It is confession time. All week I have been skulking up and down the hall, binoculars in hand, spying on my new neighbors, the Finches. My attempts at elusiveness have been for naught…she spied me spying on her and her vigilance was palpable. Her soft brown eyes followed my every move….I’d be lousy at any surreptitious endeavors.
Since the nest was above my head, and I had no hope of seeing inside I became very curious about what was going on in the nest. What did the eggs look like; how many were there; what was their stage of development? So many unanswered questions led me to research. What I found out is that she probably has 2-6 blue (possibly white) eggs with speckles of brown (possibly purple) which are mostly short elliptical in shape. Since I wasn’t exactly sure about how long the eggs had been in the nest, I couldn’t guess at the stage of development, but the information gathered said that they would be incubated 12-14 days.
Eggs are a whole other subject of fascination for me. They come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. In some cases (great horned owls) they are white and round. Ravens are elliptical (jade green with black speckles…fantastic)!
Many ledge nesters lay elliptical shaped eggs so that they won’t very easily roll off the ledge but rather have a tendency to roll around the apex of the egg….safer from inadvertent splats to the ground. That is pretty cool.
While the development from the blastoderm, to the fetus, to the embryo, to the hatchling is a mysterious and magnificent thing, watching an egg hatch is beyond wondrous. If you hold it in your hand just before hatching starts, you can feel it moving around in the egg (perhaps the thump, thump of a little heartbeat) with a new weightiness that suggests something magical has happened inside…as a matter of fact it has.
Then the pipping begins. The little creature inside using an egg tooth starts the laborious effort at throwing its neck and head back and forth using the egg tooth like a little pick axe to chip away a whack at a time on the inside of the egg, moving around and around attempting to free itself from the only home it has known which now must appear to be as constrictive as a prison. The effort is stunning. Think how hard it is for any birth to occur….even a seedling breaking through the soil instills a feeling of awe in me.
I have digressed. So, my neighbors, the Finches are an interesting pair. They are monogamous. Unlike most birds Mr. Finch will defend his bride rather than his territory. He feeds himself on the best nutrients to appear as deeply red as possible to attract her attention. He brings her building materials so that she, and she alone, can build the nest….mother knows best! They are true vegetarians even when feeding their babies so the job isn’t always easy. And, when they finally fledge, Mr. Finch will be the main and pretty much only bread winner feeding the fledglings until they totally move out on their own. He seems like such a chivalrous fellow.
I don’t care that there are as many as 1.4 billion finches around the world….it makes them seem like such a common thing. But, not my Finches, I just did a quick skulk and behold, Mrs. Finch was off the nest and a tiny head, all yellow beak and Woody Allen wispy hair-like feathers was gawking back at me with a wobbly neck and a prehistoric look….yippee….1.4 billion and one finches in the world. Welcome little Finchling!
This Week at Liberty
The intake total for the year now stands at 1583.
The work is constant now, and the intake bell at the window seems to ring non-stop. Babies, adults, birds, reptiles, mammals – it’s a busy time and the volunteers and staff just seem to take it all in stride. Thanks to everyone who submitted photos – keep it up! Much as I’d like to, I can’t be there for all the great “Kodak Moments” at Liberty Wildlife…!
Susie, our Orphan Care Coordinator, thought this was a cool picture! Big feet on little birds – ahh, the wonders of adaptive evolution!
OK, so here’s the “Who’s the cutest baby wild animal?” contest for this week. This time of year, nearly all of the intakes could fit into this category, but even those who don’t qualify at certain times get the best care as we all know how beautiful they’ll be later on…
Not everything is a baby – although some are juveniles, we still get adults that run into trouble along the way. Dr. Wyman and Jan along with the rest of the Med Services staff keep the animals moving from the ICU to outside enclosures and eventually to release. Does that young HaHa look like he’s smiling?
It looked as if last week was going to be “Black Crowned Night Heron” week at the facility. This little guy fell a long way from his nest and now has an exotic splint on his broken leg and foot. Waders need their legs!
OK, so we don’t do non-natives as a rule – but the rule also says that nothing will be turned away if it needs help. This red-eared slider came in after it was mauled by a large dog. His broken shell had a lot of cracks and before going to a reptile specialist, he got some soothing antibiotic cream applied to prevent infection.
Today we had a surprise visit from Dr. Driggers who brought in a fledgling GHO who had been burned by electricity. Dr. Driggers brought along his daughter, a young friend, and one of his own techs who helped out as he unwrapped the leg and administered the bird’s medicine. Very few birds arrive with their very own veterinarian and entourage. Lucky owl!
If you know what the ICU room looks like, you know that we have had two burrowing owls in cages behind the med table. Frodo, our senior BuOw is in the top cage, and Spot, one of our newer burrowers is in the lower berth. They’ve been that way for months and never got to see each other – until a couple of weeks ago. For some reason, the hand feed team decided to bring them together and it was like love at first sight! They immediately began to rub beaks and nuzzle each other. Fortunately Mary Schnuck had her camera there and recorded the totally heartwarming encounter.
So it’s not only the animals that engage the volunteers at Liberty, it’s the friendships as well. Last week was a milestone birthday for our own Joan Boatwright and Sharon and Alex arranged a surprise party for her at a local restaurant after the “vet night” activities were over. About 20 volunteers and staff were on hand to wish her well and let her know how important she is to Liberty!