This Week at Liberty August 1, 2011

Hoots, Howls, and Hollers

I recently read a review of a controversial book, Weeds, In Defense of Nature’s Most Unloved Plants, by nature writer, Richard Mabey.  My biologist and conservation friends should start getting uneasy about now.  It made me ask some questions that aren’t very popular in the conservation world.

He defines weeds as plants that occur in the wrong place at the wrong time.  So far so good…He made the following case in favor of weeds:  they have basic usefulness for stabilizing the soil, curbing water loss, providing shelter for other plants, repairing landscapes shattered by landslides, fires, floods, and development.  They serve as food, fuel, medicine, dyes, building material for insects and birds, and certainly weed pulling builds character.  And, most of the weeds are the consequence of the activities of humans and civilization.

His ending argument is that we find ourselves in a time of great environmental changes and as a result weeds might be all we have. Ultimately we should learn to tolerate them (my note: except for bufflegrass) and their resilience…changing our perspective because they are basically here to stay.  Ok, say what you will, that is his case in a nutshell. He does, however, continue to weed his garden.

Here’s where I started asking the unpopular questions.  It has been politically correct for the conservation world, which I consider myself a part, to discourage all non-native wildlife.  It bumps native animals out of habitat, nesting areas, food and causes havoc for the native fauna.  But if Mabey’s argument for weeds was used for wildlife, what would it look like?

If starlings, sparrows, or love birds became prey items that Cooper’s hawks recognized as potential food, would the Inca dove or masked bob white numbers begin to revive?  Would other threatened predators increase in numbers if an increase in non-natives provided an alternative to native birds as prey?  Roadrunners have learned to make a meal out of a tasty English sparrow sparing other non-natives.  Gopher snakes don’t turn their noses up at a squab or two if they are available…bad news to the pigeon nesting in his turf.  Non-native birds can help pollinate, spread seeds, perform the same duties as native birds…so maybe they aren’t all bad….maybe?

Ok, now have I angered all of my friends?  I am not saying that I agree with Mr. Mabey’s assessment, but I am just asking questions.  Like, how long does a non native weed, bird, turtle, reptile, or fish, have to be in an area before it is considered part of the acceptable neighbors in the hood?  I’m just asking….after all my relatives moved to America from Scotland, Ireland and Germany in the formative days of our country, and I am certainly not Native American….am I still a non-native? It’s been a long time.

How long does it take, and what do I have to do?  I am just asking.  And, I expect to get answers.

This Week at Liberty

Posted by Terry Stevens

The intake total for the year is now at 2601. A lot of activity lasy week as we saw some real improvement in some of our longer-term patients, and we continue to work on providing the best care for the orphans in our care. We also took four birds to the Eye Care For Animals clinic in Scottsdale for evaluation of their eye problems. We also had a great release story, thanks to volunteer Holly Hicks and Arizona Game and Fish.  Read on…

Clark's spiny lizard in his terrarium

The clark’s spiny lizard that came in a couple of weeks ago after a dog attack is doing better each day. Near death upon arrival, he was treated by the Med Services team and is now up and about and hunting crickets (inside his terrarium) on his own. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

New bunny hutch

Introduction to their future environment

We are constantly striving to provide the most natural environment for our orphans in order to better prepare them for eventual release.  We now have a new, hich-tech brooder for our smaller orphan bunnies which provides them with temperature control and a larger space to grow, plus protection from outside distractions. The enclosure for the little colony of burrowing owls also got a  make-over and has a simulated burrow to acclamate them to their future habitat when they are old enough. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

("I don't know why HE'S smiling...")

Senior R&T volunteer Carl Price is back on duty and appears much happier than the little GHO he brought in last week. What would we do without Carl and Mary…? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A new female kestrel fledgling comes in

The raptors are just about to end their breeding for the year (we hope!) but fledglings still trickle in, such as this little female kestrel that was found on the ground this week.  Still a fledgling, the foster parents will be on duty for a few more weeks, it appears. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jan examines a screech's leg

A wing and a leg - sounds like an order at KFC...

Not all bird problems involve wings. The little screech owl seems to be experiencing “issues” with using her leg although everything else is working nominally. More observation and possibly more invloved testing is in order. And we have a harris’ hawk that has both a broken wing and a broken leg. A Schroeder-thomas aplint is in use to allow the leg bones to mend in a natural way, and in most cases a bird will will use the wing on the opposite side to mainain balance. Unfortunately, this bird’s “balance wing” is aslo broken putting him at a disadvantage.  But dispite this cascading problem, the bird is standing and appears to be doing better than we expected.  Keep all fingers crossed! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A least bittern - a fairly uncommon visitor

Beautiful wing pattern!

A not-so-common visitor at the facility came in recently.  A least bittern showed up in need of some help and got the “rock star” treatment while he was here. A secretive little shore bird, he just wound up in an inappropriate place and was lucky enough to be found and transported to Liberty Wildlife. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Raven gets checked

Dr. Urbanz checks a tiny kestrel eye

Dr. Church evaluates the cactus spine damage

Dr.Urbanz takes a closer look

Dr. Church checks the interior pressure

Four eyes on the cardinal

Dr.Church gets a photo record

Last Tuesday Toba and Sharon took the cardinal, a young GHO, a raven, and a kestrel to the Eye Care for Animals clinic just north of Liberty. Dr. Jennifer Urbanz and Dr. Melanie Church conducted some rather complete eye exams on these birds, all of whom presented ocular problems. The cardinal appears to have no sight in the effected eye and impaired vision in the other. He most likely will be placed with a facility in an educational capacity. The kestrel also has no vision in the affected eye and may or may not be releasable as is the case with the GHO who’s eye was punctured by cactus spines. Since ravens don’t rely on binocular vision, his lack of sight on one side probably won’t put him at a disadvantage. He also remains a candidate for eventual release. Many thanks to Drs. Urbanz and Church and their staff and facility for their continued assistance! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It's not "egg on a spoon," it's "hawk on a stick"! (Photo by Holly Hicks)

A few weeks ago, volunteer Holly Hicks brought a baby grey hawk up to us from near Nogales where the little bird had fallen from a nest. We took care of the little hawk until last week when Holly and Kyle from Az G&F dept. took him back down south and placed him back into an active nest for his official fledging.  (Read more about the story in next month’s Nature News!)

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11 Responses to This Week at Liberty August 1, 2011

  1. Art Smith says:

    Did I miss a Raven here someplace Terry?

    • admin says:

      Uh, yes you did! I forgot to put that photo in! I added it so, go back and take a peek!
      Thanks, Art! Nuthin’ wrong with YOUR eyes!

  2. Bethany Fourmy says:

    Megan, I loved your blog today! I always feel bad for the ‘non natives’ because, well, it’s not like they woke up one day and said “mwahaha lets go invade and conquer, mwahaha.” They’re just doing what they do with the hand they’ve been dealt.

    Terry, Spiny Liz laid a couple eggs in ‘his’ terrarium… ;-) seems like a recurring theme at Liberty, maybe nature’s way of correcting our gender assumptions?

    Great blog this week…and every week :-)

  3. Megan Mosby says:

    I think that is one handsome lizard! He looks ready to take on the world…and maybe a dog or two.

    • Pam Corey says:

      The man who called this guy in, the lizard, was such a sweetheart. I am so happy he is going to make it. Is he going back to the same place he came from? The man said he had been feeding him in his terraruim for a few years, I believe.

  4. naomi says:

    I agree 100% with Megan, weeds are there for a reason!

  5. Melissa says:

    I really enjoyed this weeks blog entry. It does make you think- how much really is non-native? plants, animals, people, what would it be like “without non-natives” of any one species…. I just love the thought provoking!!

  6. Gail Cochrane says:

    I believe it is a sign of intelligence to question assumptions, so I’m all for the native/non-native discussion. And as for weeds, dandelions are one of the most reviled weeds up north yet its been discovered the greens are a terrific source of nutrients, better for you than broccoli!

  7. Joshua Schubert says:

    Katrina took all (what we hope was all the cactus) out of that GHO and I held him while she worked, is he releasable? poor guy was covered in those spines from falling into it =\

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