Part Three: Meanwhile Back at the Ranch…

Shredder. Photograph by Ken Smith.

Little Rufus, red-shouldered hawk, went back to Second Chance on Monday, January 9th to undergo major surgery to remove his damaged left eye and the seal the lids permanently. A hawk’s eyes are much larger than they appear on the outside, so this was no simple task. Dr. Pat conducted the grueling 2-hour operation with the assistance of Kathleen Handley, at no charge. Rufus spent the rest of the week recuperating indoors, first at Second Chance, and then at Owl Moon. His recovery went smoothly, and by Tuesday this week he was feisty and ready to return to the red-shoulder mews. He appears relieved to be back outside with the others.

Pasadena, the juvenile female red-shoulder with the fractured right ulna, is doing great. Her wing has recovered much of the range of motion it lost, and we began creance flying her last Friday, January 6th. After only three sessions, she is flying as if nothing ever happened to her wing, so I am confident that she will be able to return to her hometown in another week or two. At this point I just want to be sure the bone is fully healed and that she is in top physical condition before going back to the wild.

Soldier-girl is still having difficulties with her left leg and foot, lingering consequences of a nasty compound fracture of the tibiotarsus and fibula. She bears weight on the leg sporadically. The opposing toe, or hallux, is still apt to fold under the foot when she perches. I tried applying an inter-digital wrap on the foot to keep the hallux back where it belongs, but that was not enough.

Today I went a step further and applied a “ball bandage,” which is certain to keep the hallux back, but makes perching more difficult. It is basically a ball of gauze placed in the grip of the foot. The foot is then wrapped to hold the gauze in place. The ball bandage forces her to bear most of her weight on the right foot, which she does anyway. The healthy foot is prone to pressure sores from constantly bearing all her weight, so I applied padding and an inter-digital wrap on that foot as well to protect it. The perches in her mew are doubled (two perches aligned closely parallel) and padded  to give her more surface on which to land and keep her balance, and to allow her to lie down and rest both legs, which she often does at night. We cannot be sure that these efforts will succeed in the long run, but we want to give Soldier-girl every chance.

Meanwhile Squeak-toy hangs out with the others, and though we are not working with, or on, him these days, he made progress on his own initiative. After three weeks of sticking to the lowest perch in the mew, Squeak-toy discovered, all by himself, that he could fly to the next highest perch! Now THIS perch has become his favorite, though he is willing to share.

Finally, it is with great pleasure that I announce Shredder, the great-horned owl, is back in his native woods. His release day came on Sunday, January 8, 2012. We gave him quite a send-off too! I invited Jim and Maureen, the nice couple who rescued Grace, to attend the big event. They live just up the road from Shredder’s home turf in Middletown, MD. Ken came to band Shredder before release. He brought two friends, Jonna and her daughter Juliana, to witness the event. Zoe, who found Shredder, and her neighbor were also present.

We met just before dusk. I hoped to get a parting shot of Shredder with a full moon rising but it became too dark too fast. Shredder made a beeline for the trees. He stopped briefly on a pole to scope out his options, and then continued into the darkness. Farewell Shredder! We hope we got you home in time to reunite with your mate and have a successful nesting season!

-Suzanne Shoemaker

Suzanne Shoemaker holds Shredder prior to his release. Photograph by Ken Smith.

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