The Owl Moon 2014 Calendar is Here!

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I am proud to present the third annual Owl Moon Raptor Center calendar! This year’s calendar features striking images and endearing stories of some of Owl Moon’s most charismatic patients of 2013, including a Northern Saw-whet Owl, an immature Bald Eagle, a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk, and a Common Barn Owl. As in previous years, it also includes an informative Raptor Calendar with important nesting and migration dates for birds of prey in our Mid-Atlantic region.

The Owl Moon calendar makes a great gift for nature-lovers! All proceeds directly support the care of orphaned and injured birds of prey. The Owl Moon 2014 calendar is available with donations of $25 or more while supplies last. Contributors of $100 dollars or more will receive five calendars. Donate today and get your calendar in time for the holidays!

Details:

  • Dates: 12 month calendar (January 1st – December 31st, 2014)
  • Dimensions: 9×12 inches
  • Materials: Durable card stock covers with a wire binding

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Zen’s Anniversary Gift: Freedom!

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 soon after he was admitted to Owl Moon Raptor Center. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

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.

Zen (right) served as a foster dad for Little Bear. Photo by Suzanne Shoemaker

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!

The Calendars have Arrived!

A sneak peak from the 2013 Owl Moon calendar!

A sneak peak from the 2013 Owl Moon calendar!

The 2013 Owl Moon Raptor Center calendars have arrived and they look even better than last year!

Our goal is to raise $2000 by December 31st!

Every year, Owl Moon responds to hundreds of cases throughout Maryland, and into Virginia and Pennsylvania, which involve:

  • Rehabilitating injured raptors
  • Re-nesting young raptors
  • Rescuing trapped wildlife
  • Assisting other organizations with oil-spill response

We rely exclusively on donations to cover our operating costs, including medical supplies, equipment, and transportation.

Donate $25 dollars or more, and you will receive a gorgeous 2013 calendar* (five for $100) as our way of thanking you for your support.

*while supplies last

The calendar features twelve heartwarming stories about Owl Moon patients, together with twenty four evocative full-color photographs, and a Raptor Calendar: the courtship, nesting, and migration dates for raptors native to the mid-Atlantic region.

Please contribute through our Donate page and support local birds of prey!

Announcing the Owl Moon Raptor Center 2013 Calendar!

Owl Moon Raptor Center 2013 Calendar, cover. Photograph by Luis Camacho.

Owl Moon Raptor Center is excited to announce our second annual calendar! The 2013 calendar features twelve heartwarming stories about Owl Moon’s patients, together with twenty four evocative full-color photographs. Seven talented photographers contributed images to this year’s calendar. We are sure you will be delighted by the beautiful imagery and the stylistic variety!  Check out the sneak peak below.

10 great reasons to pre-order your Owl Moon Calendar today!

  1. 100% of your donation supports care and treatment for injured and orphaned birds of prey.
  2. Owl Moon is funded completely by donations…so we’d um…really like it if you donated.
  3. The calendar contains many stories and images that were not featured on the blog.
  4. Owl Moon calendars make great gifts!
  5. Do you need a calendar? Do you like awesome birds of prey? You will love this calendar.
  6. Know someone else who needs a calendar? Do they like awesome birds of prey? They will love this calendar.
  7. Have a boring empty spot on your wall? You know what’s NOT boring? Birds of prey!
  8. Need a little inspiration to get you going in the morning? Birds of prey are very motivational (just ask a mouse).
  9. C’mon! You know you want one.
  10. Please, please, pleeeeeease buy a calendar!

Calendars are only available while supplies last, so pre-order yours today!

Donate: $25 each or $100 for five

Donations can be made on our Donate page. Owl Moon is not a licensed 501(C)(3), so donations are not tax deductible.

Owl Moon Raptor Center 2013 Calendar. June. Main photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker. Inset photograph by Tony Zuccarelli.

My Visit to Owl Moon

Natasha Lewandrowski with Henry and his foster dad Root’n Toot’n. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Hello, Natasha here!

I am currently visiting my parents and Owl Moon Raptor Center at their home in Boyds. As some of you may know from my blog, I am in the process of moving from Seattle, WA, to New Brunswick, NJ with my husband, Dustin. We have been staying in Boyds for a few weeks while we search for a new apartment.

Suzanne, my mother, wasted no time in putting me to work helping with the raptors. Since I have been here I have helped her administer medications and fluids to several patients, driven two birds to Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research Center in Newark, DE, and sewn protective mosquito-net curtains for the outdoor mews to keep the birds safe from West Nile Virus, not to mention writing this blog!

West Nile Virus is spread through mosquito bites. To protect the birds we covered the mew windows in mosquito netting. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

One of the birds I drove to Tri-State was Sonya, the female Cooper’s hawk that was injured in a collision with a car back in February. Sonya has recovered from her injury, but she needs to show she is capable of catching live prey before she can be released. Sonya’s injury has permanently weakened her leg, so Suzanne canot fly her on the creance line for reconditioning. At Tri-State she will have the opportunity to prove her hunting proficiency while exercising in large outdoor flight cages.

Zen (foreground) and Little Bear (background). Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

At Owl Moon there are seven patients presently on site. Zen the barred owl is still here. Pending a permit approval, Zen will be transferred to Meadowside Nature Center in Rockville, MD where he will be used for education. There is also a young barred owl we call Little Bear. Little Bear was found orphaned and emaciated. He is healthy now, but he will stay with us until he shows he is capable of hunting on his own, and then be released near where he was found in Pasadena, MD.

Crooked Beak (left) and Bob (right) are both red-shouldered hawks. They look different because Bob is an adult and Crooked Beak is a juvenile. When Crooked Beak gets older she too will gain the rust-red chest for which her species is named. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Bob, the red-shouldered hawk is re-growing some missing tail feathers. They have started to come in and we are hopeful he will soon be ready for release. In the meantime, he shares a mew with another red-shouldered hawk, Crooked Beak, a fledgling who was found with (you guessed it) a misaligned beak. Her beak is nearly in alignment now, but we cannot release her until we are sure that it will wear properly and not overgrow after she is released.

Kite the fledgling osprey. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

A fledgling osprey we named Kite arrived on July 20th. Kite was found struggling to free himself from fishing line caught on his toe, on a tree limb 50 feet off the ground. The most recent additions arrived yesterday, July 22. The first is a fledgling male red-shouldered hawk with symptoms of West Nile Virus. He is being treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and fluids. The other new arrival is a fledgling male Cooper’s hawk. He was injured when he flew into a window. Though he does not exhibit any external injuries, he is unable to stand. We will take him to the vet for X-rays on Wednesday.

Root’n Toot’n (left) and Henry (right). Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

The most endearing patient is Henry, a fledgling screech owl. Henry came to Owl Moon on May 3rd after falling out of his nest cavity. He sustained an eye injury in the fall resulting in blindness in his right eye. His best chance to learn how to hunt would be with his parents, however, so Suzanne returned him to his nest. Unfortunately, she had to take him back when it seemed his parents had not returned to take care of him. Henry’s future is uncertain. If he shows he can hunt, he will be released. If not, he will be placed as an education bird.

For now Henry is being fostered with an adult screech owl, Root’n Toot’n. While I hope Henry can be released, I know he would make an great education bird also. He has such an endearing personality. Check out these adorable videos of him!

That brings us up to date on the current patients. We look forward to sharing many more stories of patients that have come and gone this busy nesting season in the near future!

Cheers,

Natasha

Part Three: Journey’s New Home

Journey. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

The next call concerning a grounded Great Horned Owlet came from Melinda. Her husband, an excavator, had brought home this baby from a job site in Thurmont, MD the night before. He had found it on the ground and observed one of its parents defending it from a hawk before retrieving it. Melinda fed it raw beef that evening and morning, and then had to leave it at home when she went to work. She called Second Chance later that morning and was referred to Owl Moon Raptor Center. When I spoke to Melinda I advised her of my goal to return it to its parents, either in the existing nest or an artificial one. In the interim I would pick it up and take it to Owl Moon where it would receive a complete diet of whole mice. Raw beef may be okay in an emergency, but raptor chicks need the whole animal (including bones and organs), for proper nutrition, and will quickly develop metabolic and developmental problems on a diet of raw beef. Melinda agreed, and when I picked the owlet up she told me she would call me with the address and contact information of the people who owned the property where the owlet was found.

The only word I got back was a text saying that trees were being cut down on the nest site property. The tree cutting explained why the baby ended up on the ground, but it provided no useful information for reuniting this owlet with her parents, which was still a possibility even in light of the tree cutting. Alas, this baby, only two to three weeks of age, was now officially an orphan. She needed a foster nest. An orphan can be placed with other parents as long as the chicks are close in age. The foster parents will care for it as if it is one of their own. This was a problem because it is already late in the nesting season for Great Horned Owls in our area. Most young owls, like Twilight and Gylfie, are already leaving the nest. I put out a call for help to all the birding folks I know. I got a great response, but days passed, and no suitable nest was found.  Each passing day increases the risk of a lone young orphan becoming habituated, or worse, imprinted to people. I was taking every precaution to minimize human contact, but I needed to get her with other owls soon, for this baby to have any chance of success in the wild.

Meanwhile, I had visitors! A troop of 12 young Girl Scouts (Brownies) from Iamsville, MD arranged to visit Owl Moon Raptor Center for an ambitious nest-building project. This project was the culmination of a lot of planning and organizing by the girls, and its completion would earn them their Journey Badge. They arrived on Saturday, April 14, in several vehicles, and began unloading the supplies they had gathered and purchased: 12 laundry baskets of camouflage colors, and at least that many trash bags full of green twigs and branches they had clipped from trees and shrubs in their yards. We talked about the need for these nests, and how they would be used to reunite young raptors with their parents. I showed them an example of what we were making, and they went right to work. It is not easy for little fingers to weave twigs through openings in a laundry basket and between other twigs. I was impressed by their strength and determination to do a good job, and persistence to get the job done. We opted to work in teams with parents assisting, and managed to complete seven beautiful nests in only two hours’ time! The girls lined each one with a soft bed of pine needles they gathered and carried from my neighbor’s yard with her consent.

Before we concluded, I showed them photographs of my raptor patients, including the orphaned nestling great-horned owl. I asked the girls to come up with a name for her, and after several great suggestions and discussion, they decided to call her “Journey.” It was the perfect name. The owl was just beginning her life’s journey, as the Brownies were completing their Journey Badge. I told them I hoped Journey would be the first to use one of their nests.

The troop works on nest baskets. Photograph by Pamm Shankman.

Regan and Chasie working on a nest. Photograph by Pamm Shankman.

Wendy and Valerie weaving branches. Photograph by Pamm Shankman.

Abby examines her nest. Photograph by Pamm Shankman.

Abby and Charlene test out their final product. Photograph by Pamm Shankman.

Yup! These baskets should be comfy enough for owls. Photograph by Pamm Shankman.

The troop shows off the results of their hard work. Photograph by Pamm Shankman.

After the Brownies had completed their nest baskets I brought Squeak-toy out for some job training. As an education bird he will need to be relaxed and comfortable in front of groups. Photograph by Pamm Shankman.

As luck would have it, the very next day fate intervened. I got a call from Second Chance about a baby owl found on the ground in Potomac, MD. When I returned the call I spoke with Lee, who had found it on her front walkway that morning. She was not sure what species of owl she had. As I drove to Potomac, I prayed that it would be a healthy great horned owl, the same age as Journey. Lee led me to a box they had sheltered the owlet in, under a tree in their yard. I held my breath when I looked inside. He could have been Journey’s brother!

We searched for the nest by looking on the ground for the remains of prey, such as bones, fur, and feathers, and owl droppings. It was easy to know when we found it. A good chunk of the nest was on the ground on the driveway below a tall White Pine. Owls don’t build their own nests. Instead they use the old nests of crows and hawks, which are often in pretty poor condition. What remained of this nest was at the top, in the crotch of two large limbs. We scoured the yard, and the remaining nest, for a possible sibling, as there are often two and occasionally three chicks in a brood. None were found. This made for an ideal fostering situation for Journey. We could put her in a nest basket with this owlet, who was named “Alan” by Lee’s daughter, Lily. Alan’s parents would take care of both chicks. We would have to wait until the next evening to put the nest basket in the tree, as it was too late to arrange for Jason and Mike to climb that evening. I took this Alan back to Owl Moon, and introduced him to his new sibling, Journey.

That night Journey and Alan were introduced. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Jason and Mike already had the climbing ropes in place in a tree near the nest tree when Lee Prouty and I arrived the next evening. We had decided against putting the nest basket in the original nest tree because it overhung the paved driveway. The chosen tree overhung the lawn, and would provide a soft landing should one of the owlets come down a second time. Lee (the finder) and her daughters, Lily and Lexi, looked on and took pictures while Ken Smith, a licensed raptor bander, banded both owlets. Then I gave each owlet a parting meal of mice to hold them over until mom and dad took over feeding duties.  We proceeded with re-nesting, just as we had done with Twilight and Gylfie. Only with Journey and Alan, who were about three weeks younger, we didn’t worry that they would try to “flee the scene.”  They settled into their new nest immediately.

Jason climbs the tree we have chosen to site the nest basket in. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

I hold Alan so that Ken can band him. Photograph by Ken Smith.

Journey and Alan, banded and well fed, now ready to ride up to their new nest in a soft cooler. Photograph by Ken Smith.

Lee Prouty and I hung around with Lee and Lily until after dark, watching and listening for evidence of the reunion. We heard lots of calling, both adult and juvenile over the next hour or so. Some of the calling was coming from the nest tree, which was an indication that perhaps Alan had a sibling after all. Then we saw an adult fly into the original nest and heard signs of a juvenile responding to a meal, which all but confirmed that we had inadvertently added a third chick to the brood. Great Horned Owls have triplets of their own sometimes, but I would have thought twice had I known in advance. However, under these circumstances, with no good alternative for Journey I probably would have gone ahead anyway. That evening, having just received a meal from me, Journey and Alan were quiet.

Tuesday morning, Lee, Lexi, and Lily were up early, with binoculars on the nest at first light. They “were thrilled to see the wide wingspan of the mother in the new nest attending to her baby, as well as her newly adopted baby!” Alan was back with his parents, and Journey’s new journey had begun!

Part Two: Oodles of Owlets

Twilight sitting on Jim's porch, where he was found. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Its baby season for great horned owls and that means its baby season for Owl Moon too! In the past three weeks I’ve have had four baby great horned owls come through my doors. I know I said last time this was going to be a two part story, but there so much to tell it looks like it’s going to be three parts.

The first baby great horned of the season was a “brancher” from Rockville, MD. A brancher is a baby who has graduated from the nest but is not yet able to fly. In this stage they climb around in the tree branches (hence called “branchers”), building their strength.  Branchers often wind up on the ground, and their parents will continue to feed and care for them.  Jim discovered the owlet when he arrived home from work on April 3rd. He stepped up onto his deck, and right there in front of him was a baby Great Horned Owl, perched on the railing by his back door. Jim knew what it was because he and his family had been observing them since February, when the pair built their nest.

Jim left the baby undisturbed that evening, but discovered the bird was still there the next morning as he was getting his kids ready for school. Jim was concerned for the owl’s safety, so he contacted Second Chance Wildlife Center, who referred him to me.  When I arrived, I first examined the baby owl to make sure it wasn’t injured. Jim’s son named the baby owl “Twilight,” after an owl character from the book series Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky. Twilight appeared healthy, so my next objective was to scope out his nest to see if he could be returned to it. Though their parents will tend to them on the ground, in suburbia it is best if you can get branchers back into the nest tree if possible, where they are safe from prowling pets and traffic.

The nest was intact; 80 feet high in a white oak tree, across the ninth green of the Manor Country Club Golf Course in a grove of trees a good distance behind Jim’s house. However, there were two complications. Firstly, the tree was dead. It was not safe to climb to the height of the nest.  Second, there was another baby still in the nest. This was problematic because at the branching age siblings can be spooked out of the nest when a climber approaches to put the other baby back. For the safety of the climber and Twilight’s sibling, we decided to build a replacement nest rather then put Twilight back in the original.

The original nest is visible 80 feet high in a dead oak tree. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

I built a new nest in a laundry basket with the help of Jim’s son, his wife Georgeann, and my friend Lee (also a wildlife rehabber). Owl Moon’s “re-nesting” partners, Mike Fried and Jason Beach of Comprehensive Tree Care, were prepared to take on the job.

Our standard re-nesting procedure goes like this. First, we consult with the climbers to scout the best accessible location for the new nest. Preferably we choose a place in the same tree as the original nest, but a neighboring tree can suffice for older babies. Then, Mike sets up the ropes and Jason climbs to the new nest site. We tie the nest basket to the ropes, along with tools to mount it to the tree, and send it up. With the nest mounted, Jason sends the rope down for the baby. We place the baby in a soft cooler or 5-gallon bucket covered with a towel, tie this to the rope, and send it up to Jason. Jason carefully removes the baby and places it in the nest, from below the nest if possible. Out of sight, he waits quietly to make sure the baby settles in before descending to the ground.

Mike prepares the laundry basket nest for its ascent into the tree. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Jason climbs into the tree. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Jason raises the laundry basket nest into the tree. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

The whole procedure went off without a hitch. We left that evening with Twilight safely back in his nest tree, sixty feet up in a cozy basket. His sibling was twenty feet above him in the original nest. One of the parents, who had been watching us from a distance as we worked, flew in to join the sibling in the original nest just as we were packing up to leave after dark.

One of Twilight's parents looks on as we work. The adults watch out for their babies even after they leave the nest. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

The whole thing had gone perfectly, so I was surprised when I received a call the next morning from Randy, Head of Greens at Manor Country Club, telling me there was a baby owl on the ground at the golf course. When we arrived, we discovered that is was not Twilight this time, but his sibling who had come down. Twilight was still where we left him, perched on the side of the nest basket.

Twilight peers down the from his new nest. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Both owlets coming down in such quick succession without any foul weather involved was an indication that maybe they were near enough to being fully fledged to be on the ground. As mentioned above, in the normal course of an owls’ maturation, and with great horned owls in particular, the babies often spend time on the ground between branching and being fully flighted. Their feathers provide camouflage, and their parents will lead them to cover, feed them, and defend them against predators. My concern was that their home was a golf course, with very little cover, no limbs low on the trees, and lots of golfers.

We decided to try putting Twilight’s sibling, which Jim’s son named “Gylfie” after another owl character in the series, into the nest basket with Twilight. It was risky because we would be disturbing Twilight, who had settled in nicely, but it seemed worth the risk to get Gylfie up out of harms’ way. The plan was set for the next morning. Lee and I arrived early to give Gylfie some food and fluids prior to re-nesting since it would be evening before her parents would feed her. Jason and another Mike, Mike Rice, arrived and set up the ropes, just as they had done two nights before.

The problems began at the critical moment when Jason went to put Gylfie in with Twilight.  Unfortunately, Twilight had settled on the basket perch closest to where Jason was forced (by the way the tree was configured) to approach. He would need to get past Twilight to get Gylfie into the basket. Jason’s approach was slow and careful, but the disturbance was too much, and both owlets flew from the nest.

The key word here is “flew.” These two youngsters were so close to being fully fledged, that they managed to fly a good distance before landing on the ground. Granted, theirs were not the smoothest of landings, with one rolling head over heels, but both were fine. We decided to try again. This time, with both owlets together and a towel to cover the basket until they settled down, we stood a better chance of success.

It was not to be. Gylfie flew out a second time when Jason removed the towel. Again, she landed fine. Without having an alternative solution to protect these babies on the busy golf course, we made one final attempt. It proved futile. In the end, we left Twilight in the basket, and Gylfie in the safest place we could get her to stay put; the richly-landscaped backyard of James and Georgeann.

Lee Prouty holds Gylfie as we prepare to put them both back in the nest basket. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

We returned at dusk, hoping to get Gylfie into the lower branches of the trees. Gylfie, however, was not to be found. We learned that the landscape maintenance crew had come through that day, and the disturbance undoubtedly sent Gylfie into a neighboring yard. The fact that we didn’t find her does not mean that she was in danger, however. She was following the normal course of events for a growing owl. She was big enough and a strong enough flyer to face the world with the help of her parents, who were no doubt standing by. She made up her own mind; it was time to leave the nest. Among the greenery in the yards surrounding the golf course, there is plenty of vegetation in which a young owl can hide. With their strong talons and wings to propel them, young owls can even climb the trunks of trees like a cat, and get themselves into the lower branches.

Two days later, Twilight left his nest basket and presumably joined Gylfie. James or Georgeann have not seen them since, but we know Gylfie and Twilight have two healthy parents looking out for them. Their parents will keep them in cover, and continue to feed and watch over them. Sometimes you just have to trust Mother Nature.