Hoots, Howls, and Hollers
Riding my bike along the canal yesterday morning I ran into a sight I see all too often. There were flocks of birds in a feeding frenzy along the banks. Ducks mostly of the mallard kind, pigeons, grackles, and doves to name a few were madly picking at the ground scarfing up leavings from well-meaning people. Scattered a distance up and down the bank of the canal was a questionable treat of white bread, crumbled and cubed. In between the bread was a movie theater full of popcorn. Arrrrrrrrrrrgh!
Now I am not totally convinced that either of these offerings is good for people, but I am totally sure that this is a bad selection of food to leave for ducks and other birds. Bread is not digestable by birds. It causes sour crop among other things. It provides no nutrition so it just sits there yeasting or whatever actually happens when it can’t pass normally through the system. As for the popcorn, there may be some nutritional value but salted isn’t a good idea and nasty little unpopped corn can’t be a good thing for birds either. Filling up on non-nutritional food may mean less consumption of nutritional food found in their natural habitat.
I have often stopped when I see people with their paper bags full of leftovers spreading them along the banks to tell them that it isn’t a good idea. I am pretty sure they talk about me behind my back, and I think I have even heard disparaging names shouted after me having to do with being a killjoy…oh well.
I try to make teachable moments when I can. For those that really care I suggest that they can very inexpensively by chicken scratch or turkey crumbles which would actually be nutritionally good for the birds. I don’t often see either of these food choices spread about, but I insist on believing that I don’t see them because the flocks of varied bird species have already devoured them with a smile.
I feel the need to take every opportunity to “train” the new bird feeders on the canal that I am not being a spoil sport, but that I am doing everything I can to make the thoughtful experience a good one for everyone…the ducks, the grackles, the doves, the pigeons and the caring public.
Despite all of my good intentions, I even find cubed white bread in my fountains. I made a study out of the mystery only to find a visiting grackle coming to the fountain with a beak-full of bread (carried in from a yard other than mine) to soften it before devouring it.
I have a huge job to do….but it is baby steps or one small step for ducks and grackles or one large leap for bird-dom. Sigh!
This Week @ Liberty
The intake Total for this year is now up to 5473.
The summer wears on and the work continues. I swing by the site of the new facility almost daily to check on the progress which seems painfully slow to me as we have been waiting for this for over thirty years now. But, patience will be rewarded and the fencing will go up this week! In the meantime, the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned animals continues, as does the education efforts of Liberty Wildlife. We are also busy putting together this year’s issue of Wing Beats, our annual magazine, and we’re also beginning to plan for the volunteer picnic later on in the Fall. All this adds up to a busy time even as the “slow period” of the year approaches.
To quote Rick Perry during the 2012 debates, “OOPS!” Last week I posted a picture of what I thought was the new bald eagle brought in by AZGFD. I got the wrong bird! My bad? The bird that arrived with the dislocated wing is this first-year juvenile who is now under our care. It appears the eagle might not be releasable as her ability to fly is seriously in doubt. The wing injury may have been caused by a fall from the nest or an unfortunate crash during an early flight resulting in what we call a “Bad fledge.” We’ll keep you posted on her progress.
And on the other end of the size spectrum, this little Western flycatcher came in for care. The people in Orphan Care are always excited to get in an uncommon visitor, even if it’s only for a few days or weeks. This cute little bird will be cared for and released as soon as possible so he can rejoin the gene pool!
So last week we got to see the rotating fly harvest that we perform to provide food for our insect eaters (and make it a bit more pleasant for our volunteers!) Andrea showed me one use to which the flies are put: “Flynana” or, mashed bananas with flies! The consummate resourcefulness of our volunteers never fails to amaze anyone who looks closely at our operation. Here we use some of the produce being donated by local Safeway stores, plus the recycled flies caught on site in one of our solar fly traps to provide a balanced diet for particular baby birds (like the flycatcher above.)
Dr. Orr performed surgery on one of the red-eared slider turtles that came in to us from a local lake. The animal had swallowed a fish hook and it was removed surgically to prevent further damage. This is another reason to not dispose of used fishing gear anywhere wildlife can have access to it. Animals such as this turtle are ill equipped to know and avoid the hazards of man-made flotsam in a man-made lake.
A young Northern pintail duck was rescued last week. The bird presented a badly broken wing which was splinted and wrapped by Dr. Orr on Tuesday. Pintails are a migratory duck with gorgeous feathers not often seen around Phoenix. It appears that this duck may have been involved in an automobile collision. He will be watched closely as his wing heals.
One of the many baby black-crowned night herons we’ve taken in this season was examined for an eye problem last week. Presenting a tear in the nictitating membrane on one of its eyes, Dr. Orr and Dr. Wyman treated the problem with some soothing eye drops until the injury heals.
And speaking of waterfowl, this muscovy duck seems to have claimed the title “Queen of all she surveys” in the waterfowl enclosure on the north side. The other ducks, ducklings and geese don’t seem to care much about who wants to be in charge, as long as the food keeps coming and the water tubs are full.
A little female kestrel got to go outside with a new leg band last week. Just in time too, since she is rapidly growing new tail feathers and hopefully will be released soon!
In what must have been the second (or third) clutch this year, a baby Harris’ hawk fell from a nest located high up in a tree last week. It was examined for injury and immediately placed with our foster mom for imprinting and training. Near the top of the tree, returning it to the nest which is always the first choice was not an option in this case. Our HaHa fosters do quite well and this bird should be released when the time comes.
Anne Peyton and Carol Marshall took our Aplomado falcon and a black vulture down to the Southwest Wings birding festival in Sierra Vista last week. An event that brings in people from all over the world, the crowds seemed to really enjoy these two birds which are not often seen in Arizona. By introducing the public to these infrequent visitors to our skies, Liberty hopes to enhance their appreciation by Arizona residents of all ages.
I had to get a shot of this wind-blown red tail hawk who was perched on a sign looking across the Rio Salado towards where our new facility will be built. Maybe he knows what our facility will mean to the wildlife population of this area and all of Arizona when we begin operations within the year!