Welcome to the latest issue of the MLWC newsletter.
Western Screech Owl Headquarters Here!
Once again, we took in more Screech Owls in 2018 than any other creature. As of December 13th, we had taken in nineteen. One was dead when it got here, four expired within the first 24 hours, two had to be euthanized, but eleven were released, and we still have one in care. The losses are hard, but those numbers are actually pretty good. When Screech Owls come to us, they've almost all been hit by a car or caught by a cat, and the injuries in both cases are generally pretty serious and often are unrepairable.
The Screech Owl in the photograph above came to us September 18 from Murphys, a juvenile not yet in adult plumage, and we thought he had been caught by a cat and dragged around in the dirt. He was not doing well, had lots of debris in his eyes, and was very skinny. We gave him antibiotics and flushed his eyes four times over the next two weeks, washing out more debris each time. On October 1 we found the long seed in the photo in his eye and removed it. It had been wrapped around behind his eyeball! He improved dramatically after that seed was removed. Once his eyes recovered, we verified his hunting skills, and he proved to be very capable. He was returned to Murphys on October 22 and freed to the cheers of the family who found him.
This little one was hit by a car, at the top of Big Hill in Sonora. It had blood in its eye and was given medication for swelling in the brain. After the blood was reabsorbed by the eye, and after it was verified that it could hunt, it was released by the person who found it, after just five days, on November 1. It's amazing that people who rescue these little owls can spot them at the side of the road, looking much like little rocks. Rescuers will stop, turn around, and go back to see if it really is a bird. Even if the bird has no obvious damage, it's best to contact wildlife experts if it's sitting stunned at the side of the road and lets you get close or even pick it up. Imagine trying to function alone in the wild, hunting and avoiding predators, etc., with a migraine. We are happy to examine it and keep it overnight, or longer if necessary, and will be sure to release it where it was found, and you can be present if you want to watch it fly free. It needs to be returned to its own territory and reconnect with its mate and possible young.
This charming Screech Owl came in October 7 after having been hit by a car on Lyons-Bald Mountain Road in Sonora. She had a shoulder fracture, so we wrapped the wing to the body for two weeks. Three weeks after the wrap came off she was still having difficulty flying, and an x-ray showed the scapula was twisted. Dr. Moffat, the chiropractor, thought he could help. He first adjusted the bird's neck and scapula on November 27. He has seen her weekly and he feels she has improved each time, even between adjustments. She can fly down in a controlled manner but can't fly up, so she has flutter perches which she can climb as she flaps her wings, and this builds muscle. We've installed a night vision camera to better evaluate her progress. Time will tell.
A new Raven! Regular readers know of the ongoing story of the three Ravens we had, concluded in our last issue (Autumn 2018.) The dearth of Ravens here ended September 24, just a week after the others left, when a new one came in from the Cedar Ridge area of Sonora. It had been following the homeowner around for about three days and was being fed kibble. They named it Jake. When it started going after their dog, they called us. Raised by someone, he has no fear of humans, which is not good for a wild bird. He needs to bond with other Ravens, so we're looking for a companion for him. Meanwhile, we're always looking for new ways to keep him interested until he gets a buddy, such as dog toys that can be filled with food for him to work on.
This handsome Red-tailed Hawk was seen on the ground at Railtown in Jamestown on October 23, and we were called to come get him. He's about one year old, which we can tell by his tail. It has brown stripes, which this species does the entire first year. After that, the red feathers grow in on the tail, which is happening now. He had been shot and then kept in a cage by someone. The battered condition of his feathers and his overgrown beak were what revealed the time spent in a cage. His injuries from being shot had healed, but they had never been treated after the event, so his shattered elbow joint is now frozen, and he will never fly again. He also has at least two pellets still in him. We're hoping to find a spot for him as an educational bird.
Just humming along...We have two Anna's Hummingbirds in care who joined us on December 1 and 2, having come from Sonora and Tuolumne. Both were comatose on intake, but once they warmed up they were fine. Hummingbirds use torpor (partial hibernation) as a way of handling extreme cold, but they should be gripping a perch and not belly up on the sidewalk. These two couldn't be released due to the continuing cold. They were kept indoors in cages with heat until the 12th. We needed to keep them apart, as they fought, body slamming each other. They had to be gradually acclimated back to outdoor temperatures before they could be put in an outdoor cage, once the freezing temperatures passed. The cage is big enough that they could have avoided each other, but they didn't! On Christmas they had to be moved back inside due to more extreme cold, but the room they're in isn't heated. Therefore they won't need to re-acclimate before being released, which we plan to do January 3. Free at last!
On November 30 another Anna's Hummingbird came in but didn't survive. It was very underweight due to a fungal infection on its beak, which it acquired feeding from a dirty feeder. Hummingbird feeders need to be inspected and cleaned regularly. If there are black mold floaters in the liquid or a black line around the feeder openings, they need to be cleaned immediately.
Squirrel Girls Succeed...Two female Western Gray Squirrels joined us in mid-August, three days apart, from different places in Groveland. One was found alone on the ground, her eyes not open, with no sign of her mom. She's always progressed well. The other was one of four kicked out of the nest one at a time over three weeks by their mother before their eyes opened. This can happen when a mother feels a baby has an issue (genetic deformity) that will keep it from developing well. Of the ones thrown out, one was found dead, one was a dwarf who died after three weeks, and one had misaligned teeth (malocclusion), so it couldn't crack nuts and had to be euthanized.
We thought this fourth one might have issues as well, but although she's marginal, she is making it and should be released soon. We spent a lot of time trying to prove that mom wrong, but it appears her judgment was mostly correct. At least one should go on to live a full life - yay!
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.
Our Lady of the Squirrels, Carmen Yurchak, has enjoyed caring for these marvelous mammals, along with some chipmunks, for fifteen years, and they never fail to interest and delight her. She started with Rose Wolf Wildlife Rescue when our director, Laura, was director there, and Carmen learned about her favorite species and its care over time. She acquired her squirrel cage, which is 8'x 4'x 8', eight years ago. When MLWC was formed in 2014, she joined in.
Carmen didn't want to release squirrels at first, but when she did, she saw it enjoying its freedom nearby and lost her reluctance. It's a joy to see a once-caged creature experiencing its natural life and habitat. She found chipmunks, which are tiny compared to squirrels, fun and entertaining, and once had five at one time. The squirrels she's cared for have mainly been Western Grays, but most recently she had some Douglas Squirrels, which are very vocal. She doesn't work with babies anymore and has cut back somewhat in other ways in 2018 due to health issues. Our director's guidance and caring have been so valuable over all the years that she says, "Laura's my hero!"
Director’s Docket: Volunteer hours in winter are usually spent on caging, as generally animal care does not require as much of our time. This year we've been driven to build caging on an as needed basis for exceptional circumstances, specifically, being able to house the hummingbirds talked about in this newsletter indoors due to the outside temperatures. Thankfully, we have had the money, materials, and skills to be able to accomplish this quickly. We try to make caging that can be used in multiple ways and meet the needs of multiple animals, but we just hadn't encountered this need before. One cage that has taken much longer, is the all-metal woodpecker cage, but we are finishing the last few panels now and will have it ready for woodpeckers (but it can be used for any other bird, if no woodpeckers are in care) this spring. There are other projects underway: rebuilding the last mews (bird of prey enclosure) due to termite damage and replacing the particle board skirt on the 50' flight cage due to water damage. Volunteers are always welcome! -Laura Murphy
If you haven't been to an Audubon meeting, why not try one this year? They meet on the third Wednesday of each month (except July, August, and December) at 6:30pm, in the Tuolumne Public Library on Greenley Road in Sonora. February's speaker will be Laura Murphy, our Operations Director! She will tell stories about some of the specific cases that have come through Mother Lode Wildlife Care and what was required to help these creatures grow and/or heal to be able to be released capable of surviving on their own.
The Home and Garden Show will be at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora on April 13, 2019 – April 14, 2019.
It's free, and you can ride the transit shuttle for free from the Junction to the fairgrounds. There will be a wide assortment of vendors representing home improvements and gardening ideas.
We hope to have a booth there. Come see us.
If you haven't received an email version of this newsletter and would like to, please go to our website, www.mlwild.organd click on the Newsletter link, enter your name and email address, and click Subscribe!
Most of this newsletter was written by Helen Engledow and edited by her and Laura Murphy. Laura Murphy (and others using her camera) provided the photos, except for the tree photo below which came from Pixabay. The Central Sierra Audubon Society logo was copied from their website, and the Home and Garden Photo was copied from their website.
"I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, 'Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.'" - Lewis Carrol
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, Amazon, Gas
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
Red-tailed Hawk Western Screech Owl Northern Pygmy Owl American Robin (2) Anna's Hummingbirds
(2) Western Gray Squirrels