Welcome to the latest issue of the MLWC newsletter.
Pygmy Penelope In mid-January a female Northern Pygmy Owl invited herself to lunch at Summerville Elementary in Tuolumne. So she flew into the cafeteria, apparently changed her mind, and wanted to exit, which resulted in her flying into various windows as she tried to find her way back out. Her concussive head damage grounded her, and she was put into a box and taken to the school office. The children named her Penelope. We were called and picked her up, and she was given medication for brain swelling.
Pygmy Owls are tiny but fierce and bold birds (this one weighed just 78 grams, which told us she was female; a male would be even smaller.) They're daytime hunters, which is unusual for owls, and they eat songbirds and, to a lesser extent, insects and mammals. They've even been known to eat large songbirds, including robins and quail, and also, believe it or not, chickens, and even woodrats! This one ate mice while in care, which she killed herself, and she was able to go back to her habitat near the school after only three days. We trust she'll look for lunch outside the cafeteria from now on.
Titmouse TimeA stunned Oak Titmousewas found in the road near Summerville Elementary School in Tuolumne on February 20. It must have hit a car. After a couple of days it had recovered enough to be released, but had to be kept longer due to the cold and storms. It was released March 5 to the call of a nearby Titmouse.
Oak Titmice are found in the western slopes of the Sierras, and Juniper Titmice are found on the east side, both living in the trees for which they're named. They prefer to eat insects during breeding season and seeds and berries during the winter, including poison oak. Their stout little beaks allow them to hammer and pry into acorns, which other small birds can't do. They're monogamous, staying together for years or for life.
They nest early, barely into March, and cover their 6-8 white eggs with plant fluff and fur to keep them warm while they go forage. They definitely have personality and will scold humans or other intruders into their territories. Their complex repertoire of calls is often heard in oak woodlands. "...the clear melodies of the Oak Titmouse are, more than any other sound, the voice of the oaks." (Birds of the Sierra Nevada, Beedy & Pandolfino, p.248)
This Sharp-shinned Hawk hit a window quite hard at a volunteer's house in Tuolumne. We gave it medicine for brain swelling, and lots of quiet care. After hitting a window, a bird needs darkness and quiet, which allows it to shut down and not be concerned about predators or anything else. Think migraine! The photo shows him when he first came in. He was standing a few hours later but still had much recovering to do.
The Sharp-shinned is a very small hawk. It is an efficient, ruthless hunter and an impressive, dynamic flyer. It hunts songbirds in the wild, but this one settled for hunting mice in care. It had recovered enough in three days to be released in good condition. That's the best part, seeing a bird fly away!
This hawk is just one of many birds hitting windows. Fortunately, this one survived the experience, but that's not always the case. We can reduce or eliminate the risk of bird/window strikes by using bird tape on windows and/or other measures, as discussed in our Winter 2017 newsletter. That article also covers what to do immediately if you find a stunned bird who has just hit a window.
Clever, comfy condo Toward the end of January, we created a condo for the two Northern Flying Squirrel sisters, who were introduced in our Winter 2018 newsletter. The first photo shows the side of it, before the side panel and roof were attached. It has predator baffles top and bottom, and they can travel vertically through the place. They can enter or exit at the top or bottom, so if another creature is after them, they can retreat into the condo but not be trapped there. The second photo shows it installed in their current quarters, and they moved right in. We've waited for good weather and should be able to release them any day now. The tree trimmers who felled the tree they were in will return to install the nest box on a tree near where they came from. They'll have the snazziest house on the block and be the envy of all the neighbors!
Western Screech Owls Update The three covered in our last newsletter were moved to an outdoor cage, and all have live hunted successfully. They've also landed on perches and avoided branches in flight, so despite any eye issues they can do well in freedom. We had to wait for the severe cold to end to release them, so during the last week of March they were released in Mokelumne Hill, Sonora, and Jamestown, one each at dusk on three evenings in a row. Seeing three birds fly free on successive days was such a delight!
We have two newer screech owls in care now. One was hit by a Land Rover at New Melones, and the driver brought it in on January 21. It was bleeding out of its ear and was put on antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. It has an interesting way of looking at the world, holding its head upside down and twisted to the side. We are trying physical therapy; its prognosis is unknown. The other newbie was found on a rural road in Groveland February 20. It has a problem with its left eye and may be permanently blind in that eye, but as the earlier screech owls showed, some birds can overcome that and take care of themselves.
Raven Roundup We are sad to say that Archie, the raven who had been shot with a bee bee gun, is no longer with us. The leg bone that had been operated on broke again, possibly due to osteomyelitis (bone infection.) After all that had been done, there was no reason to think that further measures would be successful. He came to us May 23 and was euthanized January 16, so he'd been in care, and no doubt in pain, for about eight months. It's hard for everyone, but sometimes we must let go and not keep a creature alive who is suffering. We do all that is possible to make an animal comfortable and promote healing, and things don't always turn out as we want.
Bishop and Natty keep tearing apart their perches and hides (kennels), the places where they can take refuge. We've tried all along to outsmart them at this, unsuccessfully. It's a game: pull the towels off the top, pull whatever is inside out, push the kennel off the shelf and decorate their cage with it all. Now we are trying astroturf, zip ties, and a strap to anchor the kennel.
Bishop and Natty are both eating well. They get a variety of protein, fruits, and vegetables. Corn on the cob is their favorite vegetable, which they can play with when the kernels are gone. They also like to break up the ice in their kiddie pool and arrange the ice shards on the ground around the pool.
They've had two visitors, free ravens who come by almost every day, since about mid-February. Sometimes they stand on top of the cage on the netting, sometimes they're in the trees. They don't appear to be hostile; we can't be sure of their intent. We wonder what they're saying to Bishop and Natty with all their different noises.
Behold our new shed! It arrived in late February and will be the intensive care ward for raptors. This will allow us to separate predator from prey species and provides for a reduced stress environment. The hawks and owls in care will especially benefit during the summer months, as they won't be in the same space as the volunteers feeding baby songbirds in the wildlife hospital all day long.
Here we see the newly refurbished mews (housing for birds of prey) with vertical barring, which raptors read as barriers, on the openings. Its wooden floor had become infested by termites, so the new floor is dirt, covered with hardware cloth and bark. The new mews is larger, with a redesigned double door. The Red-Shouldered Hawk seems pleased by the new space.
Finally, construction has begun on the new, all metal woodpecker cage. After just four hours all the tube steel is cut to size. The steel needs to be cleaned, the cut ends deburred, the holes predrilled, and then we'll be to ready to start welding. After that, the steel will be painted and hardware cloth attached. Then even woodpecker beaks can't damage the cage!
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.
Helen Engledow, like many volunteers,waited until retirementbefore she was able to pursue a long-held interest, wildlife care. She moved to Tuolumne County from the valley when she retired, and not long after found our booth at the Fair and signed up to help. She normally comes to the main location once a week to help with animal care, power washing, etc. and helps with the newsletter. She also provides transport for wildlife being taken into care.
Helen has no background in working with wildlife and is aware that there will always be an enormous amount to learn. She deeply appreciates all the help the other volunteers have given her and loves the feeling of being part of a group focused on this important and rewarding work. "There's a supportive bond I feel among all of us, no matter how infrequently I see some people," she says. "The dedication and caring that is so necessary are shared among us all."
She is looking forward to having an aviary in her yard before long, in preparation for all the care necessary for birds in the Spring, and perhaps another enclosure for squirrels to follow. She's very grateful to have found our group and to be able to learn about and contribute to such a vital endeavor.
Director’s Docket: Winter has not been our usual quiet time. We've seen quite a few animals come and go, in addition to the ones we held over for release in the spring. We've made a lot of improvements to our growing facilities, which allows us to provide a higher quality of care, and our volunteer base is growing as well. We hope to find enough volunteers to fill the shifts required to keep baby birds fed from dawn to dusk this season. Please call us if you want to join the team! None of this is possible without your support. Your donations provide us with the ability to house these animals correctly, the materials to build new caging, and the food to feed the animals. Your donations also pay for the brochures that help get the word out that we are here to help. All of our volunteers give of themselves and their time to make this all possible. Thank you, each and every one of you. Together, we all make the world a little kinder to wildlife in need. -Laura Murphy
It's Spring, and here comes the Home & Garden Show
to the fairgrounds in Sonora again, so come have some fun and see us there.
It's April 14th and 15th, and the hours are: Saturday 10:00-5:00 and Sunday 10:00-4:00.
You can meet us, have questions answered, pick up a printed newsletter for a friend, and sign up for a free raffle of a goodie basket. What a great weekend activity!
First Annual Tuolumne County Volunteer Fair Thursday, April 26 3:00 - 6:00 PM at Mother Lode Fairgrounds
Presented by Leadership Tuolumne County
This is designed to introduce prospective volunteers to volunteer opportunities. We'll be there, of course, so please come see us and learn all about how you can help in the wonderful world of wildlife care.
Also coming our way is the Friends and Neighbors Expo at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds, featuring services and resources including health, screening, financial, and other. That would include Mother Lode Wildlife Care!
That's Thursday, June 7,
from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
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. Helen Engledow provided her photo, and Laura Murphy provided the remaining photos, except for the baby mockingbird with the poem, which was a free image from Pixabay.com.
It has a sound, a fullness.
It's heavy with sigh of tree,
and space between breaths.
It's ripe with pause between birdsong
and crash of surf.
It's golden they say.
But no one tells us it's addictive.
~Angela Long ~
from Precious World
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
(2) Western Screech Owls
(2) Common Ravens
(2) Western Scrub Jays
(2) N. Flying Squirrels