Welcome to the latest issue of the MLWC newsletter.
Up, Up and Away!
Inour previous newsletter, we told of the Great Blue Heron from Don Pedro which we released at Phoenix Lake in early September. Then, on November 20, we picked up another one. It had been found injured in Sonora's Crossroads Shopping Center near Big Lots and reported to the police, who called us. Volunteers with help from a bystander were able to capture it without injuring it further. It had been limping and had abrasions on its chest and one leg joint, probably due to being hit by a car, but it could fly. Once in care, it wouldn't eat for days; it was offered dead mice, raw salmon, and sardines. We tubed it and force fed it to keep its weight up and once it did start eating, it ate everything available. Care was always taken around its beak, which is quite long, very sharp, and dangerous. Salve was applied to the bird's wounds, and heat was provided in the enclosure during snowstorms. By December 5 it had recovered and was released in the morning at Phoenix Lake, bursting out of its carrier as soon as it was open and soaring up and far into the distance, graceful and free once more.
Our Overwintering Guests:
The Common Poorwill is not commonly seen. They are nocturnal, so we hear them far more than see them; their mellow, haunting calls start at dusk. A shallow scrape they make on the ground is their nesting site, and they flit just feet off the ground to catch insects. Sometimes they shoot straight up to catch one and then immediately settle back down. Their soft plumage is colored to camouflage them perfectly during the day. And they are the only bird that actually hibernates!
This Poorwill came to us September 23. It had been hit by a car in Tahoe by a man from this area who brought it back here and to us. It had broken tail feathers but was otherwise okay. Poorwills are not self-feeding in captivity, so it had to be force-fed for the first month. They hate being handled, so it fought this process and continued to break additional feathers. Eventually it started gaping for us and is now fed softened pieces of kibble on a toothpick without needing to be handled. It needs heat, so its cage has been moved into the house. We continue to modify its environment as it continues to damage more feathers by flapping and trying to fly. When not flapping, it often sits on its rock and rocks back and forth, making little cooing sounds when eating and hissing at us when we are late with the food. Now we'll have to wait till it molts in late summer or have the veterinarian pull its broken feathers. Either way, we will have its company for the winter. This is just as well, as it is a migratory bird, and the other Poorwills are long gone or hibernating by now.
This Big Brown Batcame to us in July; she had been found on the ground at Twain Harte Lake with a wing tear that went from the bottom edge all the way up to the wrist joint. The people who found her were, fortunately, very good about not handling her. That is critical! They scraped her into a bucket without touching her, as they knew you should never touch a bat with your bare hands. She has been kept in quiet care while she heals, only requiring that ointment be applied daily to keep the tear moist. The second bat photo shows the wing tear has healed about 3/4" down from the wrist joint, so it still has quite a way to go, about twice that distance. A smaller tear in her tail membrane has healed fully.
When winter comes and there aren’t many insects around, bats will go into torpor till warm weather returns and there are insects. Torpor is not the same as hibernation but is also a slowing down of all body processes, including healing. Therefore, the bat needed to be kept out of torpor, so her cage was brought into the house for warmth in the winter. She’s quite chubby now, but we expect her to shed some of that excess in the spring. (She was ready for her close-up! See photo at the end of the newsletter by Currently in Care.)
Two Eared Grebes in two days!
On December 5 we received a call from Summerville High School, as they had found an Eared Grebe that morning on a flat-roofed building. The sheen of an earlier rain on the rooftop looked like a pond to the bird. When birds go to land "in the pond," they of course hit the hard roof and can hurt themselves, particularly their keels. Even if they are uninjured, grebes can't take off unless they're in water, as their legs are so far back on their bodies.
The next day the High School called again and said, "We've got another one." After being examined for injuries and put in a sink with water to make sure they hadn't gotten oil or grease on their feathers and were still waterproof, could swim well, and were in good condition, they were released on succeeding days at Soulsbyville Pond. When the second one was released, the first one was still there, and before long their calls led them to each other. How lovely it was to see their reunion and see them swimming around together.
We were able to release all the Western Gray Squirrels before Thanksgiving, including the one we called "Blackfoot." He was a subspecies of Western Gray Squirrel that joined us from the San Jose area, where most of the squirrels are non-native Eastern Gray or Fox Squirrels. This young squirrel had black feet and a lot more brown in the coat than our local Western Gray Squirrels. The Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley transferred him to us so he could grow up with other Western Gray Squirrels. At first he was a mean little thing but eventually became friends with two other squirrels. When he was ready for release, volunteers transported him in a nest box and returned him to Los Gatos and set him free.
We were hoping to release the flying squirrels before Christmas, but the weather for Twain Harte looks a little cold and wet, so we'll continue to care for them until the weather improves.
This adorable creature was with us just a week, fortunately. It had been hit by a car and had a very swollen right side of the head, as can be seen in the photo, and an injured eye. We also worried about its jaw, but once it was eating, we knew that was okay. The poop piles around the cage showed that it was moving around.
Rabbits are high-stress animals, and trying to decide just how much they will tolerate our "help" is difficult. Jackrabbits can even break their own backs with a kick, they kick so hard, so catching them for release is a very scary proposition. This rabbit was very obliging; it loped around the cage and into the kennel whenever we got too close. Did he suspect it would take him back to life in the wild?
We hope to provide interesting articles and fun features, a look into the world of the creatures around us and the efforts required to help them when needed. Your comments regarding what you like and what you might like to see in the future are welcome. This is for your interest and enjoyment.
Beate Polzine joined us last May and has been a great asset to us. She normally volunteers eight hours each week "in season" (when intakes are high, which can be April - September) and still comes to help now that things are calmer. In the more quiet times, there are still cages to be cleaned, repaired, and built, among other things. Beate especially enjoys such building, framing, and working with power tools, and her talents are certainly appreciated.
Like many local residents, Beate came from the Bay Area, where she worked at Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek, a museum and rehabilitation center, for four years. She found it beneficial and learned a lot, and her daughter worked there also. Here, she enjoys working with all the animals, as "all are special in their own way." The Western Gray Squirrels and Northern Flying Squirrels are fun to feed and crack her up. She loves the hawks and owls particularly and likes working with the Common Poorwill who's with us now. She also fosters cats and kittens all year, as she works with Northside Pet Connection in Coulterville and Sonora Cat Rescue. We're so glad to have such a caring and dedicated person with us!
Director’s Docket: And a New Year begins. 2019 brought us 247 intakes. We've got a few hold-overs, but that just reminds us why we are here. With the work-load lightened, we can focus on caging instead. This year we have workspace inside the barn, so we'll be able to build panels for cages regardless of the weather. It's nice to have something for the volunteers to do. We are hoping to complete new caging for rehabilitating wild rabbits. They do so much better isolated from the noise and foot traffic of daily activities, so finding a location off the beaten path is important. We are also hoping to build a new cage specifically for foxes. Having cages set aside for specific species means we can intake these other species and not have to juggle animals in our existing cages. Our hope of building a 100' flight cage is almost a reality. Stay tuned, it will be a metal carport type structure and we will be looking for a company to help build it, any ideas? -Laura Murphy
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Most of this newsletter was written by Helen Engledow and edited by her and Laura Murphy. Dave Robertson took the photo of Laura at the Spotted Owl release, The bear in snow is from Pixabay, Sharon South took the photo of the partially healed bat wing tear, Helen Engledow took the great bat close-up and the Grebe photos. Laura Murphy provided the remaining photos.
"Turn down the noise. Reduce the speed. Be like the somnolent bears, or those other animals that slow down and almost die in the cold season. Let it be the way it is. The magic is there in its power."
- Henry Mitchell
Reliable Volunteers - in particular, Baby Songbird feeders
- 4 hour shifts May - September
Paper Towels and Kleenex
Astroturf - long or short leaf
Heavy Duty Rubbermaid shelf liner
Gift cards - Lowe's, OSH, Amazon
- Gas Cards
old ice chests (we use these to transport donated frozen mice)
Mealworm Wranglers! We raise mealworms to feed some of the animals. We will train any Wrangler how to care for them. We will provide the plastic trays, the bran medium and carrots for food/moisture. Wranglers would maintain the colonies, sort when necessary, and keep the volunteers supplied with different sized mealworms. Interested?
Call 677-7249 for more information.
Currently in Care
Big Brown Bat
(3) Northern Flying Squirrels