There are those times, and we have all had them at one time or another, when things come together and magic happens. This past weekend represented one of those times. A trip, bought at Wishes for Wildlife, was won by Dr. Orr and started the making of the magic. A delegation from Liberty Wildlife planned to accompany her to Rockport, Texas last February to take part in a whooping crane birding trip. It didn’t work out at the time planned….50 mile an hour winds would have made approaching the Aransas Wildlife Refuge an impossibility and a bummer for the potential travelers.
But then, the stars crossed correctly this past weekend and a smaller, but still dedicated group made the trip. Hosted by my wonderful family, Bill and Zonna, we arrived and were shown Texas hospitality of the very best kind. The inviting beach home could sleep 16, but as it happened there was lots of room left over…too bad. The boat, beautiful and seeping with an interesting history (originally belonged to Ralph Evinrude of the outboard motor fame and his wife Frances Langford of “I’m in The Mood for Love” and the Bob Hope WWII shows) was our transport to the refuge. It is stately, beautiful, and perfectly kept.
As always on the coast of Texas, weather can be a demon or an angel and for us the angel appeared. We were truly blessed….not too hot, not too cold, not too sunny, and not too wet….it was just perfect! And when those stars were aligning they let the whooping cranes know. I have done the trip several times in the past and while we always see a few cranes, never before have we seen a trip total of 125 (over a third of that population of a very endangered species). Of that total 110 were on the refuge or on the edge of the refuge. Fifteen other cranes found themselves in a separate area away from the refuge. The huge birds don’t seem to understand the finer human points of designated space and go where the ‘gettings’ are good.
And, when the ‘gettings are good’ you tend to see many other birds. And we did…a bountiful list of water and shore birds, riparian species and south Texas migrants aplenty. White tailed hawks, crested caracaras, rosette spoonbills, belted and green kingfishers, terns, oyster catchers, ospreys, and a multitude of ducks made the list. A total tally isn’t in yet…but numbers of species seen will surely reach way over 150 in total when the dust settles.
And, then there were the joyous porpoises that followed us diving, jumping and smiling…they are one of my favorites!
I want to thank my travel-mates and my totally cool family and the donors of the boat, Jack and Liza Lewis, and the home, the Sellers, for the opportunity to participate in a magical moment. It will be hard to top this experience…oooops I forgot to mention the fireworks seen from the Scampi….what a great finale to a wonderful experience….thanks to all!
This Week at Liberty
The intake total for the year is now at 3276.
As the weather turns slowly colder, we see some new types of injuries (and some older ones that should never occur anyway.) We released several birds this week and made some progress treating some other patients. (And I developed a bad case of something-or-other which kept me from getting a lot of photos so the update might be a tad shorter than usual – my bad?) Here we go…
There are a lot of red-tailed hawks out there, and it only stands to reason that we’d see more of them in rehab that almost any other species. The injuries run the gamut from automobile collisions to bullet wounds and electrocutions. The Med Services team never gives up as long as there is any hope of repairing damaged wings, legs, etc. This time of year, we see a lot of yearling birds who are making youthful mistakes and paying a high price for their lifetime education.
A groggy little Anna’s hummingbird was brought to the window last week. Usually when the temperature drops and we get in a disoriented hummer, we suspect torpor, which occurs when their body temperature drops below what they require for normal activity. The other possibility is that he got into a territorial dispute with another hummer. H-Birds can be very aggressive and their fights can be devastating. Treatment continues…
And then we also get in some totally sad cases, like this gun-shot harris’ hawk. Usually we get more of these right after Christmas (go figure…) but this little bird didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to be shot in the late fall. The prognosis is not totally bleak, but he’ll have to spend some time with us as he replaces his wing feathers.
Last week we took in a big female cooper’s hawk. The person who called the hotline admitted to kicking the bird who was eating a smaller bird at their backyard feeder. When the stunned hawk failed to fly away, they became concerned and called Liberty. Fortunately no permanent injury was sustained and after some minor treatment, I got to take her home with me and let her go back to work!
Three birds completed the cycle last week and were released back to into the Arizona skies. Two turkey vultures and the peregrine falcon that Christie Van Cleve sent up to us a couple of months ago rode with Claudia as she took Anne, Carol, Morry, Wally, Jean, and Donna down to do some birding south of Casa Grande on Sunday morning. Despite the fog (in Arizona…?) and cool temperatures, both the birding and the releases were totally successful. Nice job, folks!
Wally launches a juvenile TV (Click this for a video of one TV launch)