Welcome to the latest issue of the MLWC newsletter.
The regalOspreyis the only North American raptor whose diet consists almost entirely of fish, so they're most often seen around large bodies of water. We generally see them nesting atop utility poles on platforms made for them, around Lake Tulloch, Don Pedro, and New Melones.
An early Osprey guest came in March 20th from Ferretti Road in Groveland, near Pine Mountain Lake. It had a bloody chest due to puncture wounds, either from fighting with other ospreys or possibly due to having been attacked by the pair of Bald Eagles who think they own Pine Mountain Lake.
Ospreys are notorious for not eating in captivity, so it was given antibiotics and then force-fed fish twice a day to keep its weight up as it healed in quiet care. It was released as soon as it had recovered, April 2nd, and flew like a champ. Our mandate is to release wildlife where found, but we got permission to release this one at Don Pedro, where there are other ospreys, food is plentiful, and no territorial eagles exist to contend with. Besides, the way he flew, he could be back in Groveland before lunch if he so desired.
Everyone loves Barn Owls! We were fortunate enough to have had two in care, one released in mid-June and one released last week. The first one was found on the ground with no parents around, near La Grange, on April 25. It grew up and spent its last few weeks with us prior to release, in the 50-foot flight cage, demonstrating its flying and live-hunting skills. Now he's on gopher patrol in La Grange. The two left photos are of that owl, taken about two weeks apart, not long after it came into care. The next owl was found June 1 in Utica Park, Angels Camp, without parents also. It was reported to the police, and the ACPD officer who responded "did what any professional police officer would do...he called his wife," according to an online story about it. She transported it to us. It replaced fuzz with feathers, as the third photo shows. After learning to successfully hunt live prey, he was released August 4 back at Utica Park and flew away rapidly, gracefully, and silently.
Western Screech Owl Update:
In our previous newsletter we told of two Screech Owls in care, both apparently hit by cars. The one who held its head twisted down to the ground did not improve, despite a chiropractic visit and months of physical therapy, and had to be euthanized. The other one, despite having only one good eye, proved adept at flying and hunting and was released to fly off strongly, much to everyone's delight. The photo (taken by Evelyn Richardson) shows it perched in a nearby tree.
Oh my, Opossum!
We had an opossum youngster in care, and the photo illustrates the danger here - our getting attached to them. This one was found in Groveland about April 20th, having fallen off its mother and being too young to be on its own. Once the young leave the mother's pouch, they cling to her back as she walks or climbs, and some may get lost in the process, as she doesn't take roll as she goes.
Opossums are marsupials we often call possums, but technically "possum" is the name for their cousins in Australia, New Guinea, and Sulawesi, which are more closely related to kangaroos. By any name, they're fun to have around!
This one was released June 10, and was last seen wandering off in the night toward a pond in the woods.
Three darling Douglas Squirrels came to us in mid-May from the Arnold/Hathaway Pines area. They were three to four weeks old. An attempt was made to reunite them with their mom but with no success. Two girls and a boy, they were a little dehydrated and needy on intake but they recovered nicely. For most of their time with us, they were in the home of a volunteer, Carol, who is used to caring for gray squirrels, which are larger and calmer. Carol finds Douglas Squirrels to be wild, very fast, a lot of fun, and real characters.
She found it hard to see them go to another volunteer who has an outdoor cage, but knowing they would be that much closer to freedom helped. Douglas squirrels are cache hoarders and so are very territorial. These kids will need time to establish their separate territories and build up their caches before winter. They were released at the White Pines area, into Douglas Squirrel habitat, August 2, ready to begin their tasks.
So just when DO we take birds in ?! We receive quite a few calls each summer from people who have found fledglings, birds that just left the nest and can't fly yet, but the parents are watching over them and still feeding them. The people don't realize this, pick up the bird, and call us, wanting us to take care of it, which is not going to happen when the bird is healthy (see the Director's Docket for more on this.) In this and other situations, a person sometimes asks, "So when DO you take birds into care?" The following are examples of some answers to that question.
On May 22 and 24, we welcomed nests with four baby Black Phoebes in each. One nest had been built on a trailer, which was moved, and when the nest was discovered, there was no place to return it to; their nests need to be attached to something off the ground. The other nest fell off a house and could have been put back under the eaves, but the people didn't know this and had been feeding them. When the babies got to us, they needed heat, and fluids and a good diet. One died, but the other seven graduated to an indoor cage, and when they were self-feeding, to a large outdoor cage. On June 25 all were released near where they came from, four near a creek off Twist Road and three in Jamestown. Riparian areas are ideal, as they live on insects, which hang out by water.
We had two Cliff Swallows in care this summer. One fell out of a high nest at PAWS Sanctuary in San Andreas, so it couldn't be returned to the nest. The other was drowning in New Melones Reservoir, was fished out, and wouldn't fly away. Both grew up well and were released.
Both Black Phoebes and Cliff Swallows apply mud to the outside of their nests. Some kids like to throw rocks at such nests to knock them down. It is very important to teach children not to do this.
The House Wrens we had in care this summer had been in a nest in someone's front porch and started falling out of the nest before fledging time. The people tried to return them to the nest, but it was in a small hole in the eave which the parents had filled with twigs, and the babies couldn't be fitted back in. The people put them in a small box right next to that nest, but the parents didn't resume care of them, so we took them, raised them, and released them. Sometimes nests are built in inappropriate places and eventually fall and can't be put back.
Two Black-headedGrosbeaksjoined us this summer. The first was a fledgling with a broken coracoid. We wrapped its wing for a week, holding the fracture in place. Grosbeaks are migratory birds and need perfect flight. It was self-feeding (mealworms, fruit, and peanut crumble) and when joined by a younger Grosbeak, it responded to the begging calls by inserting mealworms into the newcomers beak, making our job much easier. The younger one was fairly calm and mellow, and the older one seemed a little more skittish and excitable, which is normal. After a couple of weeks in an aviary they were released, and the younger one was seen begging food from a wild adult.
In all cases, we took in birds who were injured or had no chance of being cared for by the parents. With fledglings, when there is no injury and the parents are present, we need to let them grow through their natural processes. This also means we have time and resources to devote to those creatures which truly need our care.
Welders R Us!
In mid-May two of us started to learn to weld, in order to complete the all-metal woodpecker cage. It's being made of tube steel, and we became proficient enough to complete all the frame panels. Sandy and Laura spent several hours learning with an arc welder. It was very difficult at first, but they did get the hang of it, and things got better when a neighbor brought over a MIG welder to use. Wonderful teacher Tim donated his time and the use of his arc welder to the process. Now for the painting and attaching of hardware cloth, and the woodpeckers will soon have a cage totally resistant to their beaks.
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.
We've been most fortunate to have Hannah Mayers among ourvolunteers, especially during the indescribably intense baby songbird season. She had a weekly shift of mainly feeding baby birds and also helping with the care of the other wildlife in house. For her last month, she came two days a week, always with a smile on her face. She wanted to see some of the animals she helped go free, and she was finally able to release a mourning dove recently.
Hannah has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of California at Monterey Bay. Her courses included zoology, mammalogy, and vertebrate natural history, which no doubt have shed some light on areas of her work with us, and she did some work with small mammals while there. Next for her is a Ph.D. program in marine biology at Florida International University in Miami, and undoubtedly she will bring the same sincerity and dedication to that program that she has brought to MLWC. Hannah says, "I've had an amazing experience working here, and I'm so happy to contribute to the well-being of these wild beings." We miss her already and wish her the best of luck.
Director’s Docket: As wildlife rehabilitators, we see a lot of cat-caught animals, which can be frustrating, as most do not survive the encounter and it seems an unnecessary waste. I try to stay out of the politics around outdoor cats, but with baby season, the phone calls have tripled. A baby bird comes out of the nest but can't fly very well, and with cats in the area, the finder wants us to take the baby. This is a healthy fledgling learning how to be a bird with the support of its parents. I explain we don't take healthy birds from their parents. Another finder has a nest in a bush and they want us to take it before their cat gets the baby birds. Nests are protected, and it's illegal for anyone to remove them, even with the best of intentions. There are cats everywhere, and the solution cannot be to take all nestlings from their parents and raise them in captivity. We need to find a way to keep baby birds safe and in their parents' care. -Laura Murphy
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Most of this newsletter was written by Helen Engledow and edited by her and Laura Murphy. Hannah Mayers provided her photo, and Laura Murphy (and Bernard Murphy) provided the remaining photos, except for the Western Screech Owl release photo provided by Evelyn Richardson and the Hummingbird photo below came from pixabay.
“A hummingbird is a feathered prism, a living rainbow. Darting out of a fairyland into your garden,
it captures the very sunlight for you
and turns it into a jewel on wings.”
Donald Culross Peattie
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
Ring-tailed Cat !!!
Northern Pygmy Owl
(2) Common Ravens
(2) Western Scrub Jays
(3) Steller's Jays
Red-shouldered Hawk Mourning Dove Cooper's Hawk
(3) American Robins