Welcome to the latest issue of the MLWC newsletter.
Squirrel City (plus chipmunks) Part of what kept us constantly occupied this summer was a stream of various squirrels and their chipmunk cousins, so to speak. When young, they require feeding by syringe every three to four hours, including during the night...now, that's dedication! Above, we see a baby flying squirrel at the left and then some chipmunks, which are hard to ID, but we believe these are Long-eared Chipmunks. The baby in the knitted basket is a Western Gray Squirrel. Below, that's a Douglas Squirrel noshing on some corn, a California Ground Squirrel in the middle, and more then Western Grays, one being fed and one being curious. The Flying Squirrel, Chipmunks, and Ground Squirrels have been released, and the others are still in care.
Flying Squirrels are fascinating to just about everyone. They don't truly fly but glide from tree to tree helped by the patagium, or furry membrane stretching from wrist to ankle, with their long tail providing stability. It was hard to find a release site for ours, as it came from an area not known as flying squirrel habitat. They live in colonies but are nocturnal, so most people don't know they are about. We released him where he would have a good chance of finding other flying squirrels. They and all these charming creatures were fun for the volunteers in different ways, perhaps especially the chipmunks and ground squirrels, due to their high activity level. They were mostly cared for at our main facility rather than at volunteers' homes, so everyone got to enjoy their delightful ways.
Owl Central We were blessed with quite a few owls this summer, (left to right above) a Spotted Owl,Barn Owls, and Western Screech Owl. Below areGreat Horned Owls, and a Flammulated Owl to the right. They are all compelling and feel like they're almost casting spells. The Spotted Owl was emaciated on intake and was in care close to six months. She lived up to her species' reputation for being unusually calm and relatively tame, with no apparent fear of humans. Once she gained weight, she started to retain fluid. After blood work, barium x-rays, and a sonogram showed no cause, we relied on her improved attitude and demonstrated ability to fend for herself and decided she was ready for release. Even with her increased weight, the night camera showed her flying well for long periods each night. She was released near where she was found, into designated Spotted Owl territory.
A truckload of hay was delivered to a ranch in Big Oak Flat with a surprise inside, three Barn Owls were found amazingly still alive ten days later. Barn Owls are the most widespread of owls and have the most refined ability to locate prey by sound of any animal ever tested. These three were young, dehydrated and hungry. We think they survived on cached food and mice living in the hay. They were capable of flight but needed to build stamina and become proficient hunters. They were released on July 30.
The mighty Great Horned Owls came from two locations in the county in April; one was injured, but the others just needed to mature. They are powerful hunters and fearlessly attack any animal they can subdue and carry. If they survive their first difficult year of learning to hunt, they can live for 20 to 30 years. When young, they do stay near their parents as they gain hunting skills, getting backup food from them. We therefore gave them a "soft release," where food is left out on a platform near the top of the cage they were released from, so they have that reliable source as they become self-sustaining. That was on September 22, and they still return occasionally to get the food we leave for them, although the night camera reveals that an opossum climbs up there and gets some of it and the ravens come at the crack of dawn for the leftovers!
We got in this beautiful little Flammulated Owl that only lived a few hours. In the fifteen years we've been here, this is the first one we've seen. It was half the size of a little male Western Screech Owl, and the markings were similar except for some gorgeous brown highlights and solid dark eyes. What a treat to see, but we wish we could have done more to help.
Proof positive - When we say we care fora lot of baby birds in spring and summer, we kid you not! And these are just a few of this year's alumni. The upper pictures are, left to right, House Finches, Cliff Swallows, and a Western Scrub Jay. Below are Northern Flickers, an Acorn Woodpecker, and House Wrens. The House Finches aren't fed mealworms, as most of the youngsters are. They're seed-eaters and are given a mixture of seeds with some minced fruit, once they're on solid food. We had more Cliff Swallows than any other bird this year There were 22 to start, all rescued from the eaves of a local motel, where they were driven out of their nests by the summer heat coupled with a blowfly infestation. Blowfly larvae eat their feathers, so immediate care was a must. They were a tremendous amount of work to get all self-feeding and eventually moved down to the flight cage, where, sadly, we had an unexplained die-off shortly before release. We tested for parasites and considered different diseases but have no answers as to what caused the deaths. Six were released in Los Banos. as all the local swallows had already migrated. WesternScrub Jays are even more noisy and conspicuous than Steller's Jays. They are intelligent and socially complex birds who eat insects and also small animals and birds. They are the most persistent about letting us know when it's time to be fed! The Northern Flickers were a real treat to have in care. They're beautiful, fun and funny birds, loved by all the volunteers (see the Volunteer Spotlight, below.) There were two injured adults and a nest of four females and one male, and the male nestling was especially insistent at feeding time. They were all released, the juveniles back to Dorrington and each adult where it came from. Acorn Woodpeckers are year-round residents whose complex social structures allow them to cooperate in the gathering of food and raising of young. October is their busiest month, as acorns mature and are feverishly gathered and stored, individually, in holes in the dead wood or thick bark of "granary" trees, which are passed down from generation to generation. These colonies recognize their members and are not tolerant of strangers. Birds we receive must be returned to their colony as quickly as possible, because, with time, the colony will no longer recognize them. A nestling Acorn Woodpecker requires too much time in care, so other solutions need to be found. Two we received spent enough time in our new woodpecker cage talking to the resident colony, that upon release they were accepted. We also received a solitary nestling that we returned to its nest tree nine days later, only to have other colony members knock it out of the tree. We took it back into care and then tried again a week later, when it had lots of attitude and was capable of flight. We believe it was eventually accepted. We also welcomed a group of seven baby House Wrens, which were released when they matured, to be followed by another group of seven baby House Wrens! In the photo below, some of them are exploring their hanging, hand-knitted basket/nest. They're fairly noisy, quite active, and a lot of fun. They have a bad reputation for their treatment of eggs and nestlings of other birds in their territory, but at the same time, males have been observed feeding the babies of other species in their nests and even bringing food to other parents to help them out.
This glorious Great Blue Heron graced us with its presence for just over three weeks. Someone found it, emaciated, at Don Pedro, and actually managed to capture it with no damage to the Heron or himself. That's no easy feat, as those beaks are long and sharp, and herons are not shy about using them as weapons. We thought the Don Pedro shoreline made for a barren hunting ground, so when it had put on weight and was ready to be released, we wanted to find a better location. Indigeny Reserve provided that; the back side of Phoenix Lake had reeds and cover that seemed perfect, and on September 7 several lucky people got to see it soar into a tall tree. It stayed put for some time surveying its lovely new habitat.
Great Blue Herons are the most common and widespread wading birds in the Sierras. We think of them as eating fish and frogs, and their preferred habitat is shallow water, but they're happy to eat non-aquatic animals such as gophers and snakes as well.
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.
Rick Croslin has been a dedicated volunteer for about a year and a half and enjoys his work here very much. He had been retired for some time and had been a volunteer with Interfaith for years, working one day a week there. He felt like trying something new and attended the Sonora Volunteer Fair, where he encountered Mother Lode Wildlife Care and filled out a card to be contacted regarding volunteer work. The rest, as they say, is history.
Rick had not worked with wildlife before, as is the case with most new volunteers. "I've learned so much from Laura," he says, "She's a good mentor." He has been reliable and helpful in all he does, and he enjoys working with all the animals. He does have a particular interest in larger predator birds, such as hawks and big owls. Rick found the flickers we had this year fun and friendly, one in particular, who liked to sit on his shoulder or his head, as he was feeding them. He especially likes feeding birds with syringes and has also helped with building pens and cages and transporting wildlife. "I really enjoy working there and learning so much from Laura."
By the way, when we released the flickers, they were wild and no longer landed on people's heads. 😀
Director’s Docket: The season is winding down and now we focus on what will make next year easier, and that's more caging. Our mammal intake increased this year, so out of necessity, we've already added two new squirrel cages and plan on building more, all of which can be used for a variety of small mammals. We are designing a new cage that will be dedicated to jackrabbits. This will be isolated to provide a quiet, stress-free environment for their time in care. We've also cleared a pad for our largest cage to date, a 100' long, 20' wide and 16' tall flight cage. This will be a much needed addition for the larger birds, the Great Horned Owls, Turkey Vultures, Osprey and Eagles. Stay tuned, because we will need help getting this one built. Besides caging, more volunteers are needed to make next year easier, so if you have an interest, call us at 209-677-7249. Things are quieter over the winter, so that gives us time to get to know you and time for you to see what we do and decide if it's something you want to be a part of.
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. Rick Croslin provided his photo, Dave Robertson took the photo of Laura at the Spotted Owl release, and the fall color photo below came from Pixabay, with Laura Murphy providing the remaining photos.
"Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale."
- Lauren Destefano
Reliable Volunteers - in particular, Baby Songbird feeders
- 4 hour shifts May - September
Paper Towels and Kleenex
Lysol or Clorox wipes
Astroturf - long or short leaf
Heavy Duty Rubbermaid shelf liner
Gift cards - Lowe's, OSH, Amazon
- Gas Cards
old large 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
(3) Northern Flying Squirrels
(12) Western Gray Squirrels