Track & Field

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“Track” (front) and “Field” were both weak and dehydrated when they were admitted to Owl Moon Raptor Center. You can see Field was the larger and stronger of the two.

The Poolesville High School Track and Field Team were training cross country on Thursday, April 26th, when they found two tiny young hatchling Black Vultures. They picked them and brought them to Poolesville Veterinary Clinic for care. Poolesville veterinarians and staff examined them and could see that the younger of the two, we called “Track” was weak and dehydrated. They put him in an oxygen chamber to help him breathe. The second, older and larger chick, “Field”, was livelier, and showed an appetite by begging behavior. They called us at Owl Moon to see if we could admit the two babies for care. We retrieved them from the clinic and gave each of them a dose of warm fluids under the skin to rehydrate and warm them. Later we offered them food. Little Track was still weak and would not accept food, but Field was interested and took several bites before falling asleep. Sadly, when we checked on the chicks early the next morning, April 27th, we discovered poor Track had passed away overnight. Field, on the other hand, was stronger, livelier, and hungrier.

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Field was much brighter, stronger, and with a bigger, better appetite the next day.

We had not received the full story of where, and under what circumstances, the track team had found the two chicks, and as always, we wanted to get the healthy baby back into the care of his parents as soon as possible. We called the high school in an effort to reach the students who had found the chicks and learn these important facts.  The staff  were very helpful, and the track team was happy to show us where they had discovered them. They were found under a shrub next to a busy road near the center of Poolesville, MD. There was no evidence of a nest there, but there was evidence of a recent nest in a nearby open and abandoned garage. The tiny hatchlings had could not have found their own way out, so we could only conclude that someone had removed them and placed them under the shrub. It was not safe to return little Field to his parents under these circumstances. It was time to activate Plan B. We were determined to find him a nest and vulture parents, because a chick raised by people starting at such a young age would likely become imprinted on people (no matter how well we disguised ourselves), and not be able to live in the wild.

We knew of a Black Vulture nest in previous years, in a silo on a farm in Tuscarora, MD. We went there to scout it out and see if the adults had returned, and if so, had successfully hatched chicks, how many, and of what age. We needed a near-perfect match, and we got one! There were two Black Vulture chicks, both slightly older than Field, in a well tended nest in the bottom of the silo. A perfect situation for fostering, because we do not want to endanger a successful nest by adding a bigger and stronger chick, but these chicks were all close in age and in a safe place where food is plentiful. So we plopped Field down, backed off, and observed.

This video was started right after Field was introduced to the nest. He immediately begins to beg food from the older chicks. They both respond with a firm no, but Field is strong and not deterred!

The beak grabbing and shaking goes on, until they seem to gain an understanding of the “pecking order”. No one is hurt, and evidently no feelings are hurt, as when we left all three were at peace. We cheerfully watched mom re-enter the silo from the outside, and feel good about Field’s and his new siblings’ chances of a successful upbringing.

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March is Bald Eagle Month!

On the Monday morning of March 5th, John was walking behind his house in Keedysville, MD when he noticed something strange on his back deck, unmoving. As he approached he realized it was an adult bald eagle, and by all appearances it was dead. But when John got closer he could see it was breathing. He went back inside and called Owl Moon Raptor Center. We were able to admit the eagle for care, but had no one available to conduct a field rescue. We contacted MD Natural Resources Police (NRP) to request assistance. NRP Officer Tanner Brown was able to capture the eagle by laying a large quilt over it. He transferred the bird to NRP Wildlife Technician Samatha Hopkins, who transported him (an adult male) to Owl Moon. During transport the eagle thrashed around, but was unable to stand.

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The bald eagle as John found him on his deck.  Photo by John Janke

When the eagle arrived at Owl Moon he was lying flat in the box, unmoving, much as John had observed. His body was limp, his head flopped, and his eyes were glazed and sunken, indicating severe dehydration. There were no signs of trauma, and his condition suggested poisoning. We injected a large dose of fluids under the eagle’s skin, which would help him recover from dehydration and, if we could keep him alive, begin to flush the toxin through his system. We drew blood for testing. The first toxin that comes to mind in the case of scavengers such as eagles and vultures is lead, but our in-house blood lead test proved negative, so we sent the blood to a lab for further testing. We were not hopeful we could save him.

But later that day the eagle was up on his feet. By evening his eyes were noticeably less sunken, and his muscles stronger. We continued fluid therapy, and on Day Two the eagle began to perch, his eyes looked brighter, and he took several bites of food from us.  We were becoming more optimistic as we awaited his blood test results.

 

 

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On day two, volunteer Andi Chesser holds the eagle for fluid therapy. He is beginning to respond to treatment. Photo by Sherrie Musick

We received the blood test results on Day Three. Results were inconclusive. However, by this time our research suggested that the eagle may have ingested a near lethal dose of phenobarbital, the chemical used to euthanize animals (Phenobarbitol testing was not a part of lab work). It is possible that a livestock animal had been euthanized and the carcass left in the field where scavengers who fed on it would be secondarily poisoned. This is illegal, but it happens. We reported our suspicions to MD Natural Resources Police so that they could investigate the possibility. Meanwhile, fluid therapy was clearly helping the eagle recover, so we continued administering fluids even as he began to eat a normal diet on his own. By Thursday, Day Four, the eagle was bright and alert, and rambunctious in his indoor housing. It was time to take him outdoors and see if he was capable of flight by testing him on a creance line.

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From left to right, volunteers Tim Muhich, Amy Rembold, and Jaci Rutiser run the creance flying session.

 

He was! He flew so well that we made the decision to release him as soon as possible so that he could quickly return to his (presumed) mate and maybe their nest could be saved. But one more step was required. The eagle’s feathers were so tattered from his ordeal that many of them needed replacing before he could meet the challenges of life in the wild. We replace damaged feathers with healthy intact feathers by a process called “imping.” Imping is an ancient procedure developed by falconers. It uses a peg or “pin” inserted into the hollow shaft of the trimmed off damaged feather to replace it with the same, healthy feather of a “donor” bird. In our case, the donor is a bird of the same species and size, who sadly died or required humane euthanasia due to its injuries. We see this as a way of saving one bird with a part of another, less fortunate one, allowing both birds to fly free again in spirit.

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Bald Eagle primary feathers are prepared for imping. Photo by Kiley Haberman

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Tim Muhich imps a feather while Amy Rembold holds the eagle. Photo by Kiley Haberman

 

 

The eagle’s damaged feathers were imped on Friday, Day 5, and early on Saturday, March 10th, Amy and her family, along with John, released him back to the wild in his home territory. He flew off fast and purposefully and we hope reunited with a mate!

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The bald eagle is released by Amy and flies off in the distance. Photos by John Janke

 

 

The very next day, March 11, we received another eagle call…

Stay tuned for March is Bald Eagle Month Part II!

Taco and Peanut Butter

When winter storm “Riley” brought record breaking winds through our area last Friday, we crossed our fingers. Raptor nesting season is underway here in Maryland, and we hoped that the nests and babies would stay in place.

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Photo by Andi Chesser

On Monday, March 5th, we received our first baby raptor call of the season. Steve McCormick, Golf Course superintendant at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, had found two Great Horned Owl nestlings at the foot of a damaged white pine tree on the course.

Steve told his children about the owlets and his five-year-old son promptly named them “Taco” and “Peanut Butter” (Taco being the larger of the two). We made arrangements to meet with Steve and transfer the owlets to Owl Moon Raptor Center, where we could examine them carefully for injuries.

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Photo by Andi Chesser

Taco and Peanut Butter were fine, fat, and healthy. It was clear they had received parental care despite the mishap.

We called Comprehensive Tree Care, our caring and dependable “tree guys,” to help us return the owlets to their parents. Then, we constructed a new nest for them using a laundry basket. The young owlets received several meals over the next 24 hours, and spent the night at Owl Moon.

On Tuesday, arborist Jason Beach climbed 35 feet up and secured the the nest basket in the nest tree. Then Taco and Peanut Butter were elevated up the tree in a protective bag, and placed in the nest with some dinner. Though not seen, we believe mom and dad were watching from a safe distance. Steve, along with several other enthusiastic golf course staff were also watching, and agreed to monitor the nest. Today, they observed the parents watching the nest, and confirmed that Taco and Peanut Butter are safe and active, popping their heads up to where they could be viewed.

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Taco and Peanut Butter in the nest basket. Photo by Jason Beach.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Written by volunteer Amy Rembold

It’s that time of year when family and friends join together to honor the tradition of Thanksgiving. We at Owl Moon Raptor Center are a family that comes together daily to work to save raptors that are sick or injured. Our director, Suzanne Shoemaker, spends every day (minus the rare days away), from morning until night, taking care of these incredible birds of prey. Volunteers come in to clean cages, help hold birds to administer medications and other treatments, prepare food, or fly the birds on a creance line to recondition them for release. Others transport birds to the center at all hours, and finally help with the release. There are a million other tasks that our partners accomplish.  Veterinarians such as those at Bennett Creek Animal Hospital and Eye Care For Animals provide birds with x-rays, examinations, and surgeries and other procedures. Arborists such as those at Comprehensive Tree Care help us rescue birds entangled in fishing line in trees, and return fallen nestlings to their nests to rejoin their families. There are so many to thank!

 

So far in 2017, Owl Moon has admitted well over 200 birds of prey needing our attention, and the numbers are increasing every year. We are dependent on our “family” which includes you, the concerned citizens who notify us of an injured raptor, rescue and transporters that drive many miles to move the injured raptor to Owl Moon, our director and volunteers who work tirelessly to provide the best care for the injured patient for the ultimate goal of returning the bird back into the wild, and finally the donors that provide us with the means to pay for medicine, medical care, food and the supplies that are essential for the everyday care of these magnificent birds.

We thank you and the raptors thank you! Happy Thanksgiving!!! We hope you enjoy your feast as much as this owl enjoys his (Warning: this video is not for the squeamish)!

 

The 2018 Owl Moon Calendar has gone to press!

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Our 2018 Owl Moon calendar is again one you will be proud to display in your home or office, and give as a gift to friends and family this holiday season. As in the past, the 2018 Owl Moon Calendar features wonderful images and stories of some of the owl, hawk, falcon, and eagle patients that have come through our rehabilitation center this year, as well as a “raptor calendar” describing what is happening in the raptor world each month.

This year’s calendar will be slightly smaller than in recent years, and will be bound by saddle-stitching and staples, rather than a spiral binding. These changes allow us to save on printing and mailing costs so that more of your donation can go to the care and treatment of the birds of prey that come to us in need.

The 2018 calendar features stories about “Chessie”, an adult osprey who recovered from fractures in both her shoulders and was able to fly free again, and “Wilbur, a young Great Horned Owl who survived West Nile Virus. and many more.

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2018 Calendars are available for a donation of $25 for one or $100 for five.

Please specify (in the comments after you donate online) if would like a calendar with your donation, and how many.  Thank you!

You can receive your calendar in person with a donation at the Owl Moon Raptor Festival at Black Hill Regional Park, 12pm-4pm on November 12th (see post below), or…

Donate online or mail your check to:

Owl Moon Raptor Center
20201 Bucklodge Rd.
Boyds, MD 20841

Features:

  • Nesting and migration dates for Mid-Atlantic birds of prey
  • 12 stories
  • 24 full-color images
  • Card stock covers
  • Saddle stitched and stapled binding
  • 8.75 x 11.5 inches
  • Tax deductible
  • All proceeds support the care of the birds!

Owl Moon is a registered 501(c)(3) and all donations are tax deductible.

Come One Come All!

We are pleased and proud to announce our 4th Annual Owl Moon Raptor Festival coming up on Sunday, November 12th from noon to 4 pm. Many thanks to our friends at Montgomery Parks- Black Hill Regional Park Nature Center for offering to host us again this year. Of course, we could not do this event without the help of Adventures With Raptors, who will be there with their many Owls, Hawks, and Falcons to provide close up viewing and photography, as well as exciting flight demonstrations! There will be plenty of fun and educational activities for the enjoyment of kids of all ages, and you can learn about Owl Moon Raptor Center‘s work to help injured, sick, and orphaned birds of prey from all over Maryland. We are close to breaking our own 2016 record of 204 injured raptors admitted, including several Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons. We appreciate your contributions to help us keep up with the needs of our Maryland birds of prey. This year has been a particularly bad one for cases of West Nile Virus, which is often fatal in birds. We are currently treating four Great Horned Owls we suspect are victims of this virus.

Please join us this year for another wonderful opportunity to have adventures with raptors and support the important work we do at Owl Moon to save the owls, hawks, and falcons that come in harms way. And please share this post and spread the word to your friends and family! Thank you!!!

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Turkey Vulture Shooting Victim

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A recent call from a citizen concerned about a vulture with an injured wing resulted in our newest patient. The adult female turkey vulture was hiding under the gentleman’s car, and when he turned his back, she ran into his garage and took refuge there. He  wasn’t sure he liked the guest in his garage, but he heeded our advice to close the garage door, with the guarantee that an Owl Moon volunteer would remove the vulture in a timely manor. Vultures are very fast on their feet, and can leap over 5 foot fences, so even a vulture that can’t fly can require an army to capture. Having her confined in a garage would be a huge help. Our volunteer, Amy, arrived and caught the injured vulture, boxed her, and transported her to Owl Moon Raptor Center. Upon examination, we determined that she had a fracture in the metacarpal bones of the outer right wing. We took her to Bennett Creek Animal Hospital for x-rays. The radiographs confirmed that she had been shot, which caused the fracture, and excruciating pain. We cleaned and treated the wound, and devised a splint to stabilize the fractured bone. We applied the splint with tape, and bandaged the wing to immobilize it and make her more comfortable. She is receiving pain medicine and antibiotics, as well as regular bandage changes and physical therapy.

This turkey vulture was found in a residential neighborhood in Laurel, MD, and is not likely to have traveled far in her condition. We suspect she was shot in or near this neighborhood. It is illegal to shoot any birds of prey, and this includes vultures. This case was reported to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and MD Department of Natural Resources Police.

A few interesting facts about Turkey Vultures and why they are important in our environment include the following:

  • Being carrion feeders (scavengers), Turkey Vultures serve the important purpose of cleaning up our roadkill deer and other carrion. A world without vultures would be a world littered with the carcasses of dead animals.
  • The Turkey Vulture, unlike most birds, has a highly developed sense of smell. Their sense of smell is so keen that they “can detect the scent of rotting flesh in concentrations as tiny as a few parts per billion in the air” and find food that has been hidden under leaves, according to a study done by scientists with the Smithsonian Institute. Their smell is so much better than their Black Vulture cousins, that Black Vultures watch for where Turkey Vultures fly in circles above a dead animal and then swoop in to partake in the carrion feast.
  • Turkey Vultures cannot sing, since they have no vocal cords, but rather make a gutteral hissing sound that sounds like a mad dragon.
  • They are the most migratory vulture species in North America.
  • They are very large birds and, while flying, are commonly mistaken for eagles. Turkey vultures soar with few wing flaps and hold their wings in a slight “V” position.

We usually do not know what happened to the raptors that come into our care, but we know that vultures often choose the trees and roofs of homes in suburban neighborhoods for roosting, sometimes in large numbers. They can make quite a mess with their droppings. We know this habit can make a homeowner unhappy, and some will take up firearms to rid themselves of this nuisance. Shooting a vulture or two won’t solve the problem, and there are alternative and lawful ways to discourage a vulture roost.

In the article “If You Can’t Live With Turkey Vultures Get Them to Move” written by Andrea Kitay in the LA Times on July 02, 2000, many ways to discourage vulture roosts are suggested, some of which include the following:

According to Noel Myers, staff wildlife biologist at the USDA’s Wildlife Services in Sacramento, California, the remedies they are confined to include eliminating or thinning trees the birds are roosting in, or simply harassing them away.  Myers suggests using a high-pressure water spray, loud noises like sirens and honking sounds–or even firecrackers if they are legal where you live.  Generally, turkey vultures leave their roosts in the morning to search out food. They may spend the day loafing on roofs, poles, the ground, spa and boat covers—even patio furniture. You’ll want to begin your harassment routine in the late afternoon, when the first birds begin to return to the roost. Be persistent. Turkey vultures can get pretty entrenched in their roost, so you may have great difficulty convincing them to go. And then, if they do, they may only move next door.
For further information on vulture deterrents please reference the following website:

https://turkeyvulturesociety.wordpress.com/quick-facts/discouraging-vultures/

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the Owl Moon Raptor Festival on Sunday, November 12, 2017 from noon to 4 pm at Black Hills Regional Park Nature Center.

Turkey Vulture

We are wrapping the vulture’s fractured wing to her body after splinting the fractured bone. This will immobilize the wing so it will heal, and support it for her comfort. We wear gloves to control her head (beak) and protect ourselves from her bite, which is capable of  can tearing bites from a deer carcass and can hurt us too! 

Great Horned Owl Rescued From Entanglement in Fishing Line

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Monofilament fishing line that is left out in the environment is a danger to wildlife. Our most recent patient is a female Great-Horned Owl who was found dangling from a tree with her left wing wrapped in fishing line. Lucky for her, a kind-hearted fisherman found her, cut her free, and brought her to Owl Moon for rehabilitation. She was completely exhausted and dehydrated, and being a heavy bird, her wing was badly strained from her struggle to free herself. We have rehydrated her and bandaged the injured wing to give it rest. We are hoping that the damage to her shoulder from the stress of hanging can heal, and we can get her back to the wild where she belongs. Without the thoughtfulness of this kind-hearted fisherman, this beautiful bird would have suffered a horrific death. If you should encounter fishing line in nature, please collect it and dispose of it properly. Your actions could save a life!

The Owl Moon 2017 Calendar is Here!

The 2017 Owl Moon Raptor Center calendar has arrived! Pick up your copy at the Owl Moon Raptor Center Festival on November 13th or donate online to receive your copy in time for the holidays!

This year’s calendar features stories about a bald eagle rescued from a soccer net and five barred owls who formed a makeshift family during their stay at Owl Moon.

As always, 100 percent of donations go toward the care and support of the birds. Owl Moon is a registered 501(c)(3) and all donations are tax deductible.

Owl Moon Raptor Festival

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Join us, rain or shine, for the third annual Owl Moon Raptor Festival. There will be live bird demonstrations from Adventures with Raptors, photo opportunities, games and activities for kids, and food and fun for the whole family! Admission is free!

Sunday, November 13th, 2016
Noon to 4:00 pm
Black Hills Regional Park Nature Center
20930 Lake Ridge Dr. Boyds, MD 20841

Our 2017 calendar will be available for sale along with our first ever festival T-shirt.
Tax-deductible donations will be gratefully accepted to provide for the treatment and rehabilitation of injured and sick raptors.

Owl Moon Raptor Center is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)3 non-profit.

Festival photo by Rakesh Subramanian.