Hoots, Howls, and Hollers
The past week is one to go down in the record books. We feel that the extended heat spell has been more than problematic. Starting with the Hotline, our first contact with the public in need, Carol Suits who oversees the Hotline activities had this to say about the onslaught we have been going through:
The hotline has experienced an average of one call every 3 minutes during the busiest times this week. At that rate, the 13 hour day for the hotline can garner as many as 260 calls for the day.
Quoting Tony Sola, long time hotline volunteer: “This is the busiest call volume” he’s ever experienced. Typically, a Hotline volunteer accesses the voice mailbox for Liberty and jots down messages about hurt or orphaned animals found by the public. We endeavor to check the message center every 15 – 20 minutes and strive to return calls within half an hour. Tony worked Friday morning 8 – 10 AM. In that time frame, he took 40 calls or one every 3 minutes. He described having 12 messages, each about a minute long, taking about 15 minutes to listen and log each of them. Now it’s time to call into the message center again and there are 14 more. Keep in mind, the simplest conversation…”bring the baby to Liberty” takes about 3 minutes. Rescues require 15 – 20+ minutes minimum looking for an available rescue volunteer. Concerned callers needing reassurance, advice etc. can take 6 – 8 minutes per call. Those who call back add to the volume.
Emmy, Thursday night 6 – 9 PM was overwhelmed with calls. She explained that from 6 – 8:15 she took 35 calls again approximately one every 3 minutes. Luckily, a volunteer from the previous shift, knowing it was ‘crazy’ called and helped.
So, all of those messages were about the 458 animals that we took in Sunday through Saturday this past week. The animals were literally dropping from the sky or panting on the ground. In two days we took in 17 Cooper’s hawk babies, five Harris’ hawks yesterday, red tails, great horned owls, barn owls, screech owls, 6 skunks (babies and mom), bunnies, squirrels, ducks, quail, doves, and the list goes on: Sunday saw an intake of 44, Monday 61, Tuesday 62, Wednesday 82, Thursday 83, Friday 90, Saturday 31 …. That is just crazy! And, the heat doesn’t seem to have any plans to change drastically.
There is a takeaway from this. Each one of those calls came from a caring individual. Someone who took the time to call, bring the animal in or put it in a safe place for a rescue volunteer to retrieve it. And the Hotline, with all of the craziness put the rescue together. The animals arrived at Liberty and were assessed by a remarkable Medical Service volunteer or staff member. From that point on either a Daily Care volunteer or an Orphan Care volunteer will continue the care and feeding of each of these new patients as well as the current ones. The paperwork must be done, the protocols set, the medications and procedures must follow consistently until the animal is ready for release. This year will be a record year….we are far, far ahead of where we were on this date last year…out of sight.
The remarkable thing is that with all of the pressure, with all of the busy-ness, with all the cramped quarters this group of people…the Hotline, the Rescue an Transport, the Medical Services, the Daily and Orphan Care staff and volunteers have stepped up to the plate and hit a grand slam. They are truly the best! Have I said that before? Yes, I suppose so, but I can’t say it enough; I can’t thank them enough; I can’t imagine what wildlife and a caring public would do without them…
This Week @ Liberty
The intake total for this year is at 4049.
The significance of that number might not be readily apparent. Even after reading Megan’s H3 above, you almost need to look back – not far – but only three weeks ago. In those three weeks since June 1, Liberty has taken in over 1,000 animals. Let that sink in for a second or two… I was going to call this week’s update “The Cooper’s are coming! The Cooper’s are coming!” but that was on Tuesday before it was apparent that it wasn’t just Cooper’s hawks that were leaving nests early due to the heat. When I arrived at 6:15AM Wednesday there was one berry basket in the intake brooder. By noon, the brooder was full and there were baskets stacking up around ICU wherever there was space to put them. By Thursday even I was doing multiple rescue calls and we knew it was critical. Friday, Alex and the afternoon crew didn’t leave until 10PM. Then sometime on Saturday afternoon, the flood crested and the intakes slowed slightly. We guessed most of the babies that had bailed from their nests due to the heat (it had been hitting 115 most of the week) had already done so. Now we just have to wait and see if there will be more or if the rate will abate enough for the volunteers to take a breath. Here’s a brief overview of The Week That Was….
When I arrived last Wednesday morning at 6:15AM, there was one basket in the brooder. By noon, it was beyond full. And it didn’t stop all the rest of the day. The good news is, the volunteers all stepped up and no patient was neglected and everyone got the same great level of care as is the norm at Liberty.
Last Tuesday, some construction workers moved a dumpster at their work site and found a family of skunks living underneath. Five babies were caught and brought to Liberty where they were fed and housed awaiting the arrival of their mother and the last baby. The next day the rest of the family were caught and brought in to rejoin the group. After the happy reunion, they all went to another facility specializing in mammals of the Mephitis mephitis (striped skunk) persuasion for raising and eventual release.
If you spend any time at Liberty during Baby Bird Season, you’ll hear someone call out “BIRD OUT!!” periodically. Sometimes, the same escapee manages to get free of the feeding hands of a volunteer more than once. These are called “escape artists” and can be problematic for themselves and the volunteers. Our Friday OC coordinator Andrea Feiler tried an interesting way to solve this situation last week. Our staff is nothing if not creatively inventive!
All sorts of babies left the safety of their nests last week, mostly to escape the heat. Many were so little they have to be fed by our volunteers now that mom and dad are no longer there to perform this duty. Many will grow quickly and be released as soon as they can feed and defend themselves. In the meantime, all get a proper diet and protection from predators (including dogs, cats, kids, and cars!) as they learn to feed themselves prior to being set free to be what they were designed to be.
Recently AZGFD was in the local paper after returning some baby peregrines to a nest on the side of a building downtown. Last week the fledglings left the nest again and since they had no where to go except into a sea of concrete and cars, they didn’t fare well. The female has damage to her right wrist which may or may not heal well enough for her to fly, and while the male is largely unhurt, he is too young to be on the ground alone and is now with foster parents. The third little bird has not been found.
As the numbers rose last week, it was apparent that no species were alone in needing care. Ducks, hawks, owls, wrens, doves, geckos – we took them all in and gave them all the same care and treatment we always provide for Arizona residents. No matter how large or small, whether it has fins, feathers or scales, it matters not to our staff. Everything has a place in the environment and deserves the right to be allowed to be what it is supposed to be.
It certainly was the “Week of the Cooper’s hawk,” at least early in the week. It seemed like every other arrival was at least one or in some cases three or four orphaned baby Cooper’s. It’s unfortunate that the reproductive cycle of these bird hunters coincided with the arrival of the worst heat wave of the year so far. The baby birds don’t enjoy the heat any more than we do so a lot of them just jump ship (or nest) to get some cool air. In most cases, they land intact and the parents can sometimes feed and protect them as they grow. But with nothing but red tile roofs and concrete surrounding most urban nests, their chances today are slim.
Over the weekend our team down in the southeast took in this little nestling gray hawk from near the San Pedro river near Sierra Vista. Sandy Anderson got it to Christy van Cleve who took it to Tucson where she rendezvoused with R&T volunteer Colin Rowe who brought it up the last 90 miles to Liberty yesterday. It appears the b bird suffered a fractured wing in the fall from the nest and will now be cared for until he/she is old enough to be returned to the wild.
Even though we try to avoid non-natives, this little starling came to the window after being rescued by a well-meaning individual. Filling out the intake form, what stuck out was the line which indicated that the person who found it gave it “red velvet cake” before they brought it to us. Never let it be said that our birds don’t get top-tier treatment!