Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – July 28, 2020
Today I am compelled to acknowledge the hard work of the staff and volunteers who are trudging through the heat and discomfort to guarantee the well-being of both the animals that you bring in to us who are readying for release and for those we have groomed to educate the public.
The folks arrive at the-crack-of-dawn. They log in and fetch the tools of the trade…the likes of brooms, rakes, dustpans, buckets, scrub brushes, measured cups of food all snugly tucked into the wagon to be dragged across the hot gravel to the enclosures of the rehabilitation and education animals. The enclosures are cleaned, and the food consumed is documented. Water bowls are cleaned and refilled while the condition of the animals is noted in detail. In cages with foster parents and orphans camouflage must be donned in order to negate any potential of mal-imprinting or habituating…the extra clothing exacerbates the heat. The education animals are carefully administered to as they each personally need.
It is hot. There is no way to avoid the heat this time of year. They can start before the sun comes up. They bedeck themselves with sunscreen, water bottles with dripping wet towels over the shoulders, around their necks or tied around their destroyed coifs. But, they beaver on because the animals need to be cared for. Fans are turned on; water is checked in the evaporative coolers. Invading pests must be kept at bay. And, it is hot.
Those critters ultra-sensitive to the heat are brought into temporary housing until the temperatures start to drop. That allows for yet more housing to be cleaned, watered and fed inside…but it is what must be done in the summer in the desert.
The thing that is so amazing is that this happens every day. The temperatures usually start to climb in mid-June with the intention to continue until mid-September if we are lucky. And, this year is no exception. What makes this a red-letter year is that it is all being done under the black cloak of COVID-19. That means that you add to the wet towels, face masks…a rule of entry into Liberty Wildlife. We have also temporarily lost some of our very active volunteers due to the risk of exposure making each daily team a little bit challenged.
But, this stalwart group rises to the challenge with very little grumbling and still when they socially distance pass a cohort, the crinkle of their eyes is proof of their welcoming smile.
Let’s not forget the hours of time that staff spends moving animals from one set of enclosures inside to another set outside as they graduate from one stage of readiness for release to the next. That is a lot of animals to be monitored, moved, and re-monitored…thousands to be exact. The Orphan Care department must make sure every different species is readied in a different way. If it eats on the wing…they provide that opportunity. Use your imagination…that is a lot of work, outside, during the diurnal hours.
The owl team shows up in the later part of the afternoon to prepare the food for the nocturnal residents and as you can imagine, the heat has only increased for those hearty souls who must clean out residue, clean and change water bowls, document what was consumed and replenish the coffers for that night’s dining.
Then there is the extra spraying down of everyone (the patients) a couple of times a day so that there is relief from the oppressive heat…the animals love it. I guess the volunteer enjoys it too as it often results in “ spraying down spill over”.
Join me in applauding and thanking the dedication of this hearty, caring group with stars in their crowns…because they do this daily…and it is hot!
Do you enjoy reading about native wildlife? Check out long time volunteer Gail Cochrane’s blog, LetsGoLookout.com!
This Week @ Liberty – July 28, 2020
The monsoon is tantalizing us with cloud buildups in the east on a daily basis between excessive heat warnings two or three times a week. Coupled with the continued COVID19 threat, it’s been a difficult season, topping off a record year for intakes. The daily number has fallen from an average of 70-80 to just over 40 or so, but even at that reduced rate, we should hit 10,000 by the middle of August.
Last week, we took in our 9,000th arrival for 2020. This little baby great tailed grackle arrived on the 16th of July. Last year, we didn’t hit 9K until the 14th of September. Yes , it’s going to be a very big year…
One of the recent arrivals was a baby crow from the north country. He was brought in presenting symptoms of a back injury and was soon deemed one of the “cutest patients of the week” by the Med Services staff. We get in a lot of corvids (NOT to be confused with a virus with a similar name…) most of which turn out to be ravens but are frequently mistakenly identified as crows. We actually don’t get a lot of crows here and when one does show up, it’s cause for interest by the staff.
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Historically, we see a lot of Harris’ hawks come in to us. This time of year, once we’re past the scrawny little orphaned kids, we actually see some yearlings with nearly adult plumage. This is the time they can get into real trouble being able to mostly fly but not having the judgement to avoid dangerous situations like windows, wires, and assorted other electrical equipment. Just as in the human species, the young kids make mistakes as they learn what works and what doesn’t…
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We take in a lot of American Kestrels each year. They are the smallest and most common falcon in North America and is one of only a very few birds of prey that are sexually dimorphic. In addition to differentiating males from females, American kestrels have two black spots along the nape of the neck that look very similar to the dark eyes on the front of the kestrel’s head. These false eyes are thought to confuse and deter other predators from attacking the small falcons. This little female was displaying her “ocelli” prominently which I felt was worthy of a photograph.
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As always, several owls of various species are treated each week. Last week, a barn owl, a couple of screech owls, and a few great horned owls were examined during Vet Night. Having this large collection of skilled and experienced wildlife veterinary talent available is an amazing asset for Liberty and the wildlife of Arizona. In addition, we are able to provide a wealth of experience to an increasing number of veterinary students who work here prior to and during their training to become veterinary doctors.
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Recently we took in a least bittern for rehabilitation. He presented a leg injury which would have been life threatening if he was left in the wild without medical intervention. This little member of the heron family (actually, the smallest member!) doesn’t wade through he shallows like his larger relatives, but clings to the stalks of reeds and cat tails while hunting for fish and insects. This species is rather uncommon in Arizona so we don’t often get a chance to see one in our care.
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Recently we got a call from a lady in Scottsdale about a local mallard that she had named “Crazy Quackers” (Check TW@L last year for an item about “Dollar Bill). She noticed the duck was limping and was having difficulty moving so we brought it in. It seemed the right leg was impaired somehow, probably by a sprain and some soft tissue damage. This was causing the bird to favor the right leg which in turn caused the left foot to develop bumble foot. This is basically a staph infection which is common to heavier birds. The right leg is healing nicely and we were then able to treat the bumble foot in the left foot. That is also responding to treatment. It is hoped “CQ” will be able to return to his home turf and friends within a week or so.
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While we’re talking about water birds, we have several mallards and assorted other ducks currently in our care. Although the species varies, the root problems never seem to change: careless people discarding fishing line outside of appropriate places. I have spoken about this innumerable times, but here it goes again: monofilament line is extremely dangerous to birds, mammals, and almost all living things. If you get a snarl, don’t just drop it where you are. Put it in a covered receptacle or take it home and dispose of it where it isn’t available for birds and small creatures to get tangled in it. PLEASE!!!
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Posted by Terry Stevens