Twitterpated

The weather has been beautiful and we had the windows open last night. During the night, I heard loud and strange animal noises. I thought they sounded like raccoons, but not the same sounds we hear regularly of raccoons fighting (or having discussions). I was concerned that some animal was in its death throes and it went on and on and I could not sleep. Today, Regis heard strange sounds coming from the marsh and went to investigate. He saw raccoons entwined. I do not think the female raccoon was as enthralled as the male but I may be misreading her facial expressions. I was glad to know the sounds I was hearing was not an animal in its death throes, but I hope the sounds were a mutual love fest rather than the alternative.

I learned the term twitterpated in the Disney movie Bambi which means smitten or lovestruck.

Osprey with a Fish

Regis and I were sitting on our back patio enjoying the beautiful weather yesterday afternoon when an Osprey landed in a tree near our backyard with a fish in its talons. The fish was flopping as the Osprey began to dine. The fish continued to flop as the Osprey continued to slowly dine. I had to stop watching. It is good for the Osprey that it caught a fish but I felt sorry for the fish, especially since it did not die quickly.

Pelican Patrol

Brown pelican.

The Ark Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation has received a large number of injured pelicans in the last couple weeks. Many of those pelicans came from the GTM Reserve where I volunteer regularly. The GTM has a dam with a lake on one side and the Guana River on the other. It is a favorite local fishing spot and this is where the heart of the problem appears to be. The GTM scheduled some volunteers for the next few weeks to patrol the area and help with rescues. When a fisherman hooks a bird, it is important that they reel the line in and remove the fishing gear from the bird instead of cutting the line. Cutting the line can result in the death of the bird. By patrolling, we hope to help fisherman do the right thing and capture any birds we find with fishing gear. If the bird can fly, that’s a tough problem.

I volunteered this morning and was aware that there was a juvenile and adult pelican spotted with fishing gear and the folks volunteering yesterday were not able to successfully capture the two birds. They tried hard. I arrived around 8 and for the first two hours there was not much activity and I could not find the birds with the gear. I spotted a juvenile hanging out at the time that made me suspicious because it did not look well, but I could not see any gear. I went around an gathered fishing line from the area and this is what I found.

Fishing line, etc. left behind by fishermen.

After gathering the fishing line, I went back to the juvenile pelican that made me suspicious and it stood up. It had fishing gear hanging from its wing. I forgot my net and even if I had it, it was doubtful I could catch the bird by myself. I grabbed a blanket from the car and tried to sneak up on the bird, but it was wary and flew away. It was likely the same bird that they attempted to capture several times yesterday and was very wary of humans approaching.

A juvenile pelican with 5 hooks in it, three in the body and two in the mouth.

I called Regis to bring the net. We live 45 minutes from the GTM, so I’m sure he was thrilled to interrupt his plans. In the meantime, I called someone at the Ark and asked the best way to catch the pelican and she said to lure it with fish while someone snuck up on it. By now, I had become friends with the fishermen who arrived long before me and asked if they would keep an eye on the bird and I ran to a local bait shop and bought fish and a net. This means Regis would not have needed to bring a net, but he was on his way and it is what it is.

When I got back, a new fisherman showed up to set up right in front of our juvenile pelican we wanted to capture. I told him what we were about to do and his suggested using a cast net to get the pelican. He said he could do it but needed a cast net and noticed that one of the fisherman I had been with all morning had one. That fisherman with the cast net said he could do it and BOOM he got the pelican. Just like that. Amazing. It took 3 fisherman and me to hold the bird and extract 3 hooks from the body and 2 from the beak. After putting the bird through this trauma, we tried to offer it a fish, but it was not interested. It flew away as fast as it could. I do not blame it.

I called my friend at friend at the Ark to let her know the good news and while I was on the phone, one of my fisherman friends snagged a cormorant. I hung up and Regis arrived just in time for the cormorant rescue. The fisherman reeled the bird to the water’s edge and I used the net to get it and then grab it. It had so much fishing gear on it that I think it could have opened a sporting goods store. A couple fisherman helped extract the many hooks and then I had trouble releasing it because it was entangled in the net. Regis helped me extract the bird. Regis and one of the fisherman were at the receiving end of the lack of gratitude by the bird as it lashed out with its bill.

The fishing gear we removed from a cormorant.

The next volunteer this afternoon found an adult pelican with gear and managed to save it and saw a fisherman catch a pelican. He was going to cut the line and she convinced him not to do it and the bird was successfully extracted from the gear. Whew! This is a full time job.

I saw this tern try to get bait while the fisherman kept yelling no. The bird did not listen but escaped getting caught.

A tern trying to get to the bait from a fishing line. Fortunately, it did not get caught.

I strongly feel that getting the birds untangled from fishing line early prevents them from winding up at the Ark Rescue as a patient or dead.

A royal tern.

Night Owls

Great-horned owlet.

We were temporarily caring for some great-horned owlets until they could be taken to Beaks Wildlife Sanctuary. I was hoping to get some video of their activity, but they huddled together and slept all day. We let them spend their days on the lanai and brought them in at night for their safety. As the sun set, their activity picked up and they began to roam around the lanai and perch together. I do not have the equipment to take video in the dark.

I was able to get some video after I fed them yesterday morning. I put them on the lanai after feeding them and they stood around before walking off to their little corner where they huddled for the day. They tolerated Dart and us well, until we entered their zone. When that happened, they put their head down, fluffed up their feathers and clacked their beak. At one point In the video below, you can see Dart’s nose in the right side of the picture. He entered the zone of the owl on the left and the owl reacted. When they first arrived, I think Dart believed this was a play gesture. Dogs put their head down and their butt up when they want to play. It took a day for Dart to figure out they weren’t going to play with him.

I successfully transported them to Beaks this morning. They are in good hands, although I will miss them. But, I won’t miss feeding them rats and mice.

The owlet on the left is watching Dart while the owlet on the right is watching me.
Close-up of the pointed nails on a great-horned owlet.
The foot of a great-horned owlet. They are dangerous. Experiencing them up close gives me a greater appreciation of why great-horned owls are a formidable predator.

Great-horned Owlets

Great-horned owlets.

Note: I am a licensed volunteer with the Ark Wildlife Rescue in St. Augustine.

It has been several weeks since we last posted. We have spent most of that time tearing up the carpeting in the house and replacing with vinyl flooring that looks like wood. It is beautiful and will work much better for us. Regis did almost all the work and my job was to declutter as long as we were moving things around and take time to plan our summer camping trip. We will be leaving the beginning of August and going to the southwest. I am attending a hummingbird workshop in Arizona in August and after that we will visit the four corners area (where four states meet).

The red-bellied woodpecker is growing its body feathers back but its wing feathers continue to come in slowly. We opened the cage last Sunday and it took at least 3 hours before the bird exited. When he did, we could see him get a bit of air time but not sufficient to release him. I enjoy watching him when he sits in front of his bowl of bark butter bits and flings one across the lanai, eats one, flings two, eats one, etc. until the bowl is empty. When I go out to clean his cage and give him fresh food and water, I step on the bark butter bits scattered all over the floor.

The coolest thing is that I picked up some great-horned owlets yesterday. I am keeping them until they can be transported to another rehab facility that specializes in birds of prey. The facility should be ready for them Saturday. I wish their mom and dad were raising them but as long as that is not the case, I am enjoying them. Regis was expecting small fluffy things and was surprised to see that each bird is the size of a football.

Great-horned owlets.

After feeding them this morning, I put them on the lanai and one of them came to the door to watch us. Dart wants to play with them and is excited. They are the biggest non-dog animal we have had around and they were big enough to get Dart’s tail wagging. The owlets were not interested in playing and puffed up their wings and clacked their beaks at Dart and he was taken a back. I think he was saddened that they did not have the same enthusiasm for play that he had. He laid down and watched them through the slider for a while and eventually went off to sleep somewhere.

Owlet looking into the house from the lanai.

The owlets get fed 2-3 times a day so they are not as high maintenance as young songbirds which have to be fed every 90 minutes or so. The owlets make up for the fewer feedings by the stuff they eat. Below is a picture of their dinner thawing out.

Regis calls this rat-a-two-y.

Our freezer is full of frozen mice, rats, and crickets. The refrigerator has chicken, mealworms, and some of Dart’s dog food. Surprisingly, there is some room left for our food.

In order to allow the red-bellied woodpecker and owlets to share the lanai, Regis had to hang towels to block their view of each other. The red-bellied woodpecker is stressed enough without having birds of prey staring at him. So far, the owlets have only made noises when we get ready to feed them. Regis tried to help feed them this morning but he was a disastrous great-horned owlet parent and will have to stick to hanging towels and setting up perches in the lanai or the owlets will starve. He does not seem to be able to get the food in the owlet’s mouth properly for it to swallow. They appear to be young enough that it is necessary to push the food into their beaks to get them to swallow. To prepare the food, I have to cut the rats, mice, or chicken into small pieces. Feeding mealworms and crickets to birds does not seem so bad now and much preferable.

While Regis was reviewing this post, I tried to make homemade protein bars. My first try at homemade protein bars did not taste well. I tried a different recipe this time. I had to stop before completion because smoke started to come out of the food processor. Perhaps I need to stick to purchasing protein bars.

Birds at Sunrise

Brown pelican at sunrise.

I went to the Villano Boat Ramp in St. Augustine before sunrise to get some morning pictures of the birds. The colors were not as spectacular as I had hoped, but all sunrises are amazing in their own way. The fishermen were departing while many of the birds were arriving near the ramp. It was peaceful and beautiful.

Brown pelican at sunrise.

While downloading the pictures and going through them this afternoon, Regis was on the lanai trying to get a Carolina Wren out of there. We have had to chase the wren out of the bedroom, garage, and now twice out of the lanai.

Our little rescue red-bellied woodpecker continues to pull his feathers out. His tail and body feathers were beginning to come in, but he pulled all his tail feathers out and is working on what left of his body feathers. Fortunately, he has not pulled his wing feathers out. They are growing in more slowly than we would like. Once he can fly, we will release him regardless of the tail and body feathers. He clearly has some issues in captivity and it does not suit him. We let him out on the lanai today to see how well he could fly. He can get airborne for about a foot, but not enough to be released. I now think we may have him for as much as a month more.

I do not feel comfortable taking good pictures of people. So, I took an outdoor class yesterday with Rick Ferro who does wedding photography at Disney to learn how to take portraits of people. I learned a lot and feel more comfortable with the idea of using flash and other options for lighting and photographing people. Perhaps I can get some victims to volunteer for me. I told Regis he needed a proper haircut so I could use him as a test subject. Neither of us has had a good haircut since last spring. I do not wish to put his life at risk for a picture, so we will see when it seems safe to do so. Once that happens, I will give my new skills a try and post a picture if I can get a good one.

Great black-backed gull at sunrise.
Laughing gull at sunrise.
Brown pelican at sunrise. I love pelicans. They are fun to photograph.

Regis vs Pippen

Moonrise over the salt marsh.

I think the red-bellied woodpecker we are rescuing is driving Regis crazy. The bird plucked all its body feathers and the temperature dipped, so I brought the bird inside. Its feathers are starting to come back, but they are not long enough to keep the bird warm. The bird has been trying desperately to escape its cage and makes a lot of noise all day long in the process of trying. Dart and I have learned to live with it. Regis tries to sneak up on the bird. There is no sneaking up on the bird. It has a 6th sense and if you even think about looking at it, it knows. I challenge anyone to try to get one over on this bird. Its not happening. Regis tries to spook the bird by sneaking up behind its log, but it knows. It always knows. It is getting used to us and does not hide when we go about our daily business. If we go to the cage, it hides. It knows the difference. As long as Regis is interacting with the bird, it is not bored and plucking its feathers.

With the bird inside, the red-bellied woodpecker outside is not hanging out and clinging to the screen on the lanai. I have been concerned the outside woodpecker will poke a hole in the screen. If that happens, Regis will not be so generous about saving birds. The outside woodpecker was drumming on the gutter yesterday but has not been doing it today. When we can release Pippen, he needs to be prepared to fend for himself. He looks terrible right now with his feathers in bad shape, but there is improvement. He gets a lot of exercise in spite of being in the cage. He almost never stops jumping around in the cage during the day. I went to take pictures of the moonrise tonight and when I came home the bird was missing. Regis said he is exhausted from all his activity and sleeping in his log.

About the moonrise. Twelve times a year, during the full moon, the moon rises at the same time the sun sets. This can be a time to get spectacular colors during a moonrise. For the full moon last month, the clouds came in late afternoon and covered the sky. For a variety of reasons, including the weather, I often miss the opportunity. Tonight, there were no clouds and I took pictures of the moonrise.

The colors were not spectacular, but being on the marsh as the sun set and the moon rose was amazing. I saw several deer crossing the marsh after the sun set. On my way back, I saw an owl flying. I always feel that whether I get good pictures or not, the experience is what is most important.

Sunset over the salt marsh. There are a few deer in the marsh in this picture, but the long exposure “ghosts” them out. You can barely see a couple of them.

Dart has been doing well on his medication. He was driving me crazy all day. You know Dart is feeling ok when he drives you crazy.

Wren in the Garage

I suppose the wrens are looking for nesting opportunities. I found one in the garage. The other day, one was in the bedroom. Yegads!

We have not seen Squeak for two days. I have heard killdeers in the marsh for a couple days. I hope that Squeak decided it did not need us anymore and joined the other killdeers. I have no reason to believe otherwise. The bird could fly well and find its own food. That is a recipe for success.

It has warmed up here, so we put Pippen (the red-bellied woodpecker) on the lanai yesterday but brought him in for the night since he plucked his body feathers out. I put him back on the lanai this morning and he seems to thrive out there. Regis harassed the bird to catch it so we could get a good look at its feathers. They are coming in on his body and his flight and tail feathers are also coming in. Karen, from the Ark, told us a week ago he might have enough flight feathers to release in two weeks. Currently, that is one week from today. That may be possible. The bird still looks terrible, but we need to get him out as soon as he can fly because being caged is not conducive to his mental well being.

I took some video of him. He likes to hide his bark butter bits in his log. I learned that he will eat more mealworms/crickets if I put them higher in his cage instead of leaving them on the floor of the cage. He looks terrible in this video because he feathers are in terrible shape, but know that he is improving. The banging noise you hear in the background is me removing the carpet strips from one of the rooms. We are replacing the carpet with a vinyl floor that looks like wood and is water resistant.

We have multiple projects going on at the same time and one of them is mulching the gardens. I have 12 cubic yards of mulch to distribute and take it a bit each day. While mulching today, I looked up and saw a young raccoon a few feet away. It did not care that I was busy mulching. It had found the peanuts I left out for the squirrels and was too busy to care. Later, Dart realized the raccoon was there and chased it. It ran up the nearest tree and stayed there for a long time. Eventually, it returned to see what was available and found some dried mealworms I had put on the ground.

Later in the day, we saw another male red-belled woodpecker hanging around the lanai. It perched on the screen and began pecking. It is interested in Pippen. The problem is that interest may lead to a hole in our screen. Argh! We have another week or so of dealing with this drama.

I took Dart to a specialist on Monday and he determined that Dart likely has chronic osteoarthritis/immune mediated polyarthropathy. Basically, he has a bad case of arthritis. The vet recommended a treatment which we are trying, but I am currently suspect that the treatment is worse than the disease. We will give it a try, but we may wind up accepting that it is what it is. I have severe osteoarthritis and have to alter my activities to live with the pain. I think we will have to learn how to do the same with Dart. I am grateful to know it is not something more serious.

Wren in the Bedroom

Squeak in the road yesterday. The bird is now hanging out on our walkway and driveway. I find it interesting that it prefers the manmade sidewalks and driveways instead of the lawns. Perhaps it hates St. Augustine grass as much as we and Dart do.

Today, Regis found a Carolina Wren in our bedroom. We opened one of the windows and easily got it out. When the weather is nice, we often leave the lanai door ajar so Dart can go in and out as he pleases. As a result, we sometimes have wildlife IN our house. We once had a snake and now this wren.

Squeak, our recently released killdeer chick, is hanging around our house. The bird has upgraded from hanging out in the gutters to hanging out on the driveways and sidewalk. It only occasionally eats the mealworms we offer. I hope that is a sign it is finding enough food on its own. It is probably sick to death of eating mealworms anyway. That is all it ate for the first month of its life. This morning, I heard killdeer making sounds over the marsh behind our house. I think Squeak needs about another week on its own before it is comfortable enough to venture further and explore the world and perhaps join up with these other killdeer. I know for sure it spends a lot of time on our walkway because there is a lot of bird poop on it.

I went to one of our ponds to get some video of the Hooded Mergansers. I was trying out Regis’ Tamron 150-600 which I love, but need more practice to get the settings right. The video shows you the behavior of the mergansers but National Geographic will not be contacting me for a copy.

In the Gutter

On Fridays, I usually clean the aviaries at the Ark. Today, we had two new pelican patients and one on the way. It does not appear to be a good time for pelicans at the moment. The good news is that the loon was released. That is the loon that attacked my hand and taught me a valuable lesson about dealing with birds that use their bills as weapons.

As I was leaving the Ark, Regis texted that Squeak (our recently released killdeer) was hanging out in the street gutters near our house and I should look out for him when I got home. When I arrived on our street, I found Squeak in the street gutter at the house next to us. It was actively looking for food. When Regis realized the bird was hanging out in the gutters, he put some mealworms in the gutter. He also put the tray of mealworms out front where Squeak was more likely to find it. For several hours after coming home, we could see Squeak in the gutter or on the sidewalk. It flew away whenever a car came, so it was being safe. I would like to see it lift itself up and get out of the gutter. I suppose every kid has to find their own way, but I would like to encourage the little bird to be upwardly mobile and start hanging around better places.

I worry about the releases making it through the first night on their own. I was thrilled to see the bird and it looks good. It appears to be getting food even though I prefer it hang out in a better place.

We had to move the woodpecker’s cage today. We are replacing all the carpet in the house with vinyl flooring that looks like wood. It can better handle sick dogs and wildlife messes. We had the woodpecker located in the first room to be redone because there was no furniture. Regis was ready to start installing today, so the bird had to move. Since it would be upset about the movement of its cage, we took the opportunity to harass it even more by grabbing it and checking out its wings to see if its feathers were growing in. The good news is that we could see the flight feathers growing in and it should only be a few more weeks before the bird can fly. The bad news is that the bird has pulled out every feather on its body. We had hoped to move the bird to the lanai. With no body feathers, it can not keep itself warm. It now lives in our dining room. I am certain that Pippen ( the woodpecker) will not like that location but it is what it is. Karen from the Ark thinks the body feathers will grow back quickly. Regis wondered if the bird detected adhesive on the feathers and therefore removed them all. The bird was found with a sticky substance all over it and lost wing feathers in the process of removing the substance.

People put out sticky traps for insects, mice, and rats. The sticky substance often attracts bugs which attracts birds. The birds get stuck in the adhesive and often do not survive. I have my fingers crossed that we can get this bird through the next few weeks and let it go free.

I love our street and all the wildlife we see here. Regis wandered the street taking pictures the other day while I was kayaking. He got pictures of the hooded mergansers that we often see in the winter. They are a joy to watch as they dive for food, take baths, and preen themselves. Dart is happy to lay down next to me on the edge of the pond while I watch the mergansers.

Hooded mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus).

The white pelicans also show up in the winter. They hang out in a large flock on the intracoastal waterway which we can barely see from our house. Every so often, we see them fly overhead.

American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

I have been birding regularly on our street since we moved in almost two years ago. Our street is 3/4 of a mile and has 4 ponds, one of which has a higher salinity level. We have wetlands (swamp) across the street and the marsh behind us. With the variety of habitats, we get a variety of birds. I use the eBird app on my phone to record what I see. I recently did an analysis and saw that I had 257 checklists (bird lists) over the last two years and saw 87 different species of birds. That is why I love this place. The winter residents will begin to leave soon and it is always sad to see them go. During migration, we have opportunities to see some interesting birds that pass through briefly. The white pelicans will be replaced with swallow-tailed kites. Soon, our resident birds will begin nesting. Each season brings its own gifts of the day.