Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – January 30, 2024
The River Lives
Here I sit on another river. Growing up, I lived in a town visited by two rivers, the Bosque and the Brazos. They made my heart sing. Then I moved away to college to a town bisected by a mighty river, the Colorado. How could it get much better? I didn’t realize that moving to a desert might leave a void… a yearning for the riparian way of life…I love the desert…but it did feel like something was missing.
I am not sure why it took me so long to understand fully, that a river does run through my desert home…a virtual ribbon as they say, through a desert, adding to the diversity that I needed and was accustomed to. I guess it is easy to understand my lack of awareness as this river, the Rio Salado, suffered much abuse after the historic native and indigenous people who depended on it absented the area. The beauty of the riparian landscape fell prey to dumped tires, cars, junk, and toxic materials replacing the native beauty. What a shame.
But a little over 50 years ago, along came some thoughts to try to restore the natural beauty and benefits of the river. Initiated by professors and students at ASU and then spearheaded by the new efforts of Rio Reimagined and ASU, things started happening. Along dozens of miles of this urban river junk is being removed. Revegetation of native flora and fauna is happening, invasive species are being addressed and a new awareness is dawning.
(photo AZ Family)
Several years ago, when searching for a new home for Liberty Wildlife, we had a list of needs: great availability to schools and young learners, convenience for visitors, access for people needing help with injured, orphaned, and ill wildlife, and no destruction of existing desert. We found it along the Rio Salado. Granted, it isn’t always the flooding, flowing rivers I was used to, but on many occasions since being here we have seen her flow, and it is exhilarating. And throughout the year pockets of water and riparian habitat thrive. I do feel at home!
With all of this in mind, it only seems fitting that we will be hosting a celebration of the river. On March 2nd “El Rio Vivo” will be a free event featuring the river that runs beside our campus. We encourage all of you to join us for this Art, Music and Nature Festival. The event will start at 8:30 at Liberty Wildlife with a 3 mile walk along the Peace Trail, a paved bike and pedestrian path that skirts the river. There will be booths with wildlife to visit along the trail. Educational signage will introduce you to the riparian and cultural aspects of the river. A singer/songwriter will greet you as you enter the campus at the conclusion of the walk. Educational booths with an emphasis on river learning and artists displaying and selling their work will be spread out around the campus. Three local musical offerings will be featured in the amphitheater throughout the afternoon and as always, Liberty Wildlife educational ambassadors and their educational ‘handlers’ will be present to give you a close up look at native wildlife. A new and different kind of art, digital art, in the form of a wildlife-related virtual reality game will be presented in our library by a team of students from Peoria Union High School, MET Professional Academy, Engineering.
Art, Music, Virtual Reality, Nature and let’s not forget food trucks and carts…what could be better…oh yeah…it’s FREE. So see you on March 2nd at Liberty Wildlife…get your nature on! Celebrate the river…EL RIO VIVO!
This Week @ Liberty – January 30, 2024
The saying ‘time flies’ seems innocuous. It’s a simple enough thing to say, especially as the older I get, the truer it becomes. And while there are some of you out there wondering how long this month is going to last (because there’s that part, too), for me, it seem like just a few weeks ago, I’d written the first blog of 2024; now I’m writing the third. And while the question I get asked most often is, “is it hard to figure out what to write”, I have to say, despite how quickly this past few weeks have gone, the answer is no. Sure, summer is definitely busier than winter, but there is always something happening at Liberty Wildlife. With so many moving parts and volunteers, to be honest, it can be hard to keep up with everything (in fact, it’s quite possible I miss a lot of things I just can’t be here for!).
Still, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Capturing photos and stories is a thing I’ve loved doing since I was a kid (in fact, I won a competition while living in Germany for a ‘book’ I wrote in the 3rd grade on bull fighting!), and doing it here, in a place I love and am passionate about, makes all the difference.
Dons Discovery Camp of Arizona
If you’ve been in Arizona long and have had children pass through our school systems, chances are, you’ve heard of Dons Discovery Camp of Arizona. Founded in 1930, this non-profit organization has helped to study, preserve and talk about the rich history and legends of Arizona and the Southwest. Located in the Superstition Mountains, the base camp is seven and a half miles in, where wild peregrine falcons, big horn sheep and more roam free.
With limited availability, it’s important to make sure your class (or school) signs up early. For third graders who get the opportunity to make the day-long field trip, five different stations each lasting about forty-five minutes are included:
- Hohokam rock art, where students are introduced to local petroglyph symbols;
- Sonoran desert hike, where they learn about desert plants and animals;
- Gold panning, where students learn to recognize how important of a role gold played in the settlement of Arizona;
- Cattle ranching, where students get to see the history of cattle brands, horses, and even how to rope;
- Birds of prey, reptiles and mammals, which features us, so enough said!
This means that, every Friday for six weeks, volunteers at Liberty Wildlife make the hour long drive out to the Dons Base Camp. With eager minds who are ready to learn, it certainly makes the trek worthwhile. For our first day there, Darwin the Great Horned Owl, Horus the Peregrine Falcon and Bandit, the Arizona Mountain Kingsnake made an impeccable impression.
And, truth be told, the kids knew so much about these animals, we let them take over a portion and tell us what they knew!
Even if you don’t have kids (or are just simply past that point), the Superstition Mountains are a must see while in Arizona. On the drive alone we saw red-tailed hawks, ravens, and turkey vultures. So, if you’re looking for a day out of the house while the weather is still nice, get out to Gold Canyon and head down Peralta Trail.
There’s plenty of space to explore out there in the Arizona wild!
A Tiny Surgery
Though not Arizona’s smallest owl, Western Screech Owls are certainly on the smaller side. About robin-sized, they can be extremely difficult to spot. They roost in trees for most of the day and night, and with their feather tufts up, their camouflage makes them especially hard to find. Hearing for them is often a better way to find them; at night, listen for a string of hollow, high notes that resemble a bouncing ball. From there, you may just be able to see where they’re hiding!
For this little one who found its way to Liberty Wildlife, a fractured radius/ulna (think forearm) and a fracture to the tibiotarsus (think shin) made it a good candidate for surgery. With the types of breaks on both fractures, a pin needs to be in place to help secure the bone in a position which will help it heal properly. For the wing, this allows for a callus to form and for the owl to have full extension of that wing—and in turn, allow it to fly once again. For the leg, once healed, it will help the owl to have full use of its talons so as to grasp its prey, which can include mice, bats, and even crayfish!
Pins, though, do make for a long recovery. They must be in for a few weeks before being pulled as to ensure the fracture is healed. Then, the rehabilitation starts; the bird must then build those muscles back up so they can get back out into the wild to be a successful hunter.
I think it’s safe to say, we have the time. That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?
Though this section will be a little short this week, I promise there will be more to come very soon. So, without further ado, here are this week’s notable mentions:
- Laura hangs with Cisco, our newest Bald Eagle addition (and a juvenile!) (1 picture)
- Volunteers Doris and Cecile held a ‘practice palooza’ with animal ambassadors and new education volunteers on a beautiful, sunny afternoon (1 picture)
- A Greater Roadrunner makes their way through the education trail (1 picture)
- A juvenile Harris’s Hawk goes shows off some adult plumage before going outside (2 pictures)
As always, thanks so much for making it this far. Remember, public hours are ongoing on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-1pm. Make sure to drop by and say hi to your favorite animal ambassadors!
Until next time!
Posted by Acacia Parker
Public Outreach Coordinator