Sunday, December 11, 2016

CWBR Updates & A Special Release

By Lauren Adams,
Lead Wildlife Keeper


Ah, winter.  The “quiet” season in wildlife rehabilitation.  Around here, we call it Barred Owl season.  When the cold air creeps in, the mornings are frosty, and nighttime descends in mid-afternoon, this is when New England is up against its toughest test.  Barred Owls, unlike many birds that populate our skies in spring and summer, do not migrate south, but rather prefer to stick it out during t

he dreary months.  These hearty birds are adapted for cold nights, snow-covered landscapes, wintry storms and scarce food supply.  Like true New Englanders, they are tough cookies.

This is why Barred Owls are one of my absolute favorite birds to rehabilitate.  And lucky for me, this is our most common patient that we see this time of year.  Since the beginning of October, we have seen 28 Barred Owls come through our doors, making up more than half of our total patients in that time.  Despite their adaptations to survive under harsh winter conditions, they have not adapted to the greatest challenge of all, the ever-expanding presence of humans.  Barred Owls are no match for slick roadways, fast cars and blinding headlights.  Most of these birds have been victims of vehicle strikes and suffer a variety of injuries from head trauma to fractured wing bones. 

But toughness prevails, and there’s no quit in these birds.  They bounce back remarkably from severe injuries and poor condition.  We have been able to release many of these owls back into the wild, lively and healthy.  As the weather gets colder, the snow falls, and the deep freeze sets in, we expect to see many more Barred Owls come in.  Good thing we are ready for them.

Current patients in care:

5 Barred Owls:
Actually a low number for us right now.  2 are in the flight cage as a pre-release stage.  The other 3 are in various stages of rehab, on medications, fluid therapy, and lots of TLC.

1 Northern Goshawk
This gorgeous male came in weak and emaciated, but very feisty.  He had lots of feather damage and parasites, but no significant injuries.  He is doing very well, and has ended his course of meds and is now self-feeding.

1 Coopers Hawk
This large female arrived with signs of significant spinal trauma.  After being stabilized for a few days at another rehab center, she was transferred here for continued care.  She has shown some incremental improvement on treatment, and will hopefully continue in that direction.

1 Rock Dove
This little guy came in with a wing injury, and could not fly.  He has since regained almost full use of his wings, and is starting to fly out in one of our rehab aviaries.

We have had lots of successful releases lately, mostly Barred Owls, but one great triumph was the release of a very handsome adult male Long-tailed Duck. 

This extremely rare case came in to us November 8th when some kind folks in Brattleborofound him underneath their car looking not quite right.  This poor guy was most likely on his migration route from breeding grounds in northern Canada to the coast.  He was almost completely non-responsive on intake, unable to stand, or open his eyes.  His breathing was labored, and he had a mild head twitch, a sign of neurological damage.  We did not have high hopes for this guy.  In the absence of any physical signs of trauma, we suspected toxicity.  We put the bird on a treatment of IV fluids, vitamins and nutritional support, and over two weeks, he showed drastic improvement.  He started standing and opening his eyes.  His breathing difficulty and head twitch cleared up.  We were able to introduce him into water where he immediately started bathing and preening.  Once he was able to dive and flap his wings, we set up a transfer for him to a wildlife rehab center in Cape Neddick, Maine, where they could monitor him for a little longer before releasing him into a flock right along the Maine seacoast.  I am so impressed with this bird’s improvement, and thrilled to report that he was successfully released last week.  You can see picture of the release on the facebook page of The Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick, Maine.

Well, that’s about it for updates.  We are currently at patient #531 and counting…

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

VINS Says Goodbye to a Beloved Ambassador, Utah the Great Horned Owl

By Lauren Adams,
Lead Wildlife Keeper

You can hear him even before you get inside the building.  Each day he greets us with the characteristic “Hoothoot Hoot Hoot.” 

“Good morning, Utah,” we reply going about our daily tasks.  It is easy to take for granted a friendly conversation with one of the most fearsome predators of the sky, the Great Horned Owl.  But this is VINS, where our co-workers might have feathers and eat mice for dinner, but are no less important to our jobs than the other humans, and are equally treasured in our hearts.

If I ever forget how amazing it is to be up close and personal with a Great Horned Owl, all I need to do is attend one of our educational programs and observe the joy and awe on the faces of the audience when Utah emerges on the glove addressing the crowd with his deep voice and majestic presence.  He represents his species magnificently as an ambassador from the wild, teaching visitors to VINS about raptors, owls, their habitats and behaviors, their place in their ecosystem, and of course, their calls.

Utah came to VINS in May of 2004 from Salt Lake City, Utah where he had hatched in 2000.  After a collision with a car, Utah suffered permanent brain damage including partial blindness in one eye.  Because of his injuries, Utah remained permanently in captivity where he could live comfortably and safely.  Since arriving at VINS, Utah has been an invaluable member of our education team.  His calm temperament and easygoing personality have made him a favorite of both staff and guests alike. 

Ask anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting him, though, and they will tell you that his best quality was his hoot.  From inside his crate, long before you could see him, you could hear him foreshadow the thrill that was yet to come.  There was always a buzz of anticipation in the air when Utah was scheduled to come out, and he never disappointed. 

My favorite memory of Utah was during a program with one of our educators, Nathan.  On a busy day in mid-summer, to a fully packed room, I recall the enchanted giggles of delight as Nathan demonstrated Utah’s call-and-response, hooting back and forth like they were sharing some private joke, the true meaning of which, we could only imagine.

On Friday, we said goodbye to one of our most beloved birds and friends.  Utah’s injuries and his age finally got the better of him, and he passed away, leaving a hole both in our programs and in our hearts.  It is always difficult to lose a cherished member of our education team here at VINS.  It reminds us of the fragility of the existence of a wild bird, and of how lucky we are to have them touch our lives, even briefly.  It is a little easier, though, thinking about Utah’s immeasurable contribution to VINS and the community.  In his 16 years of life, he reached thousands, maybe more. 

It will be sad to come in to work each morning and not hear his soulful greeting.  But I know how special it was to have heard it at all, and I will never forget the sound.