Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – June 20, 2023
As, I write this the summer solstice is around the corner on June 21 marking the longest day of the year at 14 hours, 17 minutes, and 3 seconds. It will decrease in time until the shortest day of the year on December 21st when there will be 10 hours, 1 minute and 5 seconds of light. To be honest, I like the summer Solstice best because the notion that the daylight will lessen, fewer hours of sun beating down on us, is a relief to me. And, the first day of summer chronicles the traditional summer vacation.
Not all of us get to plan big vacations out of town. There are just a whole lot of reasons that “staycations” have become a thing. Maybe you take the family to a resort and take advantage of summer rates…that works. Or, maybe you do a little exploring closer to home. Camping in the backyard can even work for some! If a wildlife experience is on the wish list for the family, there are ways to make the vacation around town work incredibly well.
One of my favorite haunts to see wildlife is to visit the Lower Salt River and look for the wild horses which are sure to thrill as they trot into the water to cool off with their colts in tow. There are a number of birds that can be seen almost all of the time, including if you are observant, everything from ospreys to bald eagles. There are plenty of bunnies, javelina, bobcats, foxes. Along the shoreline you could see herons, egrets, avocets, and other shore birds. If fishing is a thing for you, scaley wildlife could be on the menu.
Perhaps closer to home is your need. If that is the case, The Gilbert Water Ranch Riparian Preserve is a hidden treasure in the Valley. It is perfect in the morning hours as shade is plentiful, trails are soft on the pups’ feet and the water mostly lines the trails. There are camping sites, if you plan ahead. A good of pair of binoculars will assist you in spying waterfowl, migrant warblers, perhaps you will see the flock of the American white pelicans and the returning roseate spoonbill is always a treat. There will always be a bunny or two munching in the brush along the trails. A resident bald eagle or a hunting, diving peregrine falcon might just thrill you by surprise. Over 300 species of birds have been documented there. If photography is part of your vacation plan, there are stands set up for the photographer’s delight allowing for silent photo stalking with reflections on still waters.
Other nearby birding areas include Tres Rios Wetlands on the west side of the Valley. Birding is great there as is the casual fishing opportunity. The Base and Meridian Wildlife Area, on the north bank of the Gila River at the confluence with the Salt River provides another scenic birding and wildlife area with water and all it draws into a desert setting. If you want to see the critters of the desert, the wild rivers and wetlands don’t disappoint. The “Valley of the Sun” a great place to get out of doors, see wildlife, find some relief from the brutal sun and enjoy the refreshing impact of year ‘round water.
Closer in town, in the Scottsdale area check out the Indian Bend wash green belt. It is 11 miles of parks, lakes, paths, and golf courses that travel through the heart of Scottsdale. Birding is convenient and can be coupled with biking and picnicking along the way. This is a great way to get your exercise, do a little birding, and engage in nature in an urban setting. There is something for everyone in the family.
There are many more opportunities like these across the Valley. A little sleuthing goes a long way to perfecting the ideal family wildlife staycation!
Bon Voyage….at home!
This Week @ Liberty – June 20, 2023
Next week will officially mark the halfway point for 2023: are you ready? Have you met some of the New Year’s goals you set for yourself, or are you like me, and blindly moving forward and pretending you didn’t make any at all? Well, if you’re like me, that’s okay! Goals are ever-changing, and something that took me a long time to recognize is that they can always be updated to reflect the changes that happen between then and now.
It happens here at Liberty Wildlife, too. Between new intakes (we had 89 on Sunday!), birds being moved, and spa day happening, sometimes it’s better to put one step forward knowing the next step might be a bit different. It can certainly make the flow of things a lot simpler!
Canker: How to Help Prevent the Spread
Canker might be a new word for many of you, but for us here at Liberty Wildlife, it’s a word we know well. Its official name is Trichomonas gallinae, and it’s a protozoan parasite that survives on moisture: aka, drinking water and seed. Since many birds are using the same limited water and food sources, we see it often in doves, pigeons, and many of our raptors who hunt those same birds. It starts in the crop and esophagus, and in extreme cases, moves to other organs like the brain. If found early enough, isolation and medicine help remove the parasite; if found too late, it can be fatal.
There is one sure fire way to help prevent the spread of this disease; easy ones, too. Hygiene is by far the easiest, and fastest way, to help. If you have bird feeder in your backyard, once the bird seed is gone, you’ll want to clean out the feeder with soap and water, spray with a diluted bleach solution, then allow it to sit in the sun for twenty-four hours before refilling it. It might seem tedious (considering my own bird feeder is empty within days of refilling), but washing between refilling can be a huge help in preventing the spread.
This, of course, leads to bird baths. Not only are birds—and other animals—bathing in this water, they’re drinking from it, too. It is recommended that these baths also be washed with soap and water, sprayed with a diluted bleach solution, then left in the sun for twenty-four hours prior to refilling with water. If you’re lucky enough to have space on your property for several baths, it might be wise to rotate these so your animal friends always have to place to go while one (or a few) are in the process of being cleaned.
And if, for any reason, there is canker found in your local wild flock, then all food and water bowls need to be cleaned, thoroughly bleached, and left empty for fourteen days to allow the bacteria’s life cycle to end.
It might seem like a little thing, but often times, it’s those little things that help.
If you’ve ever found a raptor—or any bird—injured or in distress, your first thought was likely “Who do I call to help me figure out the next step?” Maybe you found our website and discovered our intake window is open rain or shine, every day of the week (minus major holidays), from 8am-6pm. Or maybe you found our phone number and called our hotline; for many, this is the first step to getting an injured animal here.
For animals like songbirds and passerines (doves, pigeons), the intake window is your best option. We have an intake volunteer there to help you transfer the animal, and get information on it so our medical service volunteers and veterinarians can better assess the animal. For birds of prey, we have a group of volunteers in our Rescue/Hotline department who physically go out to the location of where the bird is at, and get the injured animal picked up, and brought here to Liberty Wildlife.
It can be a race against time, especially if said bird is still able to fly. You’d be surprised how quickly a Coopers Hawk can run even with an injured wing, or how difficult it is to get a Great-Horned Owl who has a fractured leg but is still fully capable of flight.
These, however, are questions our hotline team will ask when you’re calling about the animal you’ve found. It helps us assess the situation, and ensure the rescuer going out on that call will have a successful capture—and a safe one—to bring the animal back here to be assessed.
How the Birds Beat the Heat
It’s fairly easy for us to beat the heat these days; most of us have air conditioning running non-stop in our homes and the second we get in our vehicles to the moment we get out of them. Birds, though, don’t have that luxury, and must find other ways to beat the heat in our summer temperatures. There’s a few ways they do this, that are, however, as easy as starting our vehicles.
The first is something called gular flutter (I wish I could get a good picture of this, but alas, a little difficult to do!); birds don’t have sweat glands the way we do, so in order to cool themselves off, they will pant to help cool themselves off. It’s not so different than when your dog or cat is panting. You’ll see this in a bird by their open beaks, and the muscles in the throat moving rapidly.
Bathing is, absolutely, a huge way they cool off. Lakes, creeks, bird baths, and even the occasional water leak from lines within the city, are all great places for birds to take a quick dip.
One you’ll see often at this time of year is their activity level. You’re likely to see move birds most active during the hot, summer months in the morning or at night; the cooler temperatures of sunrise and sunset offer some relief from the sun. During the day, they’ll find a place to hunker down—maybe near some water to take that bath—or simply in the shade until they’re ready to get moving.
Of course, none of this beats something called urohydrosis: if you’re a Turkey Vulture, they will urinate on their bare legs to help cool the skin and keep their temperature down. If you’ve ever been close to one, you’ll notice a white residue left on their legs—this is urine that has dried on their skin, and helps to reflect sunlight to keep themselves cool.
Now I don’t know about you, but as much as I love Turkey Vultures, I’m apt to let them continue with urohydrosis on their own. Still, it’s a unique and totally effective method, so I won’t knock it down!
As always, this is one of my favorite sections. My phone has thousands of photos stored in the cloud, and I’m sure if I broke it down, more than half of them are likely to be bird pictures. I’m so grateful I get to share them with like-minded people who are just as excited to see them as I am to show them off!
Without further ado, here are this week’s notable mentions!
Great Blue Heron drops by the wetland for a quick bite to eat (2 pictures)
Nestling Harris’s Hawk gets weighed before being assessed and being placed outside (1 picture)
Intakes stack up on one of a busy Thursday afternoon (3 pictures)
Juvenile Western Kingbird gets some breakfast (2 pictures)
Even in these temperatures, we’re still open to the public, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 9am-11am. Come and say hi to your favorite animal ambassadors! Its donation only, but we’d love to have you in to say hi to your favorite animal ambassadors.
Until next time!
Posted by Acacia Parker
Public Outreach Coordinator