Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Cya Ferg

When I moved from Barrow to Anchorage, one of the first things I did was become a volunteer at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center (Bird TLC). I did it because all my life I have felt a special love and affinity towards birds.

I remember as a child dreaming that I was Supergirl. After my mother would put the lights out in my room at night, I would lull myself to sleep dreaming that I was leaping out of the little window in my bedroom. My super powers allowed me to zoom straight up thereby missing the wall that was three foot on the other side of that window. I would spend the night flying through the sky, never touching ground. It wasn't necessary in my dream for me to do any great deeds. The whole point of the dream was the flying.

I've spent a good deal of my life envying birds their ability to shake the bonds of earth and gravity and soar above us. I love watching them fly and seeing the sheer joy of their flight. And so I knew that volunteering at Bird TLC was for me because I would be helping sick and injured birds return to the heavens where they belonged.

Recently, as if to make this whole experience even more joyful, I was given the privilege of releasing a healed eagle to the wild. There is no way to describe the feeling of holding an eagle that you once cared for when it was too sick to care for itself and then throwing your arms up and letting it go and watching it climb to the top of the trees to once again become lord of all it surveys. It was probably as close to flying as I will ever get because my soul soared with that eagle.

If I had one sadness on the day I released the eagle, it was that the man who had come to represent for me the heart and soul of Bird TLC was not there to share it.

I met him on one of my first days at the Center. He was standing at a large tub washing eagle mats. This is probably the least fun job there. Eagles confined to a small space still answer nature's call as often as they would otherwise except it's all contained in that small space. Washing those mats takes love.

This man caught my attention because he was so tall that he had moved the platform that we all used to get up to the tub and was just standing there able to reach in with no trouble. I asked who he was and was told his name was Ferg. He came in whenever he was needed to help, whether it was picking up birds, transporting birds, caring for birds or cleaning their messes.

For many people, I imagine the first sight of Ferg would give pause for thought. At about 6'5" and as solid as they come, he would certainly make you think twice about being anything but extremely polite and courteous to him at all times. He was the only man I ever saw who actually intimidated the eagles. Whereas the rest of us would have to carefully enter the holding pens to pick them up, carefully put a blanket over them and ever so carefully grab for their legs, all the time making sure we had a quick exit available if needed, Ferg just walked into the pen. The eagle would look up, know he'd met his match and not struggle at all.

I watched this giant of a man handle the biggest eagles and the smallest chickadees with tenderness and care. I looked forward to the days he'd show up during my shift to sing a silly Christmas carol to me, his way of teasing me for my bah humbug attitude towards the holidays. In talking to other volunteers, I'e come to find out that I wasn't the only one who would occasionally wander by the Center in the hope he'd be there so we could just chat a bit. A chat with Ferg just made the day seem lighter.

For a variety of reasons, Ferg isn't at the center anymore. I'm not sure this column makes clear just how impressed I always was by his tenderness and kindness to god's smallest and most helpless creatures while he was there. I hope it does because I didn't get to say goodbye to Ferg before he left. If I had, I would have told him he was the gentlest giant in body, soul and spirit I'd ever met.

Posted with permission from an e-mail from Elise Patkotak. The lady's got a way with words. It can also been seend in today's Anchorage Daily News, Voice of the Times.

Bird huger

No, she doesn't have a choke hold on this young eagle. You might have seen her volunteering at Bird TLC. You might have read her articles in the Anchorage Daily News. But this past weekend Elise Patkotak was releasing a rehabilitated eagle back to the wild at the CCSC Public Lands Day festivities. Elise won the release for bringing in the most new members in Bird TLC's latest membership drive. She's always involved with something for TLC. She's a great supporter! Thanks Elise and where did you get the shades?

Thanks Tom Lohman for the picture.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

New Address for Jasper

A new home for Bird TLC's education bird, the rough-legged hawk named Jasper. She's now living at Ellen Murphy-Welks home or should I say a mew in her back yard. Ellen's one of our caretakes, presenters and clinic volunteers. Jasper has been with Bird TLC for a while. We believe she was hit by a car near Fairbanks. She was sent to us a little late. Her left wing was broken and the brake had already fused. She was entered into the education program after she healed up. She's been presented all over Alaska, from Prudhoe Bay to Homer. All kinds of schools, clubs, zoo's & corporations have seen her. She's a veteran at teaching the general public about rough-legged hawks. Her former caretaker is moving out of state, so that's the reason for Jasper's move.

Ellen is now going through training to learn how to present Jasper. All of the birds at Bird TLC are still wild. You might see them on fist, but that's as far as it goes. Anything can happen at anytime and the presenter must be properly trained to handle the situation. She must also be able to handle questions from any group about the bird. Ellen already presents a northern hawk owl. I'm sure it won't take long for her to get signed off on Jasper.

In the above picture of Jasper in her new home, she's already showing her approval. Good luck with the training Ellen and I hope to see you at a presentation soon.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Yuck, pox

Dr Scott examins a magpie with avian pox mainly on it's feet. This is a ugly disease. Dr Scott has some success with iodine washes and injections.

The following is from the National Wildlife Health Center's website;


Variety of birds worldwide: upland gamebirds, songbirds, marine birds, parrot family, occasionally raptors, rarely waterfowl.


Direct contact with infected birds, ingestion of food and water contaminated by sick birds or carcasses, or contact with contaminated surfaces such as bird feeders and perches. The virus enters through abraded skin. Insects, especially mosquitoes, may act as mechanical vectors.

Clinical/Field Signs

Avian pox can occur in two forms: cutaneous pox and diphtheritic or "wet" pox. In cutaneous pox (the most common form), wartlike growths occur around the eyes, beak or any unfeathered skin. This leads to difficulty seeing, breathing, feeding, or perching. In diphtheritic pox, the growths form in the mouth, throat, trachea and lungs resulting in difficulty breathing or swallowing. Birds with either type may appear weak and emaciated.


Warty growths on unfeathered skin, sometimes in large clusters. Size and number of growths depend on the stage and severity of infection. Common sites include feet, legs, base of beak, and eye margins. Often emaciated due to inability to feed. In the diphtheritic form, there are raised, yellow plaques on the mucus membranes of the mouth and throat.

Wildlife Management Significance

The disease can be a significant mortality factor in some upland game bird (fall and winter), songbird (winter), and raptor populations. Birds can survive with supportive care, food and water, and protection from secondary infections. Warty scabs contain infectious viral material. Disease control recommendations are site specific, therefore contact the National Wildlife Health Center for assistance. Decontamination of bird feeders, birdbaths, transport cages and banding equipment with 10% bleach and water solution is recommended. In some situations, removing infected birds can be important to reduce the amount of virus available to vectors and noninfected bird populations. Vector control may be considered in affected areas.

Public Health Significance

There is no evidence of human risk.

Domestic Animal Significance

Poultry are susceptible and many are vaccinated against pox. The safety and effectiveness of this vaccine in wild birds is not currently known.

Contact the National Wildlife Health Center for additional information on this or any other wildlife health topic.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Avian Education 101

Not all birds are released back to the wild. Only about 40% recover enough to be released. Some of the ones that are non-releasable are entered into our Bird TLC Education Program. These birds are used to teach the general public about their species. Here Ron presents a Northern Goshawk at the Alaska Zoo. In the background, Gloria presents a Red Tailed Hawk. This type of presentation is informal. People can ask questions at random and move on when they please. At other presentations we've done at clubs, businesses, etc there's been just one bird and the presenter gives a very in depth report on the bird and it's species.

We still got NHO

Our northern hawk owl is still with us. It's been moved to an outside mew. Everything works as advertised. It seems to be a little slow on recovering from the head injury.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Skinny Raven from Prudhoe Bay

An update on our raven that came to us from Prudhoe Bay. It's healthy and active. It's eating, but not gaining weight. It does have a left wing injury which it won't stop plucking at. The injury is recoverable and it could be released once it's feathers grow back and it gains weight. As you can tell it's in a outside mew. It had some company of other ravens, but they all have been released.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

What's in your wallet?

That's what it seems that this imature Northern Goshawk is saying to me. It has a right wrist fracture and abrasion. It had just arrived from Soldotna, AK when I stopped by to visit. I'll update as I find out more. It hadn't even had a chance to be seen by Dr. Scott yet.

Monday, September 20, 2004

A Feeblemind have we

No bird story this time, just bragging. Jeff @ www.feebleminds-gifs.com picked our website www.birdtlc.net apart for a couple days. He threw some suggestions at me. I took a 1/2 day off of work and then did more that night, but it finally paid off. He awarded us the "Feebleminds Award of Excellence". I can't explain how good this makes me feel. He's very picky, almost to the point of aggravation. But now I understand why. I like our website and want it to be one that people involved in bird rehab look at to see what's happening with Bird TLC in Alaska. I put a lot of time into it and when someone says "job well done", well I just walk around cheesing for a while. Thanks Jeff!

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Update on Cassin's Auklet

One of our volunteers, Ellen Murphy-Welk, took the traveling bird to the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward, AK. With them being right on Resurrection Bay and having a fantastic facility, they are better equipped to help the little guy get it's strength back and then release it in the proper place.

Ellen is on our Friday crew at Bird TLC. You'll find her there doing everything from feeding the birds to cleaning the mews. She also does presentations. She just got one of our education birds to caretake, a rough legged hawk known as Jasper. By just got, I mean it's being taken to her house as I post.

Good luck Ellen and Thanks!

Unscheduled stop

This is an American Pipit. It stayed in Alaska for the summer and was headed south. We don't know for sure but believe it is a victim of a window hit. It was found hoping around which is normal but would not take off when approached. After coming to the center and being examined we found it had a shoulder injury. He should recover and we'll try to find a flock for it to joint on a trip down south.

I apologize about the picture. The little bugger wouldn't stay still long enough to get a good shot. On it's chart it says it's very active. I concur.

Friday, September 17, 2004

So I decided to take a cruise to Alaska

So this is not the first time we received a call from the nice ladies at Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE) http://www.totemocean.com/ here in Anchorage. We have this bird that we found on one of our ships and it looks fine but won't fly. So we get it back to Bird TLC and find out it's a Cassin's Auklet. It's a water fowl bird that's not uncommon to the coast of Alaska. Chances are it got separated from it's flock, got tired while flying and decided to land on this huge steel island somewhere's between Tacoma, WA and Anchorage, AK.

It's condition is fair. It's feet are a little rough from walking on the ship and it's tail feathers are a little worn also. In the picture it's in one of our water tanks. It needs to keeps the water proofing of it's feathers going. We also have feeder fish for it to dive for. Chances are it will be transferred to the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward http://www.alaskasealife.org/ real soon.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Holy WOW

Mike @ http://www.10000birds.com wrote a heck of a piece on Bird TLC's blog. Check it out! It's dated 9/16/04 in case you don't read this right away.

Mike has a neat blog. I like to read it but I really like the pictures of the Core Team. Hey Mike, if you make it back to Alaska, look us up.

Thanks a bunch Mike!

Not on Vacation

Sorry I haven't posted in a day or so. Jeff from www.feebleminds-gifs.com gave me some pretty good hints on improving the www.birdtlc.net website. I've been working on it. He sent me another e-mail this morning (in response to one of mine) with some more. I'll knock those out this afternoon. I like it when people give you a no holds back feedback. Dancing around trying not to hurt someone's feelings usually hides the truth. Thanks Jeff! I'll be back here when I finish @ the site.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Full House

The Bird TLC Open House was a success. The day was sunny and full of visitors, new members and wild birds. Presenters showed a bald eagle, golden eagle, American kestrel, magpie, northern goshawk and others. Our resident birds also got plenty of attention.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Bird Treatment and Learning Center Open House

Bird Treatment and Learning Center Anchorage, Alaska
Reminder ** Bird TLC Open House**
Bird TLC is having a open house TODAY from 1-3PM. If you signed up as a new member during our membership drive, come on down and get your membership pin. It's not to late to sign up. Check out the Bird TLC main page for more info."


Friday, September 10, 2004

Sad News

I just recieved a call from Ruth at Bird TLC. The loon had just passed away.

Resting Common Loon

This is the loon from the post below resting and ignoring me.

Common Loon x-ray

This Common Loon was recovered from Mirror Lake. He had ingested fishing line, swivels, lead weights and two hooks. This x-ray was taken after a hook was removed from it's neck and the fishing line that was wrapped around it's tongue was removed.

It's scheduled for surgury to remove the other hook (arrow) and the rest of the fishing line including the swivel and lead weight. Click on the picture to enlarge it and you'll see what I'm writting about.

I like to fish and I know you can't always recover your tackel. This is a good reason to be more careful with what you can recover. There also are substitutes for lead weight also.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Reminder ** Bird TLC Open House**

Bird TLC is having a open house on Sept 12 from 1-3PM. If you signed up as a new member during our membership drive, come on down and get your membership pin. It's not to late to sign up. Check out the Bird TLC main page for more info.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

A Northern Hawk Owl is visiting Bird TLC

A northern hawk owl is visiting Bird TLC for right now. He was found on the road, dazed and confused. He checks out fine physically, but we are going to observe him for about a week. If all checks out, we'll do a flight test. If he does well we'll set a release date.

We'll keep you up to date. I'll post a picture as soon as blogger gets a bug fixed.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Eagle from Dutch Harbor

Mike from Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Dutch Harbor found this eagle on the ground. He sent him to us for further evaluation and care. Ruth and I picked him up at the airport last night about 10PM. Thanks go out to Penn Air & Alaska Airlines. We brought him to the Bird TLC clinic and bedded him down for the night.

He seems to have a break in his right wing. He must of been on the ground for a while because his tail feathers are all messed up. I'll follow up in a day or two after Dr. Scott has a chance to do a thorough exam.