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WILD TAILS

Summer 2017


Welcome to the latest issue of the MLWC newsletter.
This marvelous creature, a Swainson's Hawk, was found recently on the ground near the Columbia airport.  It has no broken bones, and perhaps it hit a wire while hunting turkey poults (young wild turkeys.)  Before being released, it will need to put on a little weight and demonstrate its hunting skills.

The Swainson's is a large, soaring hawk not often seen in the foothills.  It lives mainly in the Central Valley, except when wintering in Mexico.  During breeding season, it forages in open areas for rodents, rabbits, and reptiles, and for large insects after that.  It's extremely agile on the ground, walking and running expertly. This one has excellent prospects once it's able to be released.
Beautiful Blended Family
 
Western Screech Owls apparently make friends and become close quickly.  These five came from four locations but rapidly made a pile of themselves in their nestbox, despite the current heat wave.

One came from Calaveras County, where the finder tried, unsuccessfully, to reunite it with its parents.  One came from Phoenix Lake, where the nest couldn't be located.  Two were found by the side of the road in a logged area of Groveland, and the last was taken from a cat's jaws in downtown Sonora.  All were in pretty good shape, though dehydrated, in varying degrees.  They are now in a flight cage, learning to hunt.  Then comes release, and the sky's the limit for these small, vocal wonders who, in sheer numbers, rule the night skies in low elevation oak forests.
Birds and cats....what to do?
 
The largest cause of bird injuries and deaths is cat attacks. In the U.S., domestic cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds each year (yes, that's billion with a B.)  We've just released a bushtit we've had in care, who was caught by a cat.   It had an injury near its eye, and its tail had been ripped out.  One of the killdeer featured in this newsletter was also caught by a cat and we've released a cat-caught Western Scrub Jay.
These are the lucky ones; they survived.  Even so, that adult bushtit was removed during breeding season for five weeks, which left its mate to feed all the young alone, not an easy, or even necessarily a possible task.
 
Ideally, cats would all live only indoor lives, which is safer for them as well as for birds, but that isn't always possible.  If a cat has been used to having access to the outdoors, one can try to convince it that an indoor life is equally rewarding, but it may not work out.  Young cats can generally be raised to live contented indoor lives.

Tips for Happy Indoor Cats
 
Kittens that are kept indoors usually show no desire to venture outside as adults. With knowledge, patience, and time, we can change most free-roaming cats into happy indoor pets. Here’s how:  Provide window shelves to permit your pet to monitor the outdoors from the safety of your home.  Play with your cat each day.  Paper bags, tissue paper, and cardboard boxes are sources of unending delight when you are away. Plant kitty grass (available in pet supply stores) in indoor pots so your cat can graze.  Clean litter boxes regularly.  Spay or neuter your kitten as early as eight weeks of age.  Provide routine veterinary care, including annual check-ups and vaccinations.  If you can, provide a safe, outside enclosure, such as a screened porch.

From brochure by American Bird Conservancy
"Cats, Birds, and You"  
For the cat who simply must go out sometimes, there are a few options.  A bell worn around the neck isn't really helpful, as its sound may not cause a bird to alert.  Birdsbesafe Cat Collar Covers are voluminous and brightly colored, and the bright colors will alert the birds.  (Available at birdsbesafe.com and amazonsmile.comremember to pick us as your AmazonSmile charity)  Another option is a catio, an outdoor enclosure which might include perches and walkways, and might be accessed from a window.  They can be purchased or self-built; both plans and catios are available online.

 

"the Chattering Plover"
(an older, common name)  

That would be the Killdeer, and two such babies joined us in mid-May, needing to mature before they could be released.  After the first arrived, the director searched for a companion, as they need a buddy more than most birds.  She picked up an even younger Killdeer, who was in care at Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center in Hughson, and the two chicks quickly became great friends.  When one was removed from the cage to be weighed, the other called out anxiously until they were reunited, so they were largely in training to be the very vocal birds that the adults are.  

Killdeer are precocial (self-feeding) shortly after hatching.  These two ate mainly mealworms and tubiflex worms.  Tubiflex worms look like fine maroon strands of a pond plant.  The Killdeers' habitat required heat when they were first with us, as temperature is critical for them.  That's also true for stress reduction, which is why finding a companion is so important.  They had a feather duster they could hide under like it was momma and a mirror so they were never alone.
The killdeer is among the most widely distributed of all North American shorebirds, and unlike most others, it's often found far from a large body of water.  They may live along a stream or in a wet meadow, and are widespread on both sides of the Sierra.  They do require an ample supply of insects, spiders, snails, and worms.  
They nest in shallow depressions in the ground, and put on award-worthy performances as a bird with a broken wing, when they need to lure a predator from their nest or young. Alternatively, they may sneak away from the nest and make a tremendous racket from some distance away to distract the predator.

These two were very endearing and became great favorites.  Once the heat wave abated a little, on one of the last days of June, they were taken to Soulsbyville Pond and released. They could fly!  They made a huge circle around the pond and then settled back in the grass.  How marvelous for them to be free!

 

Mystery Squirrel Girl and brothers
 
These three Douglas Squirrels came into care at the start of June.  They were found together at a logging tree near Twain Harte, but a question arose:  why is the girl half the size of the two boys, with half their fur development?  She must be their litter-mate, and yet, how could she be? The alpha squirrel is on the left, and he fiercely defends his cage against all comers, even those bearing food. The timid brother, in the center, prefers to run and hide, whatever the situation.  The little sister is on the right, and of course, the photos don't reflect their relative sizes.

Douglas Squirrels are smaller than the more familiar Western Gray Squirrels, and they don't have the long, very bushy tails of the Western Grays.  They are very vocal, and they are cache hoarders (all their eggs in one basket, so to speak), while the Western Grays are scatter hoarders, having food hidden in small amounts in many places.  With everything in one spot, the Douglas Squirrels are extremely territorial, as this alpha squirrel demonstrates.  They are now weaned and moved into a large outdoor cage.  In a few more weeks, they can be released, and the mystery girl will take her secret with her.
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.

Carole Mutzner is a lover of squirrels who delighted in the experience of caring for six of these wonderful creatures last year, in two groups of three.  The first three squirrels were simply too young to be out on their own, and Carole cared for them until they were weaned and ready to go to a volunteer who has a pre-release cage.  They were later released near where they were found, in Jamestown, and were seen after that, doing well.

Carole's second trio of squirrels included the famous (or should it be notorious?)  Fancy.  She was older than the other two, and didn't like sharing her cage.  She had a bone infection and required special care, including antibiotic injections in the affected joint, which was intimidating to Carole at first, but she persevered.  (See the full story in our Spring 2017 newsletter)  Carole got Fancy as a tiny baby and became extremely fond of her.  Fancy moved on to the pre-release cage once she recovered, was later released there, and is still seen, apparently doing fine.The two squirrels in care with Fancy were overwintered in a different pre-release cage and released at the end of March in Columbia.

This is Carole's first experience working with wildlife, and she finds it very rewarding and a lot of fun.  "I really enjoy my service with the squirrels...I'm glad I signed up."

Director’s Docket:
                                    
WOW!  
Babies. Babies. Everywhere.  It's really quite fun to work with the variety we get, but also makes for a LOT of work, each different species requiring different diets and caging, but what a sense of accomplishment to get these naked, needy things and watch them grow until, lo and behold, they don't need us anymore!  With baby songbirds, the change happens so fast; one week they are naked, the next they've got feathers, and after that they've fledged and are learning to self feed and develop those flight muscles and skills they'll need to survive on their own.  We will continue to get baby songbirds for the next couple of months and we could really use more home care volunteers that can feed from dawn to dusk every 30 to 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the bird's age.  Call (209) 677-7249 now if you can help!    -Laura Murphy

UPCOMING EVENTS
If you have not yet experienced the Twain Harte Summer Arts & Wine Festival, this is your opportunity to discover a unique assembly of special vendors, great food, live music, and, especially, visit our booth and get to know us, plus learn more about the wonderful wildlife we live among.  Don't miss this once-a-year event!
If you haven't received an email version of this newsletter and would like to, please go to our website, www.mlwild.org and click on the Newsletter link, enter your name and email address, and click Subscribe!   
Credits

Most of this newsletter was written by Helen Engledow and edited by her and Laura Murphy.   Janelle Betzenderfer provided a couple of the squirrel photos and Laura Murphy provided photos.

There is nothing 
in which the birds differ more from man 
than the way in which they can build 
and yet leave a landscape as it was before.


                                    ~ Robert Wilson Lynd ~
Wish List
 
Reliable Volunteers - in particular,
         Home Care Songbird volunteers
Astroturf - long or short leaf
Rubbermaid shelf liner
Gift cards - Lowe's or OSH
                 - 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

Swainson's Hawk
Great Horned Owl
2 Barn Owls
6 Western Screech Owls
Common Raven
5 American Robins
4 Western Scrub Jays
7 Steller's Jays
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
Black-headed Grosbeak
2 Cliff Swallows
Black Phoebe
Acorn Woodpecker
5 Mallards
Western Gray Squirrel
3 Douglas Squirrels
and a Wood rat

 
Copyright © 2017 Mother Lode Wildlife Care, All rights reserved.


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