Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Splint Success

Remember this juvenile American crow, whose leg we splinted after the bird came in with a fracture above his ankle? His tarsometatarsus (a bone in the bird's leg) snapped in two after his leg became tangled in a fence.

Enjoy this video of our newly-healed crow
in his enclosure, making the young crow noises we've all come to love here at VINS.

Since removing the splint we had applied to his fractured leg, this young bird is not only putting on weight and growing in new, healthy feathers, he is putting full weight on this previously fractured leg. He is perching, walking about and making short attempts at flight. The splint the VINS Wildlife Services team put on his leg proved successful!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Truly Heartwarming

We definitely have our share of wonderful moments here in the Wildlife Services Department at VINS. This was honestly one of the most heartwarming of those moments so far this spring.

A young tree swallow came into our care just four days ago after being found disoriented in the road in Weathersfield, VT. At first, she would not beg for food or eat on her own. We started to get a little bit worried. But within just a few days she started begging, eating and taking occasional field trips around the exam room here at VINS when we opened her box.

We decided the time had come to say goodbye.

What made this moment so special, though, was not just seeing a beautiful flight from a former patient. The amazing part was the reception she received once she hit the sky. On the VINS Nature Center campus we have a whole flock of tree swallows raising their own young in the nest boxes we provide. When this young swallow flew from Sara's hand, she was greeted by the flock and all of them swooped and dove and frolicked through the air in a beautiful display of the swallow family's agility.

It was a beautiful, heartwarming moment that made all of us say "awe".

Come visit VINS soon and you may be able to see this amazing young bird flying with her new, adopted family.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chip Off The Old Owl

It has been 5 days since the eastern screech owlet here at VINS was introduced to our adult eastern screech foster owl and we thought it was time for a little checking in.

Both of our owls are doing great! While there has not been any snuggling or cute nick-naming of one owl to the other (that we know of) our 'Foster-an-Owlet' project has given the orphaned screech owl an excellent role model.

The first day on the job our adult female had shown the youngster how to pose like a tree and blend into the background. The owlet has also been eating very well and has put on about 40 grams (1.41 oz, or about 0.09 pounds) since moving outside. That may not seen like much, but an adult screech owl weighs only about 180 grams (6.35 oz, or 0.39 pounds), so that's a big jump toward adulthood!

In the image the adult eastern screech owl is the one on the left, and the owlet is the one on the right, hiding behind the leaves.

Keep checking in on our owlet, I'll try to keep the updates coming, but pretty soon he will be all grown up!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Off To Be a Bird

One more patient has come and gone here at VINS. Yesterday we released a gray catbird that came into our care on June 7th after being hit by a car.

This little bird was struck soundly by a vehicle in Sharon, VT and received a pretty severe blow to the head. He had blood in both of his ears and was also showing us some signs of nerve damage by not holding himself upright, but flopping over on his side and back.

After daily medication for his first few days in rehab and a couple weeks of rest, we moved the catbird out to one of our small outdoor flight cages so he could practice his flying. After proving to us that he is still, in fact, a bird capable of being a bird, we decided it was time to set him free.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On the Lookout

A recent sunny afternoon found me standing along the edge of one of Vermont’s back roads looking at a field being taken over by black swallow-wort (Vincetoxicum nigrum). This invasive species (pictured below) can form extensive patches of dense plants that crowd out native plants. Sobering as the scene was, I felt good knowing that VINS is taking an active role in the management of invasive species in our watershed.

VINS is a founding member of OCISMA (the Ottauquechee Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area), a group comprised of concerned citizens, municipalities and businesses led by a steering committee that includes representatives from VINS, the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the VT Agency of Natural Resources, the Vermont Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and the Ottauquechee Natural Resources Conservation District as well as Randolph-based invasive species pioneer Mike Bald. To find out more about the important work that OCISMA is doing and ways that you can help, contact Mandy Vellia, OCISMA coordinator.

This summer VINS is also looking at invasive species through the lens of research. As part of our summer research program, VINS has hired two summer research interns from Green Mountain College. Meet John Loffredo and Ben Sweet by going to our Summer Research Blog and learning what they are up to.

Where's the Baby?

Here at the wildlife services department of VINS we have been lucky enough to play foster parents to a young eastern screech owl for the past few weeks. If you have recently been by the Rehab In Action exhibit's one way viewing window you may have seen us dancing around in a crazy looking feathered mask. This is our 'Momma Owl' mask. Since raptors are highly intelligent it is very easy for them to become imprinted on humans. This means if they grow up in close contact with humans they start to think they are human and it is incredibly difficult to "re-wild" a bird once this has happened.

So, in order to keep our contact with the owlet to a minimum and keep this baby thinking it is a bird, we have pulled our adult female eastern screech owl off exhibit to act as a foster mom to the owlet.

Our hope is that the female will adopt the owlet and teach him the ways of the owl world so we are able to release him once he is old enough.

Check back soon for more updates on the screech owlet as he grows up!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Good as New

This young American crow first came to VINS on May 28th, 2011. He had become tangled in a fence and his leg was snapped, right between what is equivalent to our knee and ankle. He happens to be a very popular little bird, too. Not only did three humans work together to remove him from the fence, but his whole family group (called a 'murder') dive-bombed the rescuers in an attempt to protect the little guy.

Once he was safe at VINS, though, we realized we must work quickly. Since he is a growing bird it was essential that we set a straight splint immediately. Birds this age grow extremely quickly, and if we left the splint off for even a day the bone may have set improperly.

Luckily, we got a splint on his leg and after two weeks the bone has set and strengthened so we removed
the splint for good today. We will keep him for a bit longer to make sure he can still perch and begins feeding himself regularly. Not only have we been tending his broken bone here at VINS, we have been acting as foster parents and feeding the crow every hour. Now that his leg has healed we are hoping he will take food more easily and we will be able to release him soon!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Back in the Game

This handsome mallard duck is one tough customer. After being struck by a car and dragged across the asphalt, this duck made an awesome recovery here in the rehabilitation department at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. See a video of his release.

In the accident, the duck suffered deep chest wounds and road rash covering a good portion of his back. After weeks of daily wound care, medications to ward off infection and tube-feedings, this drake is back in the game. Calling all female mallards: this fellow is single and ready to mingle.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Fleeting Farewell

Another success story ended rather quickly for us today at VINS. A male purple finch that came into our care 32 days ago did not hang around for any "aw" moments when we released him on site today, instead he was gone in a flash.

This beautiful male finch came into our care on May 6, 2011. He had crashed into a window of a home up in Caledonia county and when he was brought all the way down to VINS by the concerned homeowner we were not sure if his release day would ever come. When he collided with the window his left wing was severely damaged and by the time he got to our ICU the bone had already started to set. But, one wing wrap, several medications, two weeks of confinement, and another two weeks of exercise in our small bird aviary and he was ready to go!

He didn't stick around for any fond well wishing either. Once this little man saw his opening he took it and headed right for the trees. He dropped out of my hands and used the ground effect air to soar over to the tree line and disappear from our sight. We will miss his joyous song, but we're so happy to see him fly away.

Friday, June 3, 2011


We are waterlogged here at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. Nope, it's not the heavy rains we've had lately -- it's the plentiful waterfowl patients in our care. As of today, the VINS Wildlife Services staff is caring for 2 orphaned mallard ducklings, 8 orphaned wood ducklings, 1 baby common merganser, an adult mallard and an orphaned Canada gosling!

See a video of this baby merganser.

The tiniest waterfowl patient we currently have is an orphaned common merganser, pictured, who was found along the road in Windsor, VT. The person who found the baby was unable to locate its parents, so the VINS rehabilitation staff is going to raise the baby here on site, releasing him when he's fully feathered and ready to fend for himself.

While he is growing, we will keep our eyes peeled for baby mergansers in the wild who are about the same age. If we find any, we'll try to unite this little guy with a new family. Sometimes mom and dad waterfowl will take orphaned babies in as their own. That's certainly what would be best for the merganser, but if we can't find foster parents, we're happy to raise him ourselves.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

VINS Nature Camp: Meet the Counselors

By Amanda Charland
Camp Programs Coordinator

Summer camp was one of the most defining events in my life. Without those crafts, songs and activities there’s no doubt I would be a very different person today. Now that I’m older, I understand that camp is more than just activities. At camp, children have a chance to practice decision-making, reinvent themselves in a new social setting, and most importantly, they get to be inspired by their heroes: the camp counselors!

Camp counselors make a camp. It doesn’t matter how cool the activities are or how amazing the curriculum is, in the end it’s the individuals leading the programs that will make all the difference. This summer, VINS has an incredible staff of counsel
ors coming aboard. Every one of them has an intense passion for engaging kids in fun, outdoor learning projects - I couldn’t imagine better role models!

Let me introduce you to three of our counselors.

Hi! I'm KB (photo left) and I'm from North Carolina. Before coming to VINS, I led kids on 2-week, 50-mile backpacking programs on the Appalachian Trail, teaching outdoor skills, camping skills, team building and general ecology. I received my undergrad from Lenoir Rhyne University in Conservation of Natural Resources while also playing for the women’s soccer team. I love being outside, laughing and my favorite color is tie-dye. I've recently picked up the guitar and disc golf, and I'm excited to explore Vermont!

Before moving back to his home state of Vermont, Mischa (photo, left) spent a year living in Japan and teaching English to students of all ages. He also administered international development projects focused on energy and environmental management in Washington, D.C., and encouraged the adoption of energy alternatives and energy efficiency practices at a community nonprofit in East Lansing, MI. Mischa enjoys rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, camping, white water kayaking, gardening and eating good food. He hopes to soon pursue a master's degree in environmental education.

graduated from Dartmouth. In her collegiate experience she loved learning French and German, and living in both countries. Afterwards, she lived in a small rural town surrounded by mountain ranges where she enjoyed math teacher training, self-studying entrepreneurialism and spending time in the mountains via outdoor sports. She has learned about the natural world through hands-on outdoor leadership trainings, gardening classes and mountaineering club courses. Her passions include raw foods, pilates, yoga, and warm water scuba diving. Currently, she is creating a homestead with her husband.