We released four birds over the course of a week! This video shows two of them, released on April 10th. The first, an immature Red-shouldered Hawk we call Tyson (because he is a spirited fighter) was released by Owl Moon volunteer Jaci Rutiser at Little Bennett Regional Park, in Clarkesburg, MD. Back on January 26th, Tyson was lying in the road at a major intersection not far from Little Bennett Park, and was lucky to be spotted by Jim, who rescued him and brought him home. Jim kept him overnight and in the morning the hawk seemed somewhat recovered. Jim and his wife debated what to do: release him? Fortunately, they chose to play it safe, and brought him to Owl Moon Raptor Center. We took Tyson to Second Chance Wildlife Center, where x-rays revealed he had a fractured coracoid, a strong bone, important for flight, that connects the shoulder to the breast plate. Tyson’s recovery required 3 weeks with the wing in a body wrap, removed periodically for physical therapy (during this period he was given medications for pain and inflammation), followed by 3 weeks of flight reconditioning.
The other bird featured in the video is an immature female Sharp-shinned Hawk, released at Meadowside Nature Center in Rockville, MD. “Peep” (because she often “greeted” us with a peep when we entered her chamber), was picked up by Washington DC Animal Control in Southeast DC on March 3th, and taken to City Wildlife on March 4th, where she received a thorough examination and initial care for a fractured radius, the smaller of two bones in the “forewing”, and a wound at the fracture site. Peep was transferred to Owl Moon for continued care and reconditioning on March 7th. Peeps recovery required two plus weeks in a wing wrap with periodic physical therapy, antibiotics and pain medication, and finally flight reconditioning. Both hawks were ready for release on a perfect weather day, April 10th. Thank you to Anisa Peters for taking and editing this video!
A Barred Owl we call Bode was released on April 4th at Greenwood Park, near where he was found just 10 days earlier (March 25th), in the middle of traffic on Route 108 in downtown Olney, MD. The owl had been hit by a car and would most certainly have been hit by another car, if Jim had not come to his aid. Jim picked him up and called Montgomery County Animal Control, who broughy him to Second Chance wildlife Center. There he received a thorough examination and x-rays, and initial care for a concussion. He was transferred to Owl Moon on March 30th, for continued care and flight testing. Fortunately for Bode, the blow to his head was relatively minor and did not involve his eyes (as it often does in owls), and he recovered quickly.
Another immature Red-shouldered hawk, “Elsa”, named by Daisy Brownie Troop 1876, was released on April 7th at Caitlin Dunbar Nature Center in Ellicott City, MD. These young Girl Scouts happened to have a nature program scheduled, and got a special treat to watch the hawk fly free! Elsa had been found a few miles from there, in Timmy’s back yard in Lichester, MD on November 9th. Timmy rescued her, and his dad, naturalist Billy “Box Turtle”, transported her to Owl Moon. Elsa had a hematoma and severe bruising on her right shoulder and wing. Her recovery required a week plus in a wing wrap, and several more weeks of physical therapy and exercise alternating with rest. But the most amazing thing about Elsa is that she had already survived an earlier accident, which had fractured her left leg in two places. We think her first accident must have happened in the nest, and that she survived through the healing process only because her parents took good care of her. Miraculously, she retained good function and mobility in the fractured leg and foot. But her left leg will always be somewhat weaker than her right. So, though fully recovered from her injuries by early January, we decided to hold Elsa until spring, so we could release her in warm weather, and with an abundant food supply, to improve her chances of survival given her handicap.
In March, we needed to prepare her for release. Because of the old leg fracture, we could not put jesses on her and use our usual method of reconditioning raptors, creance flying. Instead, we sent her to Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research Center in Newark, DE, where they kindly offered to place her in a large flight cage with other Red-shoulder and Red-tailed Hawks, and she could get flight exercise interacting with them. She was there for three weeks, and when she was ready, we retrieved her and transported her back to her home turf, where she was returned to the wild.
Today Owl Moon is celebrating the one year anniversary of the arrival of “Zen,” the Barred Owl featured on the February page of the 2013 Owl Moon Raptor Center calendar. Zen was hit by a car on the I-70 off-ramp in Mount Airy, MD on February 27, 2012. Wes rescued him on his way to work and transported him to Owl Moon. Today we are celebrating because on Monday, just two days before his anniversary, Zen returned home. He is finally flying free again!
Zen’s rehabilitation was prolonged and for much of that time we were guarded on his prognosis for a return to the wild. His left elbow was fractured, and the resulting callus reduced range of motion in that joint. We began physical therapy early, and continued even after it appeared that his flight was impaired and release was unlikely. In hindsight, we could not give him a fair flight assessment due to feather damage. Convinced that Zen was not a release candidate, we found him a permanent home as an education ambassador at Meadowside Nature Center in Rockville, MD. Before he could be placed however, Zen went through a molt which replaced his damaged feathers. With time, Zen’s flight improved. We continued to exercise and recondition him. By November his flight had improved so much that we were convinced he could survive the rigors of life in the wild.
While we love nothing more than returning the birds to the wild, it is still a bittersweet moment. When we work with a bird as long as we have Zen. We can’t help but get to know them as individuals, and grow attached. Zen is a boisterous, irrepressible soul. He served as a foster dad for “Little Bear,” an orphaned fledgling Barred owl, and a lively companion for “Lucy”, a female Barred Owl also a victim of a car collision. He was fun to work with and we will miss him. It can be difficult to trust nature to take care of those we’ve grown to love, but because of his indomitable spirit, we know Zen is where he needs to be. We wish him a full and satisfying life, and hope he will raise lots of little Zens.
Monday was a beautiful day here, made even more beautiful by witness of Zen’s release. Fortunately, my daughter Natasha was present. Using a video camera borrowed from her friend, David (thank you!), she was able to capture the happy occasion to share with all of you. Enjoy!