Apparently this year, July is going to be my lull month for feather season: I’ve only received 5 birds so far this month. I may see some late clutches in August and maybe a dove or two even as late as September, but usually August begins what I refer to as second fur season, when squirrels start birthing their second litters of the year. That’s when I’ll start seeing squirrels out the wazoo again, although I understand from some rehabbers around the state that first fur season apparently never ended in some areas. Who knows? We can’t really predict with any certainty how many animals we’ll get in, or when. It’s fun to use previous years’ records to try and guess, but that’s all it amounts to - guessing.
The deer were released July 18. I know some of you are thinking, "But they were still babies!"
Ummm...nope. While not everybody had started losing baby fur, all were weaned and chomping at the bit to get out of that pen. When I left the pen door open Friday and walked away, I swear they broke out the noisemakers and party hats!
Deer tend to stay within a square mile radius of their home base, and for the moment, that pen is home base for my lot. They’re wandering around, grazing, running and jumping and disappearing for hours on end, but at the end of the day I count 4 deer back in the pen. (The youngest buck ventured out on his own and has apparently taken up with another herd. We’ve seen no signs that he’s not alive and well, and believe me, we’d know from vultures circling overhead, foul smells coming from the branch or woods near the house, etc.)
Of course, I’m still placing greens and other goodies in the pen and keeping fresh water there for them, until they move on to another home base. That could be today, or it could be next year. One of last year’s does continued to show up periodically until late April of this year, so there’s no hard and fast rule as to when they’ll move out for good.
You see, that’s the beauty of a soft release - I can monitor these babies and make sure they’re adjusting to life in the wild even as they become less and less dependent on me. My obligation to them doesn’t end when they’re weaned - until they stop visiting that pen, I’ll continue to keep fresh food and water there for them. When they no longer feel they need my offerings, they’ll stop coming to the pen and THEN my obligation to them will have ended.
On to the birds...I have yet another blue grosbeak who’s about ready for release. It’s really weird - I almost never find orphaned/injured animals in my own yard, and both the blue grosbeaks I’ve had this year came from my yard! This one sat outside screaming for food for half the morning while I gritted my teeth and reminded myself of my lectures to other people - "Leave the bird alone and the parents will feed him."
I gave up on that when the poor fellow dove into a flock of brown headed cow birds, screaming at them to feed him. Obviously, the parents had misplaced this baby, so he became one of my rehabs, although I continued all day long to look for signs of the parent birds - unsuccessfully, I might add.
This is Cricket today - pretty baby, huh?!
Bijou, the blue jay, had yet another eye problem, so although he’s old enough to be on his own, he’s back on antibiotics for another few days. His eye started to swell up again, and when I took him to Smalley’s both Peggy and Shelley examined him and decided to try and drain the swelling, just in case it was trying to abscess again. I agreed, since I didn’t want a repeat of his last abscess, but we got nothing but blood and a lot of guilt on my end for subjecting the poor fellow to yet another "slice and dice" so I’m operating on the assumption that this is just a benign tumor or something. His appetite is good; his energy level is through the roof; he’s vocal - BOY, is he vocal! - he takes great pride in his appearance, bathing at least twice and sometimes 3-4 times a day; and he’s about as mischievous as they come, so as soon as he’s off the antibiotics I’ll offer him his freedom.
You can see him here facing off with Georgia over bathing rights!
Brat, the Carolina wren, is on her own now, although she still visits several times a day, clinging to the screen and taunting the as-yet unreleased birds. Sometimes she even wants in at night, to be with her former pen-mates...and I let her. Again, the soft release. When she’s ready to be totally independent, she’ll stop coming down to me, just like the dovelies did. I still see them but they don’t fly down to visit with me any more.
Georgia, the brown thrasher, has grown like a weed and is approaching release age herself. In addition to the puncture wound on her hip, she had what’s called a nest injury, meaning that it occurred while she was in the nest. Sometimes nest injuries cannot be repaired and we have to euthanize otherwise healthy birds because their legs or feet are so damaged that they can never learn to perch, so I really worried about her when I saw that her left foot was twisted - not broken, but somehow in the nest it had gotten twisted while the bones were still soft and grew at an odd angle. I worked with her, easing that foot into as close to a normal position as possible while she was in the "nest" with me, and when she first started trying to hop around, my heart sank because she couldn’t use that foot...
...but the exercise seems to’ve been just what she needed. While that foot will always be a little weaker, she can perch just fine now and should be releasable as soon as her flight skills improve - and as soon as she figures out what mealworms are for: right now she cocks her head and watches them intently but makes no move to eat ‘em!
I also have an American goldfinch who’s about as cute as he can be. He’ll be with me for a while longer, as he’s still not fully feathered and his flight skills suck at the moment. Short distances are pretty decent, but the landings...ooohhh, the landings...we’ve gotta work on that!
He has a great personality, aside from his habit of screaming what I’m sure are obscenities at me if I’m even five seconds late feeding him.
At the risk of jinxing myself, I have to say that I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t had any possums so far this year. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, I hate that the babies in my care are orphaned, ill or injured, but I’m SO glad that I have the ability to care for them or end their lives humanely if need be. With that in mind, I hate that possums generally come to me because their mother’s been killed, but I they’re such adorable little critters that you just can’t help loving ‘em, so yeah, I really do regret that I haven’t had a chance to save any possum lives so far this year.
As I said at the beginning of this update, who knows? Wildlife rehabbers can’t predict what species we’ll see, when, or how many. All we can do is be available and give whatever animals we receive the very best care we can, so that they can eventually take their rightful places back in the wild. After all, that’s what it’s all about: putting these animals back into their native habitats so that they can procreate and ensure the continuance of their species.
And I’ll be the first to tell ya, it’s a damned good feeling to be a part of that.