Jun 27, 2011

A Day At The Fair

Last week, we received a call from Alameda County Fairgrounds - they were referred to us by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which, by itself, is really wonderful.

It turns out that a family of barn owls had taken up residency in the racetrack camera room - a good-sized room set very, very high on a tower overlooking the racetrack.

It is unlawful for anyone to possess wild birds or disturb their nests without special authorization from FWS. WildRescue holds two such permits.

The first step was to locate an appropriate spot for the new nest-box. Next, the box needed to be built and mounted. Through email exchanges with their Maintenance Department - having them send images of the surrounding trees, we were able to pinpoint an ideal spot. Debe did a great job getting the pics. 

We then sent our special barn owl nest-box design.

In just a couple days, Howard and Gary had built a beautiful box and had it secured to the tree, perfectly. It was ready to be occupied.

Today, wildlife technicians Duane and Max set out to move the owlets into their new home. Up the tower they went.

The somewhat older owlets were really active and had lots of places to hide. It took a bit of doing to collect all three.

Finally, all three had been safely collected, and with the help of Gary, on the lift, the babies were escorted down...

...and then back up again to their new home.

Much to everyone's surprise, one of the parents flushed from the tree, just from the other side of the box. 

Duane placed some dead mice inside in case they get hungry or should the parents not feed right away. We get our mice from Layne Labs - where rodents have their own Bill of Rights!

In, went baby Number One!

 Tonight, volunteer, Akira, will be on stakeout to see that the parents make a 'food drop' or enter the box. 


Watch the video here!

UPDATE 6-30-2011

Max visited the nest box to look in on the owlets. Surprisingly she only found one baby inside. He looked in excellent shape though - bright, alert, and very angry. There was a good deal of fresh excrement and many pellets, leading us to conclude that the babies were being fed. Max left a handful of mice just in case. 

We are also so grateful to Akira, one of our newer volunteers, for his dedication and expert observational skills. He went out two nights to the fairgrounds to look for the owlets, to see if the parents were feeding them. Last night he found that at least two owlets were calling from the tree - he saw one come out of the box around 9:30 and begin making begging calls. He also spotted the parents. Here is a snippet of his report:

In the meantime, while the "zeeee" calls were being heard constantly, two adult barn owls started circling overhead. (They were clearly lit up from underneath by the lights of the fairgrounds; it was a beautiful sight.) At least one of the adult owls started to make high-pitched "pi, pi, pi, pi, pi, pi, pi..." type continuous call. This "pi, pi, pi, pi ...." call may have lasted 10 to 30 seconds at a time. And it was repeatedly heard from about 9:35 p.m. to 9:50 p.m., coinciding with the period when "zeeeeee" calls were being made, presumably by the owlets.  I also heard the owl "screech" 2 or 3 times, but that was not a major component of the vocalization heard.

A big Thank You! to Max and Akira - these followup visits are so important!

UPDATE 7-7-2011

Max reports that last night she heard and observed the three fledglings in the 'home-tree' begging, and two adults flying in and out!

Jun 25, 2011

Foster City: young Cooper's hawk re-nested

Once again, Patrick Hogan (wildlife rehabilitator by day - Wildlife Medic for WildRescue on his off-hours) engineered the re-nesting of a young raptor - this time, it took the help of the Foster City Fire Department!

A young Cooper's hawk was admitted to Peninsula Humane Society after being found grounded - healthy, just not old enough to fly. 

By late afternoon Patrick was out scouting for the nest, skulking around the family apartment complex, wearing all-black, peering into the trees with his binoculars (lucky he wasn't arrested). 

He caught a glimpse of one of the parents as it navigated through the canopy. The rounded tail confirmed it to be a Cooper's hawk. He also located the nest... very, very high up. Reaching it would require a very, very tall ladder.


Thankfully, the local Foster City Fire Department was more than happy to help when their scheduled cleared.

Raptors go through a stage of development where they can be referred to as 'branchers' - it's after they become restless in the nest and before they take their first flight - where they start to explore their treetop hop - hence the name.

This particular hawk was nearly a 'brancher', but not quite. According to colleague, friend, and re-nesting expert, Anne Miller, founder of Alabama Wildlife Center, we should try to get him as close to the nest as possible, if not in the nest.

Success, the little hawk was placed safely into its nest. Minutes after the fire crew left, Patrick witnessed one of the parents fly in and begin feeding its baby.


Barn owls, barn owls, barn owls...

You guessed it - another re-nesting! 
This is what was left after the owl box
fell apart: a mound of owl pellets
 excrement, and what not.

This successful reunion of 2 owlets in Palo Alto spanned three days and took a 'village' of caring and dedicated people. 

It started out when the decades-old (and well-used) nest-box gave way. 

The baby owls were recovered, unharmed, by Officer Cushman from Palo Alto Animal Services.

The owlets were taken to nearby WIldlife Rescue, a wildlife hospital managed by the Peninsula Humane Society (PHS), where they were examined and treated for mild dehydration. Since they were otherwise very healthy, they could be returned home... 

...except their old home was in pieces.

That's when the folks at the Palo Alto Wastewater Treatment Plant (where the nest was located) went to work on a new home for the owlets. Brian Jones rushed to Home Depot and had the box built before sundown. The facility's maintenance crew - Aaron, Pedro, and Robert worked on making sure the new box was secure. Margaret Adkins, who was instrumental in this rescue, made sure the box was lined with some of the original material.

On Wednesday afternoon one of WildRescue's responders, Mary Kenney, was flying high in a cherry picker.

A big Thank You! to Lead Lineman, Gary Schulz, and his employees, Isaac, Kevin, Tito, and David for so generously providing the bucket truck!

With the babies in their new home, the task was just about complete... we just need to confirm the box was acceptable to the parent owls. Mary Kenney offered to do the stakeout. Here her account:
I staked out the nesting box last night from about 8:30 to10 PM and sighted an adult Barn Owl leaving the box twice during that time. I could hear the owlets chattering away inside as well. This is good news! I think we can assume that their lives have picked up where they left off after their little adventure. : }
Please pass on our appreciation to Ignacio, the plant supervisor last night, and again to all the crew who helped out on Wednesday. 

Thank you, Everyone, for a job well done!!!

Next up, a re-nesting of even more barn owls at the Alameda Fairgrounds this coming week. ... to be continued...

Jun 23, 2011

Finch Saved From 2-Story Drain Pipe

One of our rescuers, Sammarye, responded to a call about a bird that was stuck at the base of a 2-story drain pipe. The RP just happened to hear a noise and then see the bird's little legs at the base of this pipe in her townhouse complex. We contacted the property managers and received permission to open the pipe. Here's Sammarye's account of what happened:
It is really weird how the bird got stuck. The drainpipe went up almost two stories and had some kind of box-like thing on top that looked like it should have prevented anything from getting inside. The pipe had a L-shape bend in it between the first and second story - the bird could never have flown back up.
It was blazing hot in the afternoon sun. It must have been like an oven inside there. 
I was worried about the hacksaw making such a loud noise, so I just sawed thru a corner and a few inches in the front, then used a screwdriver to pry the metal out enough to get a grip with the tin snips and start cutting. Not a sound from the bird - no movement heard. 
When the hole got big enough for fresh air to get in, I heard a fluttering noise, so I gingerly reached through the jagged metal edges and got my hand around the little guy. I lifted it out through the opening, and it came to life, fluttering its wings. It flew a few yards and sat on the cool, green grass under some bushes where it rested a few minutes. Then it flew a few yards more and ended under some other bushes, then across the lawn area.
That sure was one lucky bird that the woman heard it scratching as she walked by, and that she cared enough to be persistent when people told her she was imagining it, and she cared enough to just keep calling until she got help for that little guy. She said one person said to her, "It is only a bird". Good for her that she did what her heart told her was right. 

Jun 18, 2011

Barn owls by design

We'd like to address certain barn owl nest-box designs that cause injury and death.

Nest-boxes that have low entrances or offer owlets easy access to a ledge can be deadly.

Like all young birds, a developing owlet will be comparatively heavy-bodied - dense - like a squab. A fall from any sort of height could easily result in serious, if not fatal, injuries. 

Barn owls must be sufficiently developed before they fledge. Ideally, they should lose most of their 'baby-weight' and have fully feathered wings so that when they take their first flight... or fall... they will not drop like a cannonball, but flutter to the ground - or maybe even fly.

Another flaw we see in nest-box designs is a perch. Perches allow predators, like great horned owls, easy access.

Our latest nest-box design was inspired by the Carolina Raptor Center. They are spacious, allowing owlets room to grow and move around. Most importantly though, the entrance is high off the floor - helping ensure owlets are well-developed before they fledge.

Please see more at our barn owl nest-box web page HERE.

Raucous raccoons

This week was busy with calls about raccoon 'invasions'. Raccoons all over the place - hold up in attics, under houses, digging up lawns, raiding fishponds. We even found raccoons using the five-story fire escape of a San Francisco apartment complex like a jungle gym. 

The good news is that word is getting out about our program - Humane Wildlife Management Services. We offer sound, sustainable, humane, no-kill solutions and the proceeds from the fees we charge (usually less than most pest control companies) support our rescue work.

When faced with a wild animal raising havoc, it's really interesting that most people we receive calls from believe that TRAPPING (and removing) animals will solve their problem, when, in fact, trapping does nothing to solve the actual PROBLEM. 

For example, a raccoon that has taken up residency in an attic is not the problem - it is the access into the attic that is the problem. Unless THAT is remedied, wild animals will take advantage of the available shelter. 

Another misconception is that the live traps are safe and humane. They not. Animals can suffer severe injuries trying to break through the heavy-gauge wire.

Lastly, we find that the majority of people who call us regarding 'nuisance' animals believe the only solution is to trap them so they can be safely relocated. Not only is it illegal in California to relocate trapped wildlife (since 2003), it is inhumane, risks the spread of disease, and does nothing to address the actual problem.

Jun 12, 2011

Lucky One

A few months ago, I was pulling out of our driveway and spotted a lifeless opossum in the middle of the road. Clearly, the animal was dead, but I thought to stop and check for babies. Indeed, it was a female with a pouch of young.

Opossums are marsupials, like kangaroos. The females, also called jills, have a little 'purse' where they carry their young. After a short gestation, blind, naked, jelly bean-sized baby opossums crawl into the pouch where they finish developing. Each baby latches onto a teat for nourishment.

It was early morning. The joeys had been without the warmth of their mother for quite a few hours. They, too, were 
cold and still.

I carefully removed the ones that looked like they might be revived - gently releasing them from the teats. They were about the size of a pickle and covered in short grey fur that felt damp from the moist environment of the womb.

Back at the house we immediately floated them in an open freezer bag (doubled) atop warm water while the electric heating pad was warming up. Turning them and stimulating them as you might a stillborn puppy, one of them began to stir. 

Sadly, only the one came around, and within a half an hour it began vocalizing - Chhhh Chhhh - a cry that sounds like a slight sneeze.

Next, we microwaved a wet dish towel and placed it inside a Ziploc bag (doubled). This was placed on the floor of a small container and covered with a hand towel. The joey was bundled in a separate dish towel and set in the container for transport to the SPCA for Monterey County. There he would receive rehabilitative care.

They did an amazing job! Two months later he was returned 'home'... out of the box came this magnificent looking young opossum with a beautiful thick blue-grey coat and a wild heart. Thank you SPCA for Monterey County Wildlife Center! Nice job! ~ Rebecca

Jun 2, 2011

Ebb and flow...

We have sad news to report: the female pelican rescued off Santa Cruz by surfers a few weeks ago did not recover. The fishing hook had imbedded into her leg, piercing into bone, causing a severe infection that finally took over despite expert medical and rehabilitative care. 

Such a loss - she was otherwise a healthy adult female pelican - over three years old, having survived her treacherous youth.

One of the young pelicans
WildRescue responded to this week.

In the wake of this loss, International Bird rescue has received quite a few recently fledged pelicans - young birds that are having a tough time making it on their own. Without help, they would starve.

From a naturalist's point of view, this is how it should be - only the strongest survive to pass on their genes. So, why should these failing juveniles be rescued and treated?

Maybe, in this day and age, the real question should be, Why not? 

Is it really so bad if a few youngsters are given a second chance to beat the odds? Consider all the pelicans with injuries directly attributable to humans that are unable to be saved - like the adult female.

Believing it is our responsibility to help these individuals, WildRescue rescued two young pelicans this week. One was found weak and dissoriented on Marina State Beach and the other was strolling along West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz.

Young, hatch-year pelicans are distinguishable by their white
bellies and their creamy-yellow colored legs and feet.