Welcome to the latest issue of the MLWC newsletter.
Here is one of two squirrels from Jamestown whose mom didn't return home. A third one, "Logger," was spotted on a log going into a sawmill and rescued just in time by, yes, a logger. The four week old squirrel's eyes were still closed! All three are in an outdoor cage at a volunteer's home, wilding up so they can go back where they belong.
This adorable creature is one of four baby cottontails who came to us June 13. A dog had dug up their burrow and injured one. They couldn't have been put back, as it wouldn't have been safe. Their eyes were closed, and they barely had fur.
This is a young cliff swallow who was found in Groveland by a girl who saw its nest being destroyed by some kids. She brought the bird to us, and in a couple days it was eating on its own. This was great, as at first it wouldn't gape (open its mouth when food was offered) at all. A week later, it went to an outdoor cage, and not too long after we found a buddy for it, a tree swallow, so it wouldn't be alone.
The pond turtle with personality has been released back where he was found, near Aarondale off Tuolumne Rd. He had probably been caught by a dog or a coyote. His shell had some teeth marks, but they hadn't penetrated, so after a two night stay for observation, he was able to return to his home area, and was left at a small pond. We trust he will now avoid creatures of the canine type.
What, no Blue Jays here?!
Many of us refer to some birds in our area as Blue Jays, which are in fact found on the east coast. The jays we have here are Steller's Jays and Western Scrub-Jays.
Steller's Jays have a jaunty crest, and their heads and shoulders are grayish-black, with other feathers all deep blue and iridescent. They often seem omnipresent, and are intelligent, social, and noisy. In addition to their familiar squawk, they have diverse calls and are excellent mimics. They do a near-perfect imitation of a Red-tailed Hawk, and, rarely, they also sing a soft, musical, extended song.
Coniferous forests or mixed conifers and oaks are their preferred habitat. They're year-round residents, and the pairs are monogamous with long term bonds. Their nests are built in early May, ten to twenty feet from the ground. Babies leave the nest at sixteen days old and follow their parents, begging for food, for another month. They may even stay with the parents till Autumn, or join a group of juveniles.
Steller's Jays are the ultimate omnivore; they eat just about everything, including berries, fruit, and insects. Acorns and pine seeds are their staple foods, and any excess of these are buried or hidden in bark crevices for later. During nesting season they eat a fair number of the eggs and nestlings of small birds.
Western Scrub-Jays do not have a crest on their heads, and have a white throat and grayish underside. They have a more limited range than Steller's Jays; they are noisy and conspicuous in foothill towns year-round. They are also social and intelligent, and have wide-ranging appetites, including for small snakes. In the Fall, each bird hides up to 5000 acorns and 6000 pine seeds, each one in an individual cache in the soil. The bird can remember each location for up to 250 days, but almost all are dug up and eaten between January and April. Then they switch to protein-rich insects and animals, in preparation for breeding. These pairs are also monogamous and have lifelong territories. They like dry shrubby woodlands and build their nests within twelve feet of the ground. The nestlings leave three weeks after they hatch and may follow the parents and be fed by them for up to three months.
We have babies of both kinds of jay in care now. We just released three Western Scrub-Jays who had been separated from their parents but were uninjured. They had to be fed each hour, nestling food and mealworms, and their three activities were eating, sleeping, and screaming. The new volunteer who had faithfully cared for them loved doing so, even with those demands. It's the kind of work that is its own reward. The Steller's Jays had about the same regimen during their care. Fortunately, these babies have nice big mouths, so they're easy to feed. They also just needed time to grow up before they could return to the wild. They had more than one caregiver, as can be the case, because feeding young birds hourly every day takes a toll, and our charges can move among volunteers. All are now flying free!
Just as we would sheathe a knife….
Another dangerous weapon, surprisingly, is the humble fly strip. They’re hung in barns and garages to catch insect pests, but sometimes bats or small birds get stuck to them and sustain horrible injuries. A fly strip can be used quite safely, however, by making a simple cylinder of 1/2” by 1/2" hardware cloth to go over it. All the insects will still have a clear path to the strip, while wildlife will be kept safely away.
There is a Little Brown Bat who had a bad run-in with a fly strip in La Grange in early May. He worked his way off the fly strip while being transported to us, but he was still so covered with sticky goo, his wings couldn't open. The chemicals in the glue can also cause hair loss and degrade the wing membranes.
First he was oiled to make removing the glue easier. After that, he was bathed twice to get the oil off. This was an extremely stressful day for him, so we let him groom and eat and recover over the next week. Then we re-inspected him and found some remaining glue, a bald head, and two small holes in one wing. We repeated the oiling and bathing and applied medicated cream to the wing membrane. This work is extremely exacting, as he is a full adult but only 1-1/2” long. All caregiving takes place in a tent, because if he got loose in our animal hospital, he could get into any nook or cranny and be virtually impossible to capture. He crawls extremely fast when being pursued. In the photograph, you see him when oiled, and he's in the process of eating a mealworm.
The holes in his wing did close in time, and he became much more active than he was initially. He still had a bit of a bald spot, but the hair should grow back. He also stayed a sporadic eater, but as a self-feeder, was no trouble. After seven weeks in care, about ten days ago, he was released and flew away quickly. We trust that he's back with the bat troops, devouring the insects in our night skies.
Do you know it's illegal to shoot ravens?
It is. A beautiful raven came into care that had been shot through the chest. It was found near Soulsbyville, and was euthanized after being evaluated by a veterinarian as unrepairable. These are wonderful birds, creative and intelligent, regarded as one of the geniuses of the bird world. They consume insects, grains, fruit, small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. They are corvids, as are the Jays mentioned above. All native birds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
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Director’s Docket: This is our busy time of year. We have taken in 143 animals, a little more than this time last year. However, this year has been harder. Too many animals are arriving in really bad shape, the main culprits being cars and cats. But we’ve had some great releases, with more on the way, and that makes for better days. We’ve attended six events to get the word out, get donations, and find new volunteers, successfully, and held training classes for volunteers, new and old. We’ve received some wonderful donations that are bolstering our cage building funds. When it cools off, we’ll start construction on a new all metal cage designed with woodpeckers in mind but that can be used for all songbirds. If you are (or know) a welder with some spare time to donate, give us a call! For the time being, we’ll just hunker down, answer phones, intake the animals in need, re-nest/re-unite those that we can, and keep feeding every little mouth that opens until the sun goes down. - Laura Murphy
Like a duck to water.... Kay McGinnis has loved animals all her life, and she always has had pets. It's extremely rewarding to her to take care of both people and animals. In her professional life, she was an RN, and is now retired. That has given her the chance to take her first volunteer position, sort of an extension of her previous career, with Mother Lode Wildlife Care.
Kay's work so far has been the crucial task of taking care of baby birds when they're most vulnerable and in need of constant care. It's a big job to feed them and ascertain how they're doing every hour. It does become natural after a while, and of course Kay found that she missed them after they were gone. Surely there will be more to take their place soon, for at this time of year we have many baby birds come in needing constant TLC. We're so glad to have Kay among those willing and able to provide that. Welcome and thank you, Kay!
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.
Most of this newsletter was written by Helen Engledow and edited by her and Laura Murphy. Kay McGinnis provided the photo of herself. Larry Bodiford and Laura Murphy provided other photos.
Come see us! We'll have an informational booth and always enjoy talking about wildlife, and there will be some especially desirable raffle prizes:
A framed signed lithograph by Dee Andreini, www.andreinigalleries.com
A Western Bluebird photo by Canvas Prints by Jerome, http://canvasprintsbyjerome.com
A framed Western Screech Owl Audubon print
You may purchase raffle tickets at the festival. They are $5 each or 5 for $20. Winning tickets will be drawn at 5pm on Sunday, and you do not need to be present to win!
We simply need
that wild country
available to us,
we never do more
than drive to its edge
and look in.
For it can be a means
of reassuring ourselves
of our sanity as creatures,
Reliable Volunteers A volunteer with Welding expertise!
Kleenex, paper towels, Q-tips
Old sweat-shirts or sheets
(Thanks for all the towels and t-shirts)
Rubbermaid shelf liner
Gift cards - Lowe's
old ice chests (we use these to transport donated frozen mice)
Currently in Care
3 Red-shouldered Hawks
3 Western Gray Squirrels
Cliff and Tree Swallows
2 California Towhees
3 Western Scrub Jays
2 Steller's Jays
2 American Robins
2 Acorn Woodpeckers