Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Yellow Legs

A pair of Yellow Legs are at the clinic right now. They are not releasable and will probably be placed at the Seattle Aquarium. In the mean time they are tortured with daily foot massages.

This is what a mew with no roof, walls or floor looks like. Today was a beautiful day to tear down a mew, it was about 65°f. The whole time I was supervised by Ghost while he soaked up some rays on a perch in the backyard of Bird TLC.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Say Goodbye to #1

Mew #1 that is. Wednesday I go into the clinic to tear down # 1 to make room for a new mew. Most of our mews are built by Boy Scouts working on their Eagle Rank. That's what is going to happen here and we'll have more on that story in the near future.

Mew # 1 was old when I came to Bird TLC about 5 years ago. It has received the needed repairs over the past few years but it is just plain old and out dated. The roof has weakened and last winter we wouldn't keep an eagle in it because of the snow load weight. So we used it to keep our over stock of salmon. During the winter you can keep your frozen food outside. It just needs to be protected from Ravens, dogs, bears, etc.

Over the years it has held a lot of large birds from hawks to mainly eagles. Some of the more famous ones (Bird TLC famous that is) like Beauty and most recently Petra while her mew got repaired.

# 1 has served us well but it's time to update with a more less dungeon looking mew. One with a strong roof and no rotted wood. We'll keep you updated on the new mew as it gets built.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Do birds visit other birds in the hospital?

I mean do they stop by to see how they are doing or for other reasons. Corvids are the smartest bird species. Ask Amy over at WildBird on the Fly. I can never get their picture doing this, but I've seen them land on the Ravens mew roof and look over the edge at the Raven patient inside. I've seen the Raven patient take food from it's dish and share it with the Ravens outside. I mean, hasn't someone you visited in the hospital before offered you their Jello?

They will make their calls to one another through the mesh. I don't know if the one on the outside feels sorry for the one on the inside or what. They'll peck at the mesh, but they can't hurt that.

The Magpie's visit all the mews. I guess you can say they make the rounds. They are brave little suckers too. They will go in the Eagles mews to steal salmon. They know that the Bald Eagles won't bother them. They'll find a slat that's wide enough or a hole in the roof and they come and go as they please. Bird TLC unintentionally feeds most birds in our neighborhood. You'll never hear of a starving bird found right outside of Bird TLC.

Out at the flight center we had a Golden Eagle that we thought wasn't eating. We brought it back to the clinic to check it out. It's weight was fine and it ate at the clinic so we took it back. We discovered that it preferred the Magpie's that got in the flight center but couldn't get out fast enough.

Do you think I should talk to Cindy on Monday about setting up visiting hours?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Front Page of the Anchorage Daily News

From the front page of today's Anchorage Daily News...........

Vision quest
Cataract removal is believed to be the first of its kind in Alaska


Published: August 24, 2007
Last Modified: August 24, 2007 at 01:35 AM

With the patient comfortably anesthetized and breathing well, Dr. James Gaarder of Anchorage cut into the cornea -- the "outer, clear windshield of the eye." The first surgery of its kind in Alaska was under way.

The patient, named Digit, is a rarity in the annals of eye surgery -- an adult bald eagle.

As far as Gaarder knew, the surgery he performed on Aug. 2 was the first time a cataract was removed from an eagle here; and he knows of only one other case like it anywhere, Gaarder said Thursday: An eagle cataract was removed at Ohio State University several years ago.

Gaarder, an eye doctor for animals, needs to do one final examination to make sure the bird's once-blind right eye has healed well and vision has returned before he is willing to rule it a complete success.

If all looks good, Digit -- so named because of a missing talon -- will be released into the wild, said Cindy Palmatier, rehabilitation director of the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Midtown Anchorage.

Bird TLC, as the center is called, will have ample cause to celebrate Digit's release. When he was brought to the center on March 1, he was ragged, in such poor condition Palmatier thought he was going to be one more eagle they would have to put down.

"He came in effectively blind in the right eye," Palmatier said. In addition, a bone in his right wing was broken, all this plus the missing middle talon on its right foot.

"Wow! Three strikes and you're out," she thought at the time. "He was pretty dehydrated, pretty thin. We had to tube-feed him for a while. It was a fairly long process."

The center brings in 600-800 birds a year, including about 50 eagles. The animals have been sickened by a toxin, mauled by a pet, shot, hit by vehicles, maimed in flight or injured in some other way.

Digit's cataract was "almost certainly" caused by some kind of trauma, in Gaarder's opinion. "Who knows?" Gaarder said. "Maybe the reason it broke its wing was that it couldn't see."

Roughly half of Bird TLC's animals are rehabilitated and released. Most of the rest either die or have to be killed because they're too debilitated to survive.

The eagle release rate is roughly 40 percent, said Rachel Morse, the Bird TLC executive director.

Digit -- Palmatier is "relatively certain" the bird is a male -- was found flightless at the Anchorage landfill, a "dump bird," she called it. The eagle is at least 5, which is the age at which eagles get their adult plumage, the characteristic white feathered hood and dark wings. Its true age is unknown.

In captivity, eagles can live to be 40.

Gaarder (pronounced GOR-der) examined Digit and said the cataract was operable. "He said, 'Let me know if he heals,' " Palmatier recalled.

Heal he did. Wrapped up firmly for weeks on end, the wing fracture mended while the bird was kept in a raptor cage, which is the size of a small walk-in closet.

On July 4, Digit was well enough to move to center flight pens at Fort Richardson. Birds there have healed well enough to test their wings in coops 90 feet long, 30 feet wide and 20 feet high.

Early this month, Gaarder operated on Digit. Palmatier and her husband, veterinarian Todd Palmatier, administered the anesthesia -- "drugs that are as good as what you or I would get," Gaarder said.

From anesthesia to sutures, the operation took all of 30 minutes, he said.

Gaarder, who's 44 and grew up in North Dakota, said he always loved both science and animals and developed a compelling interest in the eye.

"I've performed cataract surgery in dogs, cats, horses, birds and a variety of zoo and wild animals. I've removed cataracts in a robin, a crow and a pigeon. I've removed cataracts in an African roan antelope. I've removed cataracts from rabbits."

Humans who undergo cataract surgery are generally given a prosthetic lens. Some animals also are given the synthetic lenses. But not Digit. No one yet makes prosthetic lenses for eagles, Gaarder said.

The eagle's retina, he knew, was in fine shape. So long as light can hit the retina -- and with the opaque lens removed, it can -- the eagle has vision.

Not perfect sight, but sight nonetheless.

"Functional vision -- that's what we're after," Gaarder said. "They're not reading an eye chart."

Palmatier is certain the eagle can now see from its right eye. During an exam after the surgery, Palmatier's hand made a motion close to the right side of the eagle's head. The bird turned sharply and snapped at her, she said.

"There's no way he could have seen that with his left eye," Palmatier said.

After two weeks of "cage rest," Digit is back at the Fort Richardson flight pens.

"He has to prove to me that he can fly, hit his landings, and fly comfortably," Palmatier said. "He was flying very well, hitting the perches. His stamina is quite good. The wing looks great."

If Gaarder gives the all-clear, Digit will be set free on Sept. 8 at the site of the former Rabbit Hutch restaurant on Old Seward Highway, a spot with a view of Potter March and the waters of Cook Inlet. It should look like home to him.

Photo Credit : ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Spread a little gravel

In June we had several dump truck loads of gravel donated and delivered. Unfortunately we didn't have anything big enough to spread it around as needed. It was a lot of gravel and if you remotely suggested shovelsto anyone, you got this killer stare as an answer.

In Alaska, summer is the construction season. There is some during winter, but the bulk of it is done during the short summer months. Our friends at Airport Equipment Rentals were willing to loan us a skidsteer as long as one was available and not scheduled to go out on a rental. Winter is comming and we probably had about 3 or 4 weeks before that gravel would start to freeze and become a permanate fixture until next summer. Another problem was where the gravel was. It was right smack dab in the middle of the mew yard. So if it snowed, there was going to be no plowing.

Finally, Airport Equipment had a skidsteer available today. Today being Wednesday (I don't work on Wednesdays) was perfect. They needed it back tomorrow morning, so it needed to be completed today. Cindy and I went to lunch and when we came back I went at it non-stop until she was done. Ruth jumped in when she got off work and did the shovel and rake jobs around the edges.

Doesn't it look great. Things should be a little nicer now. Level ground, water can run off now. Thanks once again Airport Equipment. You saved mine and other volunteers back.

Click on picture below to see more.....
Mew yard gravel

Sunday, August 19, 2007

2 X 2

Northern Goshawks and Great Gray Owls are fairly common in Alaska. We don't get a lot of them in the clinic. But right now we have 2 of each and all were hit by a car.

We've gotten in the habit of when we see road kill close to the road, we stop and throw it farther from the road. Why you ask. Because all raptors are opportunist, they will eat from the carcase of road kill. If that road kill is too close to the road and a car comes along, the bird doesn't have time to escape from the vehicle path. Then it's next meal is from Bird TLC.

You'll get some strange looks sometimes, but you'll get back in your car with a smile on your face.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Last Merlin update

The release went very well tonight at around 6:30 pm. Michelle Wetherell did the honors of releasing her and as soon as the kennel door was opened she shot out like a rocket. Because she left so quickly, I only got the one photo. She circled around several times, landed in a tree and rested, then circled again and disappeared.


Not the best video, but it is a video. Don't get dizzy. Sent in by Becky Wetherell.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I don't think this young guy likes me

Even the older eagles don't respond like this when I take their picture. This guy (or gal) came in yesterday from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. It's just at the age where it should be practicing leaving the nest. However, it was already out of the nest and not flying yet.

This is the third almost fledgling eagle we've received so far this year. We almost never get one, but three is unheard of for Bird TLC. Cindy Palmatier has run blood test on all of them and the same results have come back for all three. Anemic and low protein. She is currently contacting raptor specialist with USF&W, ADF&G, and other raptor rehab centers in Alaska trying to figure out what is going on.
So, in the mean time it's salmon and fresh water everyday. Do you think I'll get a better response if I bring it the salmon next time?

Sorry for the greenish eagle pic's. With the freshly painted white walls reflecting the green AstroTurf in bad lighting and a young eagle acting very defensive, and it being a very long day, I didn't want to try and get the shot just right anymore.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ruthie made me do it

I don't work Wednesdays. I haven't since about the beginning of the year. I like a 4 day work week. I'd rather have a no day work week, but that's just not in the cards yet. This past Wednesday, Cindy and I went out to the flight center to get an eagle that was getting released that night (flight center photo's to follow soon). After we were done I had a presentation with Ghost at the Eagle River Campground.

When it was over and I was leaving, I turned my cell phone on just in time to take a call from Ruthie. It was slow at her work so she took the rest of the day off and wanted to go for a long ride. I took a little convincing, but I said OK. So back to the house and I put Ghost in his mew. Ruth already packed a late lunch, snacks and drinks. There was little waiting time when we were on the road to Hope, Alaska and all points in between.

First stop was Girdwood. It's a land that's stuck in the late 60's and early 70's. It's also the place to go skiing during the winter. We checked out the flowers and the bakery. Had a good break and then headed off to Hope.

Hope is an old town dating back to the early 1900's. If you have a strong arm you can throw a rock from end to end. Be careful not to hit a building or you may knock it down. They had a lot of fishing going on and the campground was full. After checking things out for a while it was time to head back. We felt like we knew where to find something that would really struck our interest.

Our next stop was in the Turnagain Arm area. I don't want to get specific. There we found a very active eagle nest. I took the picture at the left and submitted it to Channel 2 and it made their Weatherpic of the day. It made our day just seeing the nest. We hiked back to the truck and headed to Portage.

Portage is the home of Portage Glacier and a couple dozen people. It's also the only land link to Whittier. To get to Whittier you must drive through a train tunnel. The only other way is by boat. We didn't go to Whittier this day, but remember this part for a future story. Portage is also where Ruth and I picked up a Great Horned Owl with a broken wing a couple of winters ago.

On the outskirts of portage we saw Ma and Pa Swan with their youngsters. We enjoyed watching their outing for a while before it was time to head back home. The weather was great and it was a welcome break in the middle of the week. I sure like having Wednesday's off.

Photo credits: Dave and Ruth Dorsey / Bird TLC

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Coffee with a Corvid

Coffee Tasting and Benefit for Bird TLC

August 25, 10 am at Terra Bella

601 E. Dimond Blvd. #6

You are invited to join coffee entrepreneur Linda Vallertsen for a unique experience at Terra Bella Bakery and Cafe.

Learn to slurp and swirl with the best as Linda explains acidity, aroma, body and flavor. Your morning brew will never be the same.

After the tasting hear about the crazy, social and smart group of songbirds called corvids - ravens, crows, jays and magpies - with a live program by the Bird Treatment and Learning Center.

Your tickets includes:
A Five Coffee Tasting and Terra Bella coffee mug.

All proceed benefit Bird TLC.

For questions or tickets, please contact Bird TLC at 562-4852.

Monday, August 06, 2007

another Merlin update

An email from Ellen on 8/4 ......

I picked her up from Becky's on Wednesday and noticed she was quite conditioned to humans; when I attempted to take her photo, she walked right up to the lens, gaped, and attempted to eat it! Also, she was so fat, she had a hard time getting airborne enough to get up on her perches! Becky Wetherell had done a wonderful job of caring for her and she is very healthy and beautiful. Aside from a little baby "fluff" left on the top of her head, she is looking like a full-fledged (pun intended!) merlin. Now, I need to get her flying as much as possible so that she gets into shape for release. She is already flying a great deal better than two days ago. I picked up some Bobwhite Quail chicks and was delighted to see that she was able to attack and kill one on the first try on Thursday. This is good news for release, I think. She has pretty well picked it clean, so today I'll give her another. I really think she is starting to get the hang of what it is to be a merlin.... Cindy suggested that I might try putting the adult merlin in with the juvenile. It is an adult that Mia has been caretaking that is blind in one eye, but seems to be another great candidate for release soon. So, I may be bringing it home later this week, so that the juvenile may get reaquainted with its kin.


Photo Credit: Ellen Murphy-Welk / Bird TLC

Friday, August 03, 2007

BIG Z & little z

Big Z is a Northern Hawk-Owl named Zephyr, a Bird TLC Education Bird presented and caretaken by Ellen Murphy-Welk. Little Z is a just fledged NHO that had not learned to hunt yet that was found near Chicken, Alaska. Yes, I said Chicken, Alaska.

We don't know the exact situation, how long on the ground, if it was in danger. No real info there. We do know that when Sandra Perry of Tok Bird Rehab introduced it to a live mouse, it scared the heck out of the little fellow.

But the real neat story is when it was sent out to Ellen's house. Correction, when it became a guest at Zephyr's home/mew. Cindy at TLC figured it was a good place for Little Z to go to get some mentoring. After spending a little time there, this is the update I got from Ellen ...

I introduced the juvenile to Zephyr by just leaving his kennel in Zephyr's mew overnight. The next evening, I thought I'd just let the juvenile out for a period while I watched - say an hour or two - then put it back into its safe kennel for the night. So............I let him out of the kennel and placed him on the opposite perch as Zephyr. He chattered at me a couple of times (he chatters a lot like Sebastian, so perhaps he is a male), then flew to the perch Zephyr was on. Within a minute or so, he sidled right up next to Zephyr, fluffed his feathers and seemed perfectly content. They sat that way for quite some time and Zephyr fell asleep! Needless to say, I'm not worried about Zephry being aggressive............ I left him in with Zephyr, where he remains. Today, I will try out Zephyr with a live chick, to see if the old instincts kick in and he may become a mentor to little Z.


Sebastian is a NHO caretaken and presented by my wife Ruth.

About 5 days later and a bunch of phone calls between Ellen, Cindy and Ruth about NHO's, I get this update ....

To fill you in on how he's doing: He has now nailed two live chicks and eaten them. I have two more chicks, then I plan to try out some live mice to see how he does. The little bugger is a real pig! Today, he ate most of a live chick, so I figured I would give big Zephyr a mouse. Well, before Zephyr had a chance, Little Z flew over the top of Zephyr, grabbed the mouse, then flew up to a high perch and proceeded to eat it. So.......I then brought in another mouse and set it next to Zephyr. Wouldn't you know it: Little Z finished the one he had, then flew over and stole Zephry's mouse again!! I'm thinking this bird may do just FINE out in the wild!!


Well, the plan was to send Little Z back to Tok for release. We always like to release birds back to or near where they were found. Ellen was out of town when Sandra came to Anchorage. So Sandra met up with Ruth and got Little Z on July 29th and took him back to TOK.

So if you are ever in the Chicken or Tok, Alaska area, watch your dinner plate. Little Z will be watching.

Photo Credit: Ellen Murphy-Welk / Bird TLC

Ruth Dorsey / Bird TLC

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A donut for Robin

Actually it's for this Bald Eagle with a bum leg. But to set things right, Robin from Dharma Bums asked me to clarify what a donut was from an earlier story. I could be smart and send her to her local Dunkin' Donuts, but no. She's been a real supporter of Bird TLC for a little while now.

So I told her I would get a picture and post an update. Well my real job kept getting in the way and I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get a picture. Today is my off day from my paying job and I usually go into the clinic. As I walked into the exam room guess what I saw. Just in time to run out to my truck and get my camera.

As you can see Robin, the donut is a little on the oblong side. With this bird having a leg injury, it lays down a lot. That puts weight on it's keel that it's not meant to support for any long periods of time. This donut surrounds the keel and doesn't allow any weight on it

This bird still has circulation in its foot on the bad leg, which is good. Amputation is not an option. He's eating and the wound is healing slowly. The main thing is to keep the wound clean. So, they change the bandages everyday going through a routine that you can see here. It takes at least three experienced eagle handlers. One to hold the good leg, one to hold the head and one to apply the donut and wrap. Everyone helps move him around so his wings aren't tangled up in the wrap.

So today was the Cindy, Cindy and Debbie dance while Dave stood back and took pictures. Great job girls!

I took a lot of pictures of Ghost the Snowy Owl I present with. Click here to check them out.