the most common raptors in the Northern hemisphere found around the world in various forms. This particular bird has an injury to his wing (wrist) which we hope will be able to heal properly with the expert wrap he got last week from Dr. Salhuana.
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Probably the most common hawk we see at Liberty each year is the red tail hawk. Red tailed hawks are found from the arctic circle all the way down through North America to the Caribbean. If you see a large hawk with typical Buteo proportions, very broad, rounded wings and a short, wide tail anywhere in North America, bet $5.00 it’s a red tail and you’ll get rich. Because there are so many of them out there, they have a lot of exposure to danger, like automobiles, electrical equipment, and gunshots. The first birds in the current photos were injured most likely in passive contact with people, either by electrical injuries or automobile collisions, The last one (with the x-rays), was the victim of a gunshot. The fact that he was found in the Ahwatukee area shortly after Christmas is significant as pellet guns are frequently given as presents – and they don’t just “shoot your eye out,” they injure and kill birds as well. This bird will carry the pellet for the rest of its life, assuming it recovers well enough to be released.
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Another group of birds we see all too often are water fowl (yes, that includes ducks!) For being a desert community, we have lots of geese and various species of ducks, as well as wading birds living in our state. Cattle egrets are known for following grazing cattle as they walk around fields eating grass. As they walk, they disturb insects which then become the main food of the following egrets. This little bird was injured as he exploited this symbiotic relationship with grazing cows.
The muscovy has an injured leg, while the duck has another injury that is all too common – an ingested fishing hook. Unfortunately, this hook was swallowed necessitating surgery for removal. That’s when our Senior Veterinarian, Dr. Tanya Wyman stepped up and performed the life saving surgery. Now, if only we could get people to stop leaving their fishing gear on the ground…
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After three pump failures and several outings into the pond, I finally got the fountain in the wetlands lake to work. (The first pump lasted a couple of weeks, the second lasted a couple of days the third lasted 90 seconds!) Here’s hoping the new one will not fail so soon.
Laura has several stuffed animals strewn around the pond for kids to “locate” with binoculars as they learn how to observe nature. Recently they were collected on the apron to the lake and appeared to be holding a pow-wow which presented what seemed to be a nice photo-op.
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Posted by Terry Stevens
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Thank you so much for this information. I am so grateful that you guys exist and try to help financially when I can. Thank you, also, for taking in the pigeons. I have neighbors that talk about killing them, and hate them so much. We have two birdbaths and have the same pigeons come by each day to visit and sometimes they bring their little ones. They are smart, loving and very fun to watch. I cannot understand why people hate them so much, other than perhaps they believe the bad press (“rats with wings”, etc) or don’t realize that poop washes off. Thanks again to the kind, talented and dedicated folks at Liberty.
Another great year! To add to the note about how common Kestrels are there is significant concern all over the United States over their dramatically reduced numbers with no real reason yet identified. Keep putting them back in the wild. Thanks
I love this place.