Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fishing Line Can Be Dangerous -- For All Birds

(Photo Caption:  An adult Barred Owl, just minutes before being released back into the wild. The owl is adopting the defense posture by hunkering down on his perch and fluffing up his feathers to appear larger to predators.)

by Catherine Greenleaf

When people think of fishing line injuries to birds, they often think of water birds like loons, herons, and cormorants, because these birds hang out in or near the water. However, all wild birds are at risk when someone decides to leave fishing line behind. Monofilmament fishing line does not biodegrade for a long time (often it takes years) and birds can easily become entangled by fishing line that is left floating on the water, dropped along the shoreline, or caught in bushes.

The Barred Owl in the above photo was recently found trussed up in the bushes along the shoreline of a small lake in Hanover, completely entangled in fishing line. In fact, the fishing line was tied so tight around one wing, the bird had to be anesthesized by my veterinarian in order to remove all of it, which included a lead sinker and lure. I am extremely grateful to veterinarian Dr. Dan Kelly and his wife Jodi, at Stonecliff Animal Clinic in Lebanon. They rushed the owl right into the O.R. and did an incredible job of fixing him up. I am also indebted to their staff for their help and patience.

Luckily, the x-rays showed no fractures, and there were no wounds on the wing. The owl was fattened up on mice and released several days later.

Not all birds are this lucky, and many birds lose legs or wings when the fishing line slices into skin and bone (Sadly, any injury necessitating amputation instead becomes a case of euthanasia, since a bird cannot survive in the wild with missing legs or wings). In addition, they run the risk of dying from a bacterial infection when the fishing line opens an abrasion or wound on the skin. Please remember: Leave No Line Behind!

Copyright 2015

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Rehabilitating Wood Ducks--It Can Be Done!

by Catherine Greenleaf

Many avian rehabilitators refuse to take in injured or orphaned wood ducks, particularly ducklings, because the fatality rate in rehabilitation is so high. There is no question rehabilitating and raising wood ducks is extremely challenging, since they are high-stress birds and do not do well in captivity. However, there are things you can do to help the ducklings survive their time in rehabilitation.

The most important element to successfully rehabilitating wood ducks is quiet. Extreme quiet. I'm talking "only whispering allowed" type of quiet. Loud noise can result in the sudden death of a wood duckling. The birds's heart just stops beating. I'm not kidding you. If you are planning to take in wood ducklings, make sure you have a section of your facility that is closed off to the comings and goings of your staff and the public.

The other element that can cause almost certain death is when the duckling is a singleton. Wood ducklings simply do not do well when alone. One trick to use is a mirror taped onto one of the walls of the enclosure. You will have to clean the mirror every day because the duckling will have it covered with beak "kisses." The duckling will park himself in front of the mirror and eat and sleep in front of it.

Adding a stuffed animal, roughly the size of a mother wood duck can do wonders. The ideal colors would be black, brown or tan. Place the stuffed animal next to the mirror to make the duckling feel even safer. You will see the wood duck snuggle down underneath the stuffed animal to sleep at night.

Of course the ideal situation is to have several wood ducklings so they can keep each other company. Start calling around to other rehabilitators in your state and ask for wood ducklings. Be sure the gram weight is similar to your bird -- no more than five to ten grams difference. Otherwise, you will be dealing with wood ducklings ganging up on each other, and someone will end up drowned, I guarantee you.

These are just a few tips to help you. There are many more things you can do to help wood ducks in rehabilitation and these involve providing the correct temperature, fluids, substrate, and food.

Photo caption:  All of these juveniles came in to St. Francis Wild Bird Hospital this year as ducklings, averaging 10-15 grams a piece. One duckling was brought to me from a parking lot in Littleton, N.H. after a car hit and killed the mother and the 15 young were separated into different directions. Another was found sitting by a riverbank in Lebanon by some picnickers, for some reason left behind by his mother and the brood; and a third came from Claremont, which was found by the side of a road near a stream. All three were released back into the wild once they reached maturity.

Copyright 2015

Saturday, September 12, 2015

International Vulture Awareness Day

by Catherine Greenleaf

It may have an odd ring to it, but International Vulture Awareness Day was recently celebrated across the globe. The vulture, which is usually either a turkey vulture or black vulture (on the eastern side of the United States), is the great unsung hero of the bird world. The vulture is the janitor of our woodlands, cleaning up the wild areas by quickly eating roadkill along roads and highways and finishing up any leftovers after a bobcat, fox or coyote has left the scene of a kill.

For the wildlife rehabilitator, vultures are always approached with caution. The reason? The vulture has a unique defense mechanism. Puke. When out on a rescue, you can almost certainly expect the vulture you are trying to help will attempt to toss his cookies all over you. It is the most putrid, vile, disgusting smell in the entire world. The stench is enough to knock you over. They literally empty the entire contents of their stomach in an attempt to get away from predators. They will also not hesitate to hurl copious amounts of bile and vomit all over you when you enter their cage to feed them.

As you can see from the photo above, I am entering the vultures' cage slowly and with tremendous respect. Any clothes that are hit with this barf I usually just throw away since even several washings will not remove the odor. And if it hits your hair, good luck! I have had to wash my hair 4 or 5 times with Tea Tree Oil shampoo to remove the smell.

But seriously, without the vulture our woodlands and roadways would be littered with rotting roadkill. The job they do is vital and they certainly deserve to have one day each year dedicated to them. Even if they do throw up all over you.

Copyright 2015

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Osprey -- Savior of Fishermen

PHOTO:  Sparky, the famous Everglades City Osprey, tends to her nest at the Camellia Street high-voltage electrical substation while a curious Mockingbird looks on (click on photo to get close-up)

Reprinted with permission from The Muller Rapper Newspaper

By Catherine Greenleaf

The Osprey or fish hawk, is a large and regal bird with a high-pitched cry that circles over open water, searching for fish to eat. Often mistaken for an eagle because of his mostly white head, the Osprey can live to 20 years of age or longer. He feeds by expertly dive-bombing his prey, freefalling from a height of up to120 feet and building up to speeds of 30 mph before crashing feet first into the water to deftly grab up a fish for dinner.

This winged messenger has ancient ties harkening back to the Incas. Peruvians believed a nesting pair of Ospreys close to one’s home symbolized good luck and good fortune. These peoples also believed the Osprey was a harbinger of plentiful fishing.

The Osprey was well known for centuries as the “savior of fishermen,” due to the bird’s large nests built high above the ground along the edge of the water. In times past, these nests often served as the only navigational aid for fishing boats in dangerous weather. The Osprey’s piercing cry was heralded as a warning of rocky shores in fog or pouring rain.

Osprey nests can reach very large proportions, sometimes achieving a weight of several hundred pounds. These nests have been found to contain popsicle sticks, soda cans, cardboard, plastic toys, sneakers and even cell phones.

Everglades City has its own famous Osprey. Nicknamed “Sparky” by locals, this Osprey prefers to make her nest each year in the high-voltage electrical substation located at the corner of Camellia Street and Copeland Avenue, just 200 feet from the Barron River. To this date, Sparky has apparently been able to fledge her nest of young safely without being electrocuted.

According to some Native American legends, seeing an Osprey in your dreams means you have been granted great power as a spiritual leader. If you hear the cry of an Osprey, it is a message to hold fast to your emotional moorings and embrace the blessings of home and family in your life. Don’t lose spirit. Appreciate the small things. While the grass may look greener on the other side, it actually is not.

One of the important symbols of the Osprey is mastery. If you are attempting to master some new skill, remember the 10,000 Hour Rule. It takes 10,000 hours of practice to truly master any skill, whether it be race car driving or playing the fiddle. As a young juvenile, the Osprey tries, again and again, to hone his skills in diving and catching his prey. The Osprey represents an individual who keeps his focus and his senses sharpened.

If the Osprey is your totem animal, then be prepared for things to happen fast, whether it be closing on a property, being hired for a job, or falling in love. The Osprey doesn’t waste any time. This bird migrates 4,500 miles in a mere 30 days, soaring on geo-thermals from the northeastern United States to El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Argentina in winter.

You will want to be careful in your dealings with others, if the Osprey is your totem. You may have the urge to react and strike out quickly, but prudence is called for in how you treat the people who love you and care about you. Because of the Osprey’s amazing vision, you will always have strong intuition about what is going to happen next in your life. Don’t doubt that tug in your gut. It will not lead you astray.

Culled from various books, articles and internet sites.

Copyright 2015

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Lightning Safety Tips For Birders

by Catherine Greenleaf
(Reprinted with permission from The Bridge Weekly Sho-Case)

Birding has become a national pastime, with millions of Americans trekking through fields and woods with binoculars in search of birds on their Life List. But it's important to keep some safety tips in mind while outdoors, particularly when a thunderstorm develops.

Each year, the National Oceanic and Aviation Administration (NOAA) issues updated guidelines pertaining to lightning safety. In the last several decades, scientists have apparently underestimated the reach and power of lightning, and NOAA's outreach campaign aims to re-educate Americans about how to avoid lightning strikes, as well as what to do if someone is struck.

What has changed? For years, scientists have believed lightning could strike from a distance of up to 10 miles. However, after a group of ice fishermen on Sebago Lake in Maine were struck during the winter of 2014 from a storm 20 miles away, weather researchers have adjusted their theories.

According to John Jensenius, the Lightning Safety Specialist with the National Weather Service (NWS), a single bolt of lightning is five times hotter than the sun and travels down toward the earth at 300,000 miles per hour, packing a wallop of 300 million volts in a single flash.

"If you can hear thunder, then you can be struck," he said.

According to Jensenius, sometimes a person can take a direct hit, which is often fatal. Or in some instances, an individual can be struck by ground current, which was the case in the summer of 2013 in Gilmanton, N.H., when 23 Boy Scouts were hit while waiting out a storm seated at a metal table under a tarp in the woods. According to Associated Press reports, lightning struck a nearby tree and traveled 60 feet through the ground, purportedly coming up through the metal table and chairs. The Scouts exhibited spider web-shaped burns spread across their chests, arms and hands, and were rushed to local area hospitals.

Another change? Jensenius said he no longer advises people caught in a storm to crouch down on the ground. For years, NOAA had advised people to hunker down on the ground and shield their heads when they feel the hair on their arms stand up (a sign of an impending strike).

Jensenius said NOAA's outreach campaign has shifted from offering tips on what to do if you are outdoors during a storm, which can give a false sense of security, to the warning: "When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors." Lightning strike deaths are most commonly due to people ignoring the sound of thunder until the storm is right on top of them and it is too late.

"There is absolutely no safe place outside during a thunderstorm," Jensenius said. His advice is if you are out birding and suddenly find yourself in the path of thunder and lightning: run like hell.

"Theoretically, you parked your car close by, and you should run for that car as quickly as you can. The storm will last longer than the 15 minutes it takes to get back to the safety of your car," he said.
Avoid moving through the highest area, and avoid trees.

If you're in a boat while observing birds, try to get to shore as quickly as possible and find protective cover. More and more lakefront property owners are posting special flags on their docks that are a signal you can safely tie in at their property and wait out the storm.

If you can't get to land, lie flat in the bottom of the boat, NOAA advised. Separate yourself as far away as possible from your cell phone and drop anchor. Jensenius said to make sure you are wearing a lifejacket, as a lightning bolt can knock you unconscious and throw you out of the boat. "Far better to be found floating, than to be found drowned," he said.

According to NOAA, it is important to remember the 30/30 rule: If the time delay between the sight of lightning and the sound of thunder is less then 30 seconds, find shelter or take protective action immediately, and wait at least 30 minutes after the last bolt of lightning or sound of thunder before leaving that protection. Fifty percent of strikes occur after the storm has passed overhead, and people have come outside believing it was safe, according to NOAA.

Tips for birders to stay safe from lightning:

1) Always bird with a buddy.
2) Check the weather forecast before heading out and stay aware of any approaching storms.
3) Tell someone where you are headed and when you will be back.
4) Stay in marked areas and approved paths.
5) Bring your cell phone, in case you need to call 911.
6) Keep a first aid kit in your car.

If the worst happens, know that you can touch a lightning strike victim without getting zapped yourself (this is not true in the case of electrocution), according to NOAA. If the victim's heart is not beating, you can save his or her life by performing CPR. If the victim's heart is beating but they are not breathing, emergency mouth breathing can save his or her life.

Copyright 2015