A busy summer…

Lots of critters brought in this year, some were successfully rehabbed or raised and released, some not so.

I was able to release a young groundhog last week that had been picked up by school kids at Evergreen school. It likely got separated from its mom and fell victim to curious hands. But it was not in a safe place, so a friend rescued it and brought it to me.

An amazing team of caring people arranged the capture and flight out of Sandy Lake for an adult bald eagle. It had been on the ground at the landfill and was obviously in distress. The airlines was able to fly it out, and Jen Derouin was able to drive it to me from Sioux Lookout. It had been severely injured with fishing line that had tangled in the wing and leg. The lacerations were deep and very badly infected and maggot infested. Antibiotics and deep cleaning did little to stop the infection, and despite everyone’s amazing help to try to save it, it was not to be.

A young sharp-tail hawk was brought to me by Stacey Skene from the OMNRF. It had been found in the yard of another OMNRF employee, unable to fly. It appeared to have a head injury as the eyes showed different dilation in the light. But today it flew up on a perch and was able to see the food I put out, and readily flew down to eat it. Already much stronger so I have high hopes for this one.

I have had more help this year from my foster helpers and that has been amazing! Thank you, Erika, Erin, Michelle and the rest of you angels out there!

Cause my hands are full now with this guy…

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Thanks again for all the help, Ontario Stewardship Youth Rangers!

This year was another great year for getting help around the premises. I was so lucky to have the Kenora crew for two separate days and two crews from Sioux Lookout for two days. And they did so much work!

The pen the foxes were in had been tunneled, dug out, and their potty corner needed to be removed and new soil put in for the next residents to come in. This meant lots and lots of sand, and since its not in an ATV accessible spot, it meant carrying buckets of sand down to the pen. These wonderful crews toted and hauled until the pen was completely refreshed. Then they did the same to the eagle pens too. This is work I can no longer physically do, but needs to be done for the health of the residents.

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And they built, and disassembled, hauled loads to the dump for me, painted and so much more!

And they were such pleasant and cheerful young adults, it was fun and a pleasure for me to have them.

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!

 

Wrong place at the wrong time…

I remember a statement made by an old family friend that went something like this…”What the heck did you do a thing like that in a place like this?” Maybe not exact words but you get the gist of it.

That was what I was thinking when I went to dig out a snowy owl from a filthy alleyway, reeking of body wastes and littered with needles and glass. The ravens who had forced him there, screamed at me while I gathered the dirt encrusted owl up in a towel. It was May, and he should have been long gone.

A call from a City of Kenora employee one morning filled me in on a report by a local store owner about an owl in the alley. Sometimes I get skeptical, as incorrect identification is common in my calls, especially if birds are young. For example, the strange looking squabs (pigeons) have been reported as injured baby pelicans…but I digress.

And I was even more skeptical when they said it was a snowy. No snowy in its right mind would still be in these southern parts at this time of year…and not in the center of a busy city block…

But there he was, all beak clacking and hissing as I peered into the disgusting mess he sat on. I had the foresight to put on my safety boots that morning and had heavy gauntlets. Used needles scare the beegeebees out of me. I crunched may way out through the broken glass and waste and took the poor thing out into the daylight. The gentleman who reported it was waiting to make sure all was well. Had he not been curious of what the ravens were screaming at, the owl would likely not have been discovered until it was too late. I thanked him for his help, and headed home.

The owl was in good body shape, with only a dirty tail and feet. He readily climbed into his drinking bowl and bathed and drank. Saved me trying to clean lord knows what off him!

I fed it up for a few days, and saw no reason why he couldn’t be on his way.

When I took him out to our big field, I had my big net handy, in case he failed his flight test. But I didn’t have to worry, as he flew up, up and away, strong and determined.

He had a long ways to go to his northern habitat, but I think he will be fine.

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ready to go…

he's off!

Fox on the run…

In early April, I received a call from a contractor working on an island on Lake of the Woods. It seems that while working on their construction site, they had killed a vixen. Further excavation dug out her den with five tiny fox kits. They bundled them up and gave me a call to see if I could take them in. How could I refuse?

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They were just opening their eyes, most likely prematurely due to the stress and exposure to bright light. I believe they were only between 8-10 days old. Stressed and scared, they cowered together,  making sad little rah-rah-rah calls for mom.  All I could do to comfort them was make them a cozy den, with hot water bottles and fix them a special formula made just for little wild critters like these.

Finding a suitable nipple that they would accept was a challenge. I had to alternate between preemie nipples, squirrel feeding nipples, and syringes. Each one wanted something different. And one of the little ones had issues. Her face was scrunched up into a grimace and she had trouble feeding. As she was only 150 grams, compared to the other kits who ranged from 250 to 300 grams, I did not expect her to survive. And she cried constantly for mom. In the morning, I would often find her curled up by herself, avoiding her siblings. I believe that this would be the kit that the vixen would have carried out of the den and deserted in the woods to die.

The days passed and it wasn’t long before the kits were chewing and licking the feeding apparatus rather than sucking. This to me indicated they were on the way to being weaned. Three of the kits, the larger ones, took immediately to lapping formula from a dish (wearing a lot of it in the beginning) and two still wanted to be bottle fed. But slowly, even the squishy faced kit was lapping away.

As their eyes adapted to light and they became more visually aware of their surroundings, I would take them outside on warm days to get used to the sounds and sights around the pond.

They were amazing to watch as they played and fought and pounced. I spent many hours watching from a distance. I was happy that they shied away from me for the most part, showing enthusiasm for human company only when I had their feed with me. They had voracious appetites, consuming soaked kitten chow, puppy chow, canned kitten food, partially cooked chicken, turkey, grouse, mice, and bugs…how they loved to crunch on june beetles and pine beetles!

As they grew, I moved them to a large run down by the edge of the beaver pond. They loved their newfound home, and could dig to their hearts content in the soft mud, climb the walls, pounce on any moving thing that wandered into their domain. The larger space had its drawbacks, though, as when it came to crating them to take them for their vaccines, I had my hands full. Did you know that foxes can run upside down along the ceiling of a run? Yep! and they can leap short people in a single bound, too! First set of vaccines was bad enough, but by their second set, at 14 weeks of age, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to convince them to crate up. But on a happy note, I knew they were wild and did not think humans were their friend!

Bruce and I had checked out a few places suitable for release, with lots of available wild food for them, and after changing our minds a few time, picked what I think was most perfect. No people, campers, hikers, cutters, and most importantly, not being actively trapped for furbearers. On a down side, we were covered in ticks after the release, so they will have a lot of grooming to do! I left chicken eggs stashed under logs, in the moss, and tossed in downfall, and scattered kibble far and wide to make sure they didn’t have to go cold turkey without a meal that day.

I was determined to get good release video that day. Had the GoPro strapped to my head, and my Canon set to movies. Opened a crate, turned to open a second crate, and the first two kits streaked out and were gone into the brush, turned back, second crate was empty! Already gone and joined up with the first two! Last crate I opened more slowly, and got a few seconds of video, but that was it! They were gone!

As we packed up the crates, I could hear them slowly making their ways back to each other with their rah-rah-rah contact calls. As we made our way back to the truck, it sounded like they were reunited, off on a distant hill.

Good hunting, sweet kits!

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The Red-tailed Hawk has high tailed it…

It was a long winter for the Red-tailed hawk. I was able to keep it warm enough and ensure its beautiful feathers didn’t get tattered, as can often happen with frustrated birds in captivity. And fortunately (sounds harsh!) there was a constant supply of red-squirrels hit on the road or taken by registered trappers and passed on to me for its food.
For the past week, it had been calling plaintively in its flight cage, looking for a mate, so I knew it was time to release it.
This hawk originally came in from Sioux Lookout last spring. I saw no injuries, other than it was thin and did have a small white patch on its iris, so I watched it steadily gain weight over the course of a few months. A strong windstorm opened up the roof on its flight cage in July and it self-released sometime during the storm. There was no sign of it hanging around the fields, so I assumed it was gone for good.
But then a call came in from Redditt, just north of where I live, from a fellow who told me he had found a hawk on the edge of the road and was able to catch it. When he brought it to me, I recognized the Red-tailed from its white patch on the eye. It was in good body weight, and only had slight bruising from its brush with a vehicle. So back into care it came. Being a bit of a Houdini, it released itself again, and hung around the house eyeing up my chickens. One day, the chickens were sending up a heck of a fuss, with one hen screaming bloody murder! Sadly I did not get up to the coop in time to rescue it, and there was the Red-tailed chowing down on his kill, with my two roosters trying to drive it away. Unfortunately, the roosters and the recapturing had damaged the flight feathers enough that I did not want to risk releasing it until they regrew.
So, it spent the winter…
Yesterday it gained its freedom and flew strong and high…but not before sinking a talon into my pectoralis minor…ungrateful little brat!

Someone gave a hoot…

Every few years, we witness owl irruptions in our area. These are northern species of owls such as the Great Gray, Snowy and Northern Hawk owls driven south usually by the lack of prey in their northern habitat. I dread these irruptions because it usually means I end up with starving birds in rehab, often past the point of saving.

When I received a call from an acquaintance in Fort Frances about an owl he had taken in after it had been hit on the highway, I was expecting the worse. I figured it would not only be starving but also with either internal injuries or broken bones. He assured me that the FF vet had checked it over and found no breaks. But when he tried to release it as directed by the local OMNRF, it would not fly.

So he delivered it to me in Kenora where my vet checked it out more thoroughly. True, there were no breaks, but when we separated the facial disc feathers to examine the huge owl ear, bruising was apparent in back of the ear. An oral examine showed bruising at the back of the throat as well. I imagine it had one massive headache. On a good note, there was no bruising on the back of the eye and its eyes responded well and evenly. Also, it showed no signs of emaciation. Whew, this one has a good chance!

It was willing to eat immediately and since this year, red backed voles are in great numbers, I had no trouble getting enough food for him. My freezer was well stocked and I was able to catch fresh ones nightly for him. Because of his throat bruising, I skinned and chopped eight to ten a day for him, and supplemented this with grouse meat.

He was content initially to sit in the flight cage and watch the squirrels and mice as they fed on the sunflower seeds I left on the floor of the flight cage. But after a few days, there was evidence, he was trying to catch them…a good sign. And he started to call, and search for a way out of the cage. So Monday Bruce and I drove him up north to an area of cut-overs and marshes where hunting should be good.

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His initial take off was low to the ground but strong. In retrospect, the low flight was wise as it was still light enough that the ravens may be lurking. He swooped down in among some conifers and sat for a moment, then hopped up onto a downfall and surveyed his surroundings. Here is where we left him and wished him well.

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Once again, several caring people made this happen, and many thanks to them and to the wonderful veterinarians who make this all possible!

On a fun note, I wanted to add a photo I took of a GGO face plant in the snow several years agoOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA…he got the mouse too

Hard landings….

DSCN1776.JPGMost falls and early winters, I get calls about or receive into care, grebes and loons who have waited til the last minute to migrate. The ones I receive in are often young birds and birds that are not in the best of shape. So when Chris from the MNR called me last week about a loon that a kind person with an air-boat had rescued on a newly frozen body of water, I wasn’t surprised. The difference this time was that the loon had mistaken a patch of clear black ice as water and did a hard landing. Once down, being a loon, it was unable to take off again and was slowly freezing. Did I mention the temperatures were in the -30 c range, with windchill on top of that? Albert took the bird home, warmed it up and got a hold of Chris who in turn called me. Chris and I examined the young loon, and could not see any noticeable injuries and deemed it releasable if we could find a suitable patch of open water. But the cold snap was to continue for a few more days…

So, into my basement (where I have overwintered beavers and other tender critters) went the loon. A local bait fisherman set me up with several pounds of culled/dead/dying minnows plus a few live wiggly ones to entice the loon. This chunky monkey was eating about 2 pounds or maybe about 8 dozen minnows a day, so  I am sure this will help it once released to survive until it gets its wits about it again.

As soon as we heard the weather was breaking to a balmy single digit, we arranged its release. Chris had already scouted out a few suitable spots, bless his soul.

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Had lots of strange looks from the dog walkers on the trail. They must have thought we had the laziest dog ever.

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and just a small barrier…no problem for this little ice breaker…

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“I’m free…I’m free!”

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Now to preen the human cooties off me….

Hopefully, once preened, cleaned and it’s natural compass kicks in, this one will take off to the coast or somewhere more suitable for the winter. If not, there should be sufficient food in the river for it to survive til spring.

I usually get these late migrators into care after we get the first snows, and our highways are wet and dark, just like rivers would look from the air. Grebes and loons must think they are open rivers and crash land. Most do not make it, as they are quickly run over on the busy highways, but I have had a few successful rehabs after wonderful caring people have bothered to stop and rescue them. This is often a dangerous thing to do on busy highways, so I hope they always take their own safety into consideration first.

But thanks to a great group of people, this one has a very good chance of surviving its ordeal.

Keeping track of life…

This November was so incredibly warm and the outdoors so inviting, I was remiss in posting on my blog, and for this I do apologize. However, I don’t apologize for wanting to spend as much time outside as my retirement now allows me. The computer and blogs take second place to that, I’m afraid.

But, today we have a weather alert…up to 30 cm of snow they say. So, time for me to ensure my critters are going to be comfortable and satiated before the storm. There was a few cm of snow yesterday, and I just love the stories the fresh snow tells … goings on while we sleep…

For example, when I went to feed the broad-winged hawk this morning, I followed a set of fresh ruffed grouse tracks up the hill as it wandered unhurriedly around my garden and then up to the green grass poking through the snow by the flight cages. The tracks tell a story …

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ruffed grouse tracks

I could just see its face while it sauntered by the pen, saw the hawk and … oh, oh…I’m atta here….

And just when it thought it was safe, it saw the eagles…

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The weasel, whose tracks show above the grouses, had no fear of either raptors and was happily munching on the fresh meat I had fed the eagles this morning.december2016-009

And then, of course, the snowshoe hare, red squirrels, deer mice, deer, pigeons, chickadees, etc all had to leave their monikers.

But back to the hawks…they are still enjoying being outside in the mild weather but soon (tonight?) I will have to move them into smaller enclosures that will keep them from the severe weather. The red-tailed hawk is a repeat customer…it flew free when a storm damaged its pen. A month or so later, I got a call from a fellow in Redditt who had found it along the Redditt Highway, likely bumped by a vehicle while feeding on road kill. I took it in, fed it well, and was assessing its release potential. But a few days after its return, I watched a red-tailed fly past my window….hmmmm…seems that the wolves had pulled a side off that flight cage too, leaving a gap the hawk got out through. Well, seems healthy and flew well, so adios…or so I thought. A few days later, my hens and roosters are screaming bloody murder. When I investigated, ol’ Red was happily munching on the now deceased little laying hen. He was so bent on defending his kill, I had no problem tossing a blanket on him and returning him to a secure pen. I since noticed he had some cloud in his eyes which would limit his hunting small game and decided to overwinter him.

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Red-tailed hawk

The broad-winged hawk has regained good flight, but is showing some signs of arthritis so will also overwinter and hope for the best in the spring.

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Broad-winged getting ready to launch…

I am happy to say, my rehab population is low this year. The plethora of prey in the form of grouse, hares, squirrels, mice and voles likely has kept many hawks and owls in good health. And the lower than previous year deer population meant fewer deer killed on the highway during the rut which means few eagles being hit while feeding on them.

It really does seem like I am retired…actually got a chance to read and paint a bit this fall.

Have a wonderful safe December and a merry Christmas to all!  Ooops, I hear some creatures stirring outside…better check it out.

Gotta keep the wolves from the door…

Time flies and its already time to start preparing my critters for winter…at least those that have to be overwintered. Still have hopes to release a few.

Since I last posted, I was so lucky to have another crew of helpers toting and hauling for me. Will and Lucas from the Lake Smart program took a break from their work with the Lake of the Woods District Property Owners Association and gave me a few productive hours of their time. Thank you Susan McLeod and Diane Schwartz-Williams for making this possible.

The guys hauled and spread crushed rock and gravel to line the eagle pen that still required clean flooring.

By the time they had finished, in addition to what the Ontario Stewardship Rangers accomplished, the flight cages had a fresh layer of crush and gravel in all sections.

As for the patients, I was able to successfully release the young horned owl. I had attempted a release in mid August, but it was not ready, and still making baby owl food calls, so I recaptured and held for another month, while letting it practice its hunting skills. I like my chipmunks, but the population seems much smaller once the owl became adept at its pouncing skills. Once it outgrew the food whining, Bruce and I took a drive north to an area where food would be abundant and it would not be in contact with humans. It flew into thick cover and hunkered down for the afternoon. By the time we left the area, it had flown off to parts unknown and I wish it well.

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A young Broad winged hawk that had been delivered to the veterinary clinic after a vehicular collision fortunately had no broken parts. Its eye, though, was swollen shut, but when I flushed it gently with a syringe of saline, a few grains of gravel washed out. The eye was back to normal in a few days, and he too was released to hunt again.

But on a sad note, the young Canada Goose that had grown up on the pond with its dummy mummy met a sad end. I was optimistic of its success to migrate, as it was becoming an excellent flyer, and had been vocalizing enthusiastically with wild flocks as they flew over. It would be just a matter of time, I figured, until it did what geese raised here have done in the past…join a wild flock and migrate. But timber wolves had another plan.

September 10 of 2015, a lynx had taken the two geese raised on the pond during the night. And this year, same day, it was timber wolves that found the goose. I had taken the dogs out at 5 a.m. and the goose was walking around the front lawn feeding. I chased it down into the pond so the dogs wouldn’t be tempted and went back into the house. Bruce left about 6:00 am and the goose was back on the lawn. By 7 am, the wolves had come into the driveway, killed the goose and dragged it of, ripped open the raccoon pen and release two small raccoons (which I later recaptured) and left by the time I realized what was happening.

Wolves have been here almost daily now and I fear for my other critters, as well as the dogs. The pack took a neighbours dog around the same time they killed the goose.

And this morning, they managed to scare a pelican I had in care so badly, it regurgitated while pinned up against the enclosure and aspirated. The wolves gave up trying to scratch open the pen, but not before ripping off the blankets I had to protect the pelly from the wind. By the time I realized there was something amiss, the poor thing was dead.

I don’t like wolves…never have…never will…

They took down this handsome fella on the edge of our walking trail two weeks ago. This was the only buck we had seen on our property all year.

Now that I’ve vented…I guess I should get back outside and start working again. First on the agenda…breaking the beaver dam down a bit to let off the deluge of water. We have had soooo much rain lately. img_5361img_5358

But I know from experience, I will just get back in the yard, and this dam engineer will have it plugged again.

Have a great day, all!

 

Better days, but wetter days…

Last blog I posted I was moaning over a tough month in the rehab world. Happy to announce July and (touch wood so far) August has been much kinder. A few successful releases can definitely brighten the world for me.

One young Broad-winged hawk that thought that the blind corner of a narrow dirt road was a great place to sit and wait for mom to bring food was returned to its territory. As Bart and I climbed out of the truck to look for its nest, mom was circling and crying. A day later I got a call from the landowner (who I used to work with) saying the fledgling and its sibling were both playing chicken (hawk) on the road. He offered to move them up into a nearby area away from the road with a suitable perch for them. Since I heard no more from Ted, I assumed all went well.

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The red-tailed hawk from Sioux Lookout was successfully released and flew strong and with determination.

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The kestrel still has issues and is not ready to be released. I am currently letting it strengthen its wings and will try again in a week or so.

A barred owl that was delivered from Fort Frances-Rainy River area with a swollen eye and sore wing was  held for two weeks and recovered quickly and released.

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The young horned owl has been practicing its skills at hunting on the chipmunks, mice, snakes and frogs that dare to venture into its flight cage. I will be moving it tomorrow to a larger flight cage and hopefully releasing in a week or so.

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fledgling great horned owl

The fledgling eagle was picked up by its original rescuers and delivered back to its nesting area. They have been supplementary feeding it. I suggested to hold off feeding so its feeding cries catch the attention of its parents who are still around the nest area.

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fledgling bald eagle

Three young robins delivered from Sioux Lookout are released and hanging out around the house clicking and glucking when I get near, but are satisfied with meals of raspberries and grasshoppers they find on their own.

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The young raven had to be taken away from here to a suitable release site as it was a kleptomaniac…It had no problems finding food for itself, and would fly off for several hours. But when it came back, it would steal something. I still have not found the retractable dog leash of my poor little nephew dog Sammy that I was sitting for. It stole it from the deck and hid it somewhere.

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Klepto-corvid

The Rangers based out of Kenora, gave me two days of muscle power and both Dryden and Sioux Lookout gave me one day. So much accomplished! I could cry! The Kenora crew with an added person on the second day (Thank you, Mike!) painted a dozen or so bird nesting boxes, painted and assembled and erected a new bat box for me, stained my rehab storage shed with not one, but two!, coats of stain, hauled many pails of crushed rock to line my eagle pens, brushed around the pens,brushed out a trail for me, helped me erect an already built pigeon coop, hauled brush and probably more that I have forgotten. The Dryden and Sioux Lookout crew worked together to dig two  burial pits for my little lost ones. Hauled so much crushed rock, hauled debris to my burning pile, stained a much larger shed, and so much more. And  during such high humidity and biting fly populations, my hat is off to them all! Thank you so much to all the crews and crew members, you should all be proud of yourselves! And I should be ashamed cause once again, my camera batteries were dead when the Sioux Lookout and Dryden crews were here so I couldn’t record the effort!

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Kenora Crew
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painting bird boxes

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And the gosling still rules the pond with his dummy mummy….