Part One: A Rare Visitor

Elfie squints against the wind. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

The onset of “baby season,” and the addition of several new patients, have made for a busy and exciting three weeks at Owl Moon Raptor Center. So much has happened since my last post that I’m going to break up this update into two. This post will focus on new and existing patients. Part two will tell the stories of some baby owls we helped reunite with their families.

I am especially excited to share one of the newbies with you. Elfie is a long-eared owl, which is a species I have never encountered before in my career as a wildlife rehabilitator. The Long-eared owl is not considered a native of Maryland. Its range extends mostly north and west of us. MD Department of Natural Resources rates Long-eared owls in the state’s Rare, Threatened, or Endangered Species List as SH: historically known from Maryland but not verified for an extended period of time usually 20 or more years), with the expectation that it may be rediscovered.  Even in their normal range, long-eared owls are not often seen. They are strictly nocturnal, and very secretive.

Elfie was found by Diane on the ground just outside her fenced backyard in Gaithersburg, MD on March 22nd. Elfie may well have been just passing through on northward migration when an accident befell her. It was Diane’s dog barking and the ruckus the crows were making that drew her attention to Elfie.  She acted quickly, placing the owl in a box and transporting it to Second Chance Wildlife Center. Second Chance examined, took X-rays and treated the owl for three days before transferring her to Owl Moon on March 25th.

The X-rays showed nothing remarkable, but it became evident by observation that Elfie had suffered a soft-tissue injury in her right shoulder. The evidence was in her “threat posture.” When a grounded owl feels threatened, their normal response is to try and look bigger and more threatening by raising and turning both wings forward-facing, and clapping their beaks. When Elfie tries to look bigger, only one wing comes up, on her good left side.  We placed her on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to reduce her pain and inflammation, and kept her confined to encourage her to rest her injured shoulder for a full three weeks.

This week we began giving her short exercise sessions on a creance line to see how she’s coming along and to help her begin to stretch and return to full health, we hope. It is difficult to say if she will have a complete recovery after only two flying sessions, but I am optimistic. She is not gaining much altitude, but flies a good distance before landing. Her right wing is slightly off, but overall her flight is balanced, and we know she is capable of full range of motion in both wings. Only time will tell, and we will keep you posted.

Elfie shows off the long "ears" for which her species is named. They are not actually ears, but rather tufts of feathers on the top of the head. Her real ears are not visible under all her feathers. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

The shape of Elfie's face changes dramatically depending on the posture of her "ears." Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Elfie looks quite different when her "ears" are down. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Elfie's shoulder injury is revealed in her defensive posture. In a healthy owl both wings would be up like the one on the right, but Elfie's injury prevents her from lifting the other wing. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Unfortunately, two other new patients did not make it, but I will tell you about them because I feel that all my patients deserve to have their stories told. The same day we received Elfie, Frederick County Animal Control Officer Michael Douglas brought me a beautiful adult male red-shouldered hawk. It was apparent that this bird had been grounded for some time, unable to hunt. He was weak and emaciated, and his right wing was broken. I could feel a callus already forming near the wrist joint. I knew the damage was severe and this bird had suffered a lot already, so I brought him directly to Second Chance for an x-ray. What I didn’t know until I saw the films, was that the damage was caused by a gunshot. The shot had broken bones in two places on the end of the wing, one right at the wrist joint. There was no possible way to repair the damage, and sadly, euthanasia was the only humane option. I reported our findings to Officer Douglas and State and Federal authorities. Officer Douglas is doggedly investigating a solid lead in the case. I wish him success and hope that justice prevails.

The other sad case was an adult female barred owl, found by Georgina in a bamboo thicket behind her house in Rockville, MD. Like Diane, it was her dog that first alerted her to the owl. I picked the owl up and brought her back to Owl Moon. She was thin, weak, and dehydrated, but there was no evidence of trauma. She was experiencing respiratory distress, so I treated her with an NSAID and gave her a good dose of fluids to rehydrate her. Sadly she passed away during the night. Respiratory distress can be caused by toxic substances such as lead and rat poisons, which are increasingly common in our environment, and likely to wind up in raptors through the food chain. Because the cause of this owl’s death was a mystery, I asked Dr. Pierce at the MD Department of Health Laboratory in Frederick to perform a necropsy.  She kindly agreed, and though she was unable to find any gross lesions, she sent tissues out for histopathology and toxicology testing. I have not yet received a report of the results.

Now for some updates to the patients you know. On March 27th two of our red-shouldered hawks, Soldier-girl and Rufus, were transferred to Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research Center. We had done for them as much as we could do at Owl Moon. Both birds needed to be live-prey tested in a large flight cage before we could be sure they could hunt successfully with their respective handicaps: Soldier-girl’s being a weakened grip in the left foot, and Rufus’s being his missing right eye.  If these two could prove they could hunt, they would be reconditioned and released.

Dr. Erica Miller, an avian specialist, examined Rufus prior to prey testing. What she found was not good. His left, and only remaining eye was visually impaired. It, too, must have been injured by the vehicle impact that ruined his right eye.  The news was devastating. We had all grown fond of him. However, it did explain the observations I had noted about his behavior in the mew. He was more likely to fly into things, such as perches and walls, than the other red-shoulders, and he often perched with his blind eye oriented toward me. Of course, being blind in one eye might be enough to explain some crashing, but I have released other birds that were blind or impaired in one eye, who could still navigate around a mew and catch live prey. Tri-State went ahead with live-prey testing, but sadly, Rufus began losing weight after four days with access to live prey. They decided to euthanize, and sadly I agreed. In light of the new information, and with knowledge that his disposition was not suited to life in captivity, I knew there could be no satisfactory life for him.

Fortunately, there was good news from Tri-State as well. Soldier-girl, the juvenile red-shouldered hawk I have been nursing along for months following her nasty leg fracture, caught and killed three live mice on her first day out in the flight cage. That’s the way it is supposed to be done! So Soldier-girl is now on the fast track to release, and you can be sure I will be there to witness and photograph the event. I plan to bring her back to Owl Moon for the occasion.

Zen appears calm now, but don't be fooled. He is one feisty owl when it comes time for his physical therapy sessions. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Sonya is much happier now that she is out in the mew. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Meanwhile at OMRC, Squeak-toy, the juvenile male red-shouldered hawk still shares a mew with Bob, the adult male. Squeak-toy is due to be transferred to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary this month. His new home is ready and his transfer awaits only the final approval of their permit, which was caught up in a backlog of paperwork at the US Fish and Wildlife Permitting Office.  Bob is doing well and receiving regular flight exercise to recondition him for release, though his release may be held up until he grows in a few tail feathers. He arrived in rehab short four feathers on the right side, and he has yet to grow them in. He would have difficulty steering with such an asymmetric tail; so we’d like to see some feather replacement before we turn him loose.

Zen, the barred owl who was hit by a car in Mt. Airy, MD and suffered a fracture of the process of his left elbow, is barely tolerating his daily physical therapy (PT) sessions and every other day creance flying exercise. His name,  which seemed so fitting when he arrived, has proved to be somewhat ironic. I have never known a more rascally and determined barred owl! Each time I go to catch him for his PT session; I grit my teeth and prepare for his latest evasive action. Unfortunately, Zen’s elbow therapy is proving to be a losing battle. The callus that formed around the fractured chip has grown large, and impedes the action of the elbow joint, reducing extension of his wing by more than 25 degrees. The result is that he will never fly well enough for release.  Fortunately, his bold and mischievous personality makes him a good candidate for education.  Unfortunately for Zen, Barred owls are not in short supply. If you would like to help find Zen a home please inquire at your local nature center.

Sonya, the adult Cooper’s Hawk that was hit by a car, resulting in a compound fracture in her left leg (tibiotarsus), is finally outdoors in a mew. She is much happier there. She was so stir crazy that I only kept her confined indoors for five days following her pin removal on March 22nd. Sonya still has a way to go before we can consider her a release candidate. She does not bear full weight on the leg, nor does she grip perches with that foot yet, but she is gradually improving in both areas, and as long as she is improving there is hope. I remember when Soldier-girl was at this stage of recovery and it was difficult to imagine her ever being ready for release.

That brings us up to date on the patients. I can’t wait to share with you the pictures and videos of the adorable baby owlets.

-Suzanne Shoemaker

Birding in the Atchafalaya Basin

Norbert and his lucky crew of six, about to set off on our boat tour.

The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) 2012 Symposium was every bit as gratifying as I had hoped. The first day, Tuesday, was a long one however. I had to leave my house at 4:30 am to catch a 7 am flight to Baton Rouge, LA via Charlotte, NC. My friend and fellow rehabber, Roxy Brandenburg, was on the same flight, and we were both excited to be arriving in time for a tour of Cypress Island Swamp. The Nature Conservancy manages Cypress Island Preserve; 9500 acres of cypress and tupelo trees dripping with Spanish moss, and bottomland hardwood forests at Lake Martin. The preserve is part of the Atchafalaya Basin; America’s largest river basin swamp.

You could mistake this alligator for just another hummock in the swamp. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Cypress and Tupelo trees draped in Spanish Moss and their beautiful shimmering reflection in the swamp water. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Atchafalaya Basin branches off the Mississippi River and extends 135 miles to Atchafalaya Bay, where it eventually empties into the Gulf of Mexico. You may remember hearing about it last spring, when the Mississippi River was flooding its banks and there was talk of opening up the floodgates into Atchafalaya Basin to save many homes and towns from the floodwaters. The growing delta of the Atchafalaya River is the destination of thousands of water birds that migrate along the Mississippi Flyway. More than 300 species overwinter in the diverse habitats it offers, and hundreds more use these habitats to sustain them on their migration to points further south in Mexico and South America. For more information about this incredibly important wetland check out this website: http://www.basinkeeper.org/.

Roxy and I arrived in Baton Rouge in time to dump our bags at the hotel and grab a quick lunch (our first taste of the incredible Cajun cuisine that was to be another highlight of the NWRA Symposium) before catching the tour shuttle. Unfortunately the early morning flight caught up with me. I fell asleep on the bus and missed most of the scenery en route to the swamp. I awoke as we passed through a quaint little town called Breaux Bridge, which proclaims itself the “Crawfish Capitol of the World,” and is full of history and local culture including antique shops, beautiful architecture, restaurants, and live music. I wish I could have stayed and visited, but from there it was a only a short drive to the Cyprus Island Swamp. http://tourism.breauxbridgelive.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=43

Our first stop was The Nature Conservancy’s Cypress Island Visitor’s Center, where we disembarked for a quick bathroom break. Most of us, eager to go back to where we had just passed hundreds of Great Egrets in the trees and on nests, got right back on the bus to proceed, but I later learned that one person was rewarded for her dallying. She walked down to the water’s edge where she disturbed a black snake napping on the shore. When she got out her camera to take a picture, the snake opened its jaws to reveal an enormous “cotton” mouth. She had inadvertently disturbed a Water Moccasin, and had snapped a great photo of its signature mouth!

A Great Egret in hunting mode. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Back at the rookery, a Audubon Society volunteer had kindly set up about 8 spotting scopes in a row, each one focused on a fascinating sight in the swamp, including an Alligator, a Snapping Turtle, a Brown Water Snake in shed, a Great Egret displaying his incredible plumage to the females, a Little Blue Heron, a Roseate Spoonbill, an Anhinga, and a Crested Cormorant. The birds he had focused on were among hundreds that had already arrived and begun the ritual of courtship and nesting. He told us that, in the next month, these hundreds will become thousands, and more species, including Cattle and Snowy Egrets, White Ibis, Little Green and Great Blue Herons, and Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night Herons will arrive, and the young will be hatching and visible in the nests. What a sight that will be! http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/louisiana/placesweprotect/cypress-island.xml

A Great Egret in breeding plumage, getting set to display. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

A Little Blue Heron flew into a tree when we passed him in the boat. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Roseate Spoonbill in flight over the swamp rookery. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Anhinga in flight. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

A Crested Cormorant. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

From there we drove a short piece down the road to the docks and broke into smaller groups for our boat tour. I managed to place myself in the smallest boat, a group of six, and we followed Norbert, our 76 year-old native “swamper” guide, to board. My pictures tell the rest of the story. We saw many of the above-named birds in hunting mode, and alligators and turtles galore. The sun had just emerged following a day of record rains (up to 15 inches!) and the reptiles were out basking. The alligators ranged in size from about 8 feet to 14 feet, and Norbert explained that the age difference was roughly 100 years! An 8-footer being 50 years old, while a 14-footer is 150.

A fourteen and a half footer, about 150 years old, probably the oldest alligator we saw. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

A lazy alligator (about 8 feet long and 50 years old), wondering if we dare disturb his rest. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

One of the oldest of the alligators we saw, showing his age by the "double chin", and the classic "crocodile smile." Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Turtles galore, covered in algae, out basking in the sun after a day of record rainfall. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Midway through the tour, Norbert parked the boat in some floating water hyacinth (an extremely invasive non-native plant that requires intense management to keep waterways open), and showed us the minute flowers of Spanish Moss, and how they pollinate by wind. In our nearby surroundings, we saw a 6-foot alligator, a “chameleon” Green Anole Lizard change color, and another Brown Water Snake.

A Green Anole Lizard turned brown in perfect camouflage against the bark of the Cypress. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Norbert then got out some tattered clippings of a National Geographic article that showed him as a younger man in the swamp. He had grown up in the swamp, and raised his own kids on a diet of wild swamp critters, including alligators, turtles, beaver, and raccoon.  Last but not least, Norbert pulled out a jug of his very own Moonshine, and poured each of us a shot! It was surprisingly good!

Norbert, our tour guide, showing us that it was an appropriate time (somewhere) for him to share a taste of his very own moonshine! Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Finally, Norbert took us to where a few spectacular trees, less desirable as timber due to their prolific branches, grew to the ripe old age of 1500 years!  He explained that Cypress is extremely slow growing due to its wet growing conditions, so while these trees have an enormous girth of 10+ feet, they are deceptively old for their size. We also saw the Cypress “knees”, an emergent part of the roots that allow the trees to breathe air, and Norbert explained how the knees are desirable for creating elaborate carvings, and so most had been cut. Somehow the trees had managed to live on. That concluded our wonderful boat tour, and we returned to the docks to board our bus for the ride back to the hotel.

An ancient Cypress tree, roughly 1500 years. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Cypress knees, emergent roots that allow the trees to breathe in an aquatic environment, prized by woodcarvers. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

One of our tour guide, Norbert's, favorite old Cypress trees, because "it looks like it is smiling." Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

The next day, Wednesday, the NWRA Symposium kicked off with an awesome keynote speech and slide presentation given by C.C. Lockwood, a free-lance photographer who spent the better part of the last thirty years living in the Atchafalaya Basin and photographing its unique flora and fauna. He has written several incredible books and produced an award-winning film on the Basin, published by National Geographic.  It turns out that it was C.C. Lockwood who had photographed Norbert as a young man, in the old tattered National Geographic clippings he so proudly shared with us. C.C. Lockwood’s latest honor is that one of his photographs; of Cypress trees set against a beautiful sky reflected in the water, was selected for the US Postage Stamp celebrating the 200th Anniversary of Louisiana Statehood.  It will soon be available at your local post office.

These were two highlights of the Symposium for me, but it was only the beginning of a week of superb presentations and informative discussion about a wide range of important topics relating to wildlife rehabilitation ranging from Care of Opossum Neonates and Rehabilitating Sea Turtles to acquiring fish and insects for feeding wildlife, and Getting the Most out of Eagle Scout Projects. Some of my favorite presentations were Physical Therapy in Aquatic Birds (easily translated for use in raptors), Treatment of Lead Intoxication in Bald Eagles (over 85% of all the Bald Eagle patients received at The University of Minnesota Raptor Center have at least some lead in their blood, and most have clinical signs of lead poisoning), Strigiformes – Why Owls Aren’t Just Raptors by Another Name, Infectious Diseases of Raptors, Reuniting and Fostering Raptors, Triaging Injured Wildlife, and Beyond the Individual – Rehabilitation of Species, a thought-provoking presentation and discussion about the difficult choices required to save a species.

I’m sure that, as 2012 unfolds, you will hear more about my experiences and education at the 2012 NWRA Symposium. Meanwhile, I have returned to Maryland and Owl Moon where I am enthused and invigorated to get back to the work of rehabilitating raptors!

-Suzanne Shoemaker

Week of the Red-Shouldered Hawks: March 12, 2012

Squeak-toy and Bob. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

On February 26 I was enjoying an unusually leisurely Sunday when I received a call from Officer Douglas of Frederick County Animal Control. He had picked up an injured hawk and wanted to know if I could receive it. Half hour later he delivered to me a juvenile male Red-shouldered Hawk. It was immediately obvious that the little guy’s injuries were serious. His left foot had several punctures, and the whole foot was infected and swollen to the point of disfigurement. His wounds were probably a week old, and he was severely dehydrated and emaciated from being unable to hunt and take care of himself over that time.

The puncture wounds appeared to be the work of a prey animal; most likely a squirrel. If the hawk does not land on the squirrel’s head and kill it quickly, the squirrel can get the upper hand. Fighting back with all the power of its nut-cracking teeth and jaws, a squirrel can be a formidable opponent to a small hawk such as a Red-shouldered. This hawk, in his youthful naiveté, had apparently made the mistake of holding on too long and his would-be prey got a hold of him. I started him on antibiotics and pain meds, cleaned his wounds, and began fluid therapy to rehydrate him before I could offer him any food.

That same afternoon I received another male Red-shouldered Hawk (bringing my Red-shoulder count up to five), an adult, transferred from Second Chance Wildlife Center in Gaithersburg, MD.  His history was another mysterious case. He was found in a yard in Chevy Chase, MD on Feb. 17, where he had been seen all day, “flapping his wings but not flying.” The examination suggested that he had suffered an impact. There was blood in his trachea (wind pipe), and he was very weak and unsteady on his legs, preferring to rest on his hocks. Like the juvenile, he had probably been down for some time, because he too was emaciated. Second Chance had treated him with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs and fluid therapy, and after ten days he had regained some of his strength, was eating on his own, and ready for outdoor housing. I placed him in the mew with Squeak-toy.

I call Squeak–toy’s new roommate “Bob”, because of the strange bobbing movements he made with his head when I first put him outdoors. His legs were unsteady and he wobbled when he landed on a perch. He would raise and lower his head, looking at his feet, to maintain his balance. Bob is still not 100 percent, but his condition is greatly improved. When he first went out, he lacked strength in his wings as well as his legs. His flight was balanced, but he could not gain enough height to fly to the highest perch. Now he is flying circles over me when I enter, and landing on stronger, sturdier legs. Speaking of making it to the highest perch, Squeak-toy is getting there now too! I am pleased and proud that he is still making progress on his own.

The morning after I received the two hawks, I got a call from Wes. Wes had rescued a Barred Owl from the side of Interstate 70 in Mount Airy, MD, where he exited on his way to work. He continued driving to work where he modified a box, placed the owl in it, and called Animal Control to pick it up. Then he found Owl Moon Raptor Center on the MD Dept. of Natural Resources website and decided to cancel the call to Animal Control and bring the owl to Owl Moon himself.

The Barred Owl, a male we call “Zen,” was unusually calm and alert on arrival. In my initial exam I could feel unnatural movement in the elbow joint of his left wing. Any injury in the area of a joint is serious, but I could not feel a fracture. It was Monday, so I called my vet, Dr. Barb Stastny at Opossum Pike Vet Clinic, and arranged to bring the Barred owl, and the juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk with the infected foot, to her for examination. The owl’s X-ray showed some separation in the joint, probably from the swelling, and possibly a “chip” fracture at the tip (olecranon process) of the elbow. We started him on NSAID drugs to alleviate the pain and inflammation. We will keep him quiet, on cage rest, for a couple of weeks, and gradually begin some gentle physical therapy to try to prevent stiffening in the joint that would limit range of motion.

Dr. Barb did not like the look of the Red-shoulder’s foot anymore than I did, but we decided to try him on antibiotics and pain meds for a week, soak his foot daily and keep it in a ball bandage, and see how he responded. Unfortunately, the foot barely improved even with these intense treatments. It remained deformed and he could not use his toes at all.  I brought him back to Dr. Barb and she took X-rays. We found that the infection had entered the bones of his digits and two of the digits were luxated. Sadly, nothing we could do would give him back the use of that foot, and he would continue to suffer severe pain. We made the humane decision to euthanize him.

Meanwhile, Zen’s injured wing seems to be improving. We don’t want him using it at this stage, so we can’t test his flight, but he flaps it now when he can get away with it. The elbow is still swollen, and though range of motion in the joint is restricted now, we are cautiously hopeful that Zen could yet regain full flying ability. We will continue to keep him quiet and do gentle physical therapy, and give him more time to recover.

Sonya, the adult female Cooper’s hawk that impacted with a car three weeks ago, is still on the mend. I took her back to Opossum Pike Vet Clinic last Friday, March 9, for follow up X-rays. Dr. Barb had hoped that the compound fracture in her left leg might have healed enough to remove the pin, but while a callus is forming, it has not completely “bridged” at one of the fracture sites, so she left the pin in place and replaced the splint, to keep the leg immobilized. We will return after two more weeks to have the pin removed. Both Sonya and I will be very relieved when she can tear apart her food and eat on her own again!

Tomorrow I am off to Baton Rouge, LA, for the 2012 National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association Symposium. I will watch and listen to presentations by rehabilitators, veterinarians, biologists, and educators from all over the country about many topics of concern to wildlife rehabilitators. This year there is a session devoted to reuniting and fostering baby birds and mammals, a topic near and dear to me. I always learn so much at these symposiums, and come home feeling renewed and invigorated. It comes just in time to take on raptor nesting season, which is already underway. Thank you to my husband, Jan, for taking over many of my duties, as well as my friend Kathleen Handley, another wildlife rehabilitator, who will handle any and all medical treatments in my absence. I look forward to reporting back to you all next week.

-Suzanne Shoemaker

PS. I also get to do a bayou boat tour! Can’t wait!

Zen the Barred Owl. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Rush Hour Rescue: February 24, 2012

Suzanne prepares to hand feed Sonya. Her bandaged leg is clearly visible. Photograph by Jan Lewandrowski.

The collision occurred during evening rush hour between a red SUV and a bird that was “definitely NOT a pigeon.” Josh cringed as he saw the bird drop on the road, almost getting run over several times. He knew he had to do something quickly if the bird was to be saved. Risking his own safety and the wrath of his fellow commuters, Josh pulled over, jumped out, and stopped traffic. He flushed the bird off the road and onto a grassy area. Then, grabbing an old towel out of his car, he scooped the bird up.

Now that Josh could examine the bird up close he saw she was a raptor. He had warned me over the phone that the bird’s leg was pretty bad, and as soon as I arrived I could see he was right. “Sonya,” as he named her, turned out to be an adult female Cooper’s hawk. Examination and X-rays later confirmed that she has a compound fracture of the tibiotarsus and fibula of her left leg, and severe bruising over her breast and abdomen. The bone is in three pieces, but fortunately (in part because she was rescued immediately after the accident), the skin remained intact. As soon as I got her back to Owl Moon Raptor Center, I splinted the fractured leg by surrounding it in a length of foam pipe insulation, and then wrapping that snugly in place with vetwrap. I also treated her with fluids and a good dose of pain medication.

Friday morning I called Opossum Pike Vet Clinic (OPVC) and arranged to drop Sonya off for x-rays and possible surgery. I was not at all sure that surgery would be an option, and had braced myself (and Josh) for the worst. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Cooper’s hawks are rarely of suitable temperament for life in captivity. If Sonya’s leg had been irreparable, Dr. Barb and I would likely have chosen to humanely end her suffering. Fortunately, after looking at the radiographs, Dr. Barb determined it was worth a try.  She went ahead with surgery, placing a pin through all three fragments, and setting the pieces in near-perfect alignment. With bird’s legs, however, alignment is only half the battle. Their spindly bones have a tendency to rotate around pins, so Barb added external support in the form of a moldable splint and leg wrap. I am grateful to Dr. Barb and OPVC for providing these services pro bono.

Sonya is now recuperating back at Owl Moon, receiving regular doses of a pain medication, anti-inflammatory drug, antibiotic, and fluids. We cannot be sure that she will recover to the point of being able to hunt and survive the rigors of life in the wild, but we have hope. Sonya has a strong spirit of survival which she demonstrates in her response to handling; instantaneously meeting the offending hand with an adroitly placed talon strike of her healthy right leg!

Suzanne feeds Sonya by hand. Photograph by Jan Lewandrowski.

In other Owl Moon news, the two beautiful barred owls, Mystery and Cheerio, were set free in their respective woodlands on the evening of Sunday, February 12th. Cheerio, who I learned is a juvenile, was first. My friend and volunteer assistant, Lee Prouty, and I took her home to Petersville, MD, where we met Gary, her rescuer, at a barn along his driveway at dusk. I placed Cheerio on a post and she sat there watching us for a minute or two before realizing she was free to go. Next we drove Mystery to her home in Monrovia, MD where we met Daniel and Patti, who rescued her, as well as their daughter and a friend. She flew into a nearby tree to gain her bearings, and then continued on toward a distant line of trees and out of sight.

Cheerio sits on a post after her release. She doesn't seem to realize she is free to go. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Mystery looks truely mysterious back in her woodland home at night. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

The release of the barred owls vacated one of my mews, allowing me to separate Squeak-toy from Soldier-girl and Rufus, the other two red-shouldered hawks. Because Squeak-toy cannot be released, I need to prepare him for life as an education bird. That means getting him used to handling so that he will be comfortable in front of groups for education programs. A relaxed bird is easier to work with, and therefore easier to place in a good program. Squeak-toy has a good start. He is young, and his treatments and physical therapy required a lot of handling, so he is already comfortable being touched by people. He is also handsome, and other than the disability his coracoid fracture left him with, he is a healthy bird. Having him in a mew by himself makes it easier for Squeak-toy and I to work together as we prepare him for a new life.

Squeak-toy on a pearch. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker

Feb. 23 Addendum: Exciting news! Squeak-toy had some visitors yesterday, Denise and Jeremy from Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, PA. They were looking for a medium-sized hawk for their education programs. Today I heard back from Denise and Squeak-toy convinced them that he is their guy! They will begin right away to prepare the necessary paperwork, and pending approval from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the transfer will take place in early April.  I cannot imagine a better home for Squeak-toy! Hawk Mountain is a highly respected center for raptor research, education, and conservation. It is also a great place to watch hawks during the fall migration, when thousands pass over the mountain lookout on their way south. Learn more about Squeak-toy’s new home at http://www.hawkmountain.org!

In Search of Snowy Owls: A Rehabers Vacation

Neddick “Nubble” Lighthouse in York, Maine. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Winter is typically the slowest season in wildlife rehabilitation. Nesting season is long past, and the young that survived to fledge, and passed the early tests, have grown wiser and gained the hunting skills that will hopefully carry them through a normal winter. In harsh winters with deep snow cover, such as New England had in 2010, many birds simply can’t find enough food to eat, and rehabbers receive them in a weak and emaciated condition. But Maryland winters are not usually harsh, and snow melts fast, so winter is the time for rehabbers to catch up on paperwork and do the maintenance and improvement projects that we just don’t have time for the rest of the year. It is also the only opportunity we have to take a vacation.

I see a lot of different owls in my line of work, but never in my life a snowy owl, so with all the news of the snowy owl “invasion”, or “irruption”, this winter, and with a favorite sister living in one of the hot spots in Maine, I couldn’t let this opportunity slip by. It was time for a vacation, albeit a short one. My sister Janet and her partner, Josh, did all the research and scouted out the surest place to find a snowy, Cape Neddick “Nubble” Lighthouse in York, Maine. I got a cheap seat on a flight to Boston for January 27th and off I went.

Sunrise on the Water. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

I had a great time visiting with Janet and my other family in Massachusetts the rest of that day and night, and we left for Maine the next morning, first stop: Nubble Lighthouse. The snowy owl had been reported there on January 26, but it was not to be seen early in the afternoon on the 28th. We decided it may yet be there, just on the other side of the rocks, so we left for lunch and returned at dusk, hoping she would become active and show herself. Temperatures dropped as the sun went down, and the wind grew strong. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset. We were about to leave when a white owl flew up from the far side of the island and was whisked off with the wind over the water to the northwest and out of sight. Now we knew the snowy was still there. We planned to return with Josh the next morning at sunrise.

Common Merganser. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

We arrived about a half hour after sunrise and there was the snowy, plainly visible in the early light, sitting on the rocks on the lighthouse island, apparently finishing an unidentified breakfast. She was close enough to see clearly through our binoculars and scope, but sadly not close enough for my camera lens. We watched as the snowy groomed and looked around, and around, and around, and around, for over two hours. Then she began walking around, and looking up. I got my camera ready in anticipation of some action. She suddenly took flight and flew nearly the whole length of the island, then landed on the rail of the lighthouse walkway fence. She perched a minute or two longer before dropping down out of sight behind the rocks and the keeper’s house. Alas, that was the conclusion of my first snowy owl experience, but definitely a successful trip!

Back at Owl Moon Raptor Center, my husband Jan was kindly caring for the current crew. I am pleased to report that no new patients have arrived since I last wrote, and none of our current patients are receiving treatments. It is a matter of maintenance: preparing food, feeding, replacing water, and cleaning up after them. Thank you, Jan, for a weekend off.

In the outdoor mews, we have the three red-shouldered hawks: Squeak-toy, Soldier-girl, and Rufus in one; and the two barred owls: Mystery and Cheerio, in the other. We are following up on a lead to find Squeak-toy a permanent home as an education bird, a duty for which he is well suited. He is young and adaptable, and has become quite comfortable and tame in human company. Soldier-girl went to Dr. Barb at Opossum Pike Vet Clinic this week for a follow-up examination. The good news is that she has recovered some capacity to grip her left foot, and she may recover more as her bone “remodels.” The healing process continues. She is still weak in that leg, however, and prefers to lie down at night. We will not know if she is a release candidate for a few more weeks. Rufus is being allowed time to adjust to seeing with just one eye, which could take weeks, or even months. We will begin flying him after another week or two.

We have been creance flying Mystery and Cheerio nearly every day, in preparation for their release. They have been flying well, growing stronger and gaining stamina, and we plan to release both when the weather improves this weekend. We will take them back to their home territories, where I look forward to sharing the joy of their release with the kind people who rescued them. I hope to have photos of their release to share with you all next week.

Snowy Owl in Flight. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

A Mystery and a Cheerio: January 31st 2012

Mystery (left) and Cheerio (right). Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker

Allow me to introduce to you, “Mystery” and “Cheerio,” two female barred owls who joined us this month. Mystery’s condition is, as her name hints, a little mysterious. She was transferred to Owl Moon from Second Chance Wildlife Center on January 5th where Daniel and Patti brought her 11 days earlier after they found her “unable to move” in their yard in Monrovia, MD. Mystery was weak and lethargic, and very dehydrated upon her arrival, but otherwise she appeared in good physical shape. She was a healthy weight, even somewhat plump. The color of her mucous membranes (roof of mouth, “gums”, and underside of eyelids) was a normal pink; and no wounds, fractures, or other injuries were evident. The only remarkable aspect of her condition was a rather heavy infestation of parasites. Hippoboscid, or “flat” flies are an unpleasant external parasite that is commonly seen in raptors, though not normally in these numbers. Hippoboscid flies reside under the feathers and make their living sucking blood from the skin. Mystery also had a high number of feather lice, which feed on the feather vanes and the blood in the quills of growing feathers and can be quite an irritation.

Mystery was treated with a mild insecticide to kill the flies and lice. While ectoparasites can be a serious problem, they are not likely the reason why Mystery wound up in rehab. A healthy raptor can usually keep a parasite load in check. It is when one gets sick or injured that the parasites get the upper hand. Ectoparasites themselves would cause a slow decline, and symptoms such as anemia and weight loss, none of which Mystery had. It is possible that she had been hit by a car or suffered another trauma; perhaps a concussion, and her symptoms were no longer evident. The cause of her decline will likely remain a mystery. Second Chance treated her with the “catch-all” non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug. Maybe the NSAID’s helped, or maybe she just needed some time. Whatever the reason, Mystery has since recovered nicely. She has regained her strength, is eating well, and flying in the outdoor mew and on the creance line with vigor. We want to allow Mystery more time to build strength and stamina, but I expect to be able to return her to her home in Monrovia soon.

Owl Moon’s other barred owl, “Cheerio,” (named by my 3 year-old grand-niece, Sophia) is also recovering well. Cheerio was discovered by Gary, who found her in his driveway in Petersville, MD, after returning home from working a night shift early Friday morning, January 20th. He brought her indoors and kept her in a box in a warm, quiet place until evening. I met him on his way back to work that evening and transferred her to Owl Moon Raptor Center.

Cheerio was presumably hit by a car. She had a concussion, a bad bruise on her left “forearm,” and was lethargic, dehydrated and in pain. We are treating her with the usual NSAID, and she is responding well. She is not eating on her own yet, but she is being hand fed a normal diet of mice and quail, and acting plenty feisty when we need to give her treatments. We plan to move her to the outdoor mew with Mystery in another day or two, where Mystery can remind her how to feed herself!

I have saved the best news for last! I am pleased to report that beautiful Pasadena, the red-shouldered hawk with a wing fracture, is now flying free in the town from which she took her name. Matthew and Crisdee were present, as was their son, Holden, and Crisdee’s mom and dad, Pandee and John. All were involved in Pasadena’s rescue. Crisdee was the one who had bravely captured the injured hawk, so I asked her if she would like to do the release. She was game, but Pasadena bit me as I was getting her out of the carrier, so rather than pass a biting bird to Crisdee, I ended up letting her go myself.

We released Pasadena from Matthew and Crisdee’s back deck, which has a lovely expansive view of the sky. When she took off we could watch her go for a long while. She flew high and didn’t stop until she reached a tall tree in the distance. Then she took off again and circled high, surveying her surroundings before landing on another tall tree. It was wonderful to watch. Matthew filmed the release with his phone, and you can see he did an admirable job, but Pasadena was faster than Matthew and she quickly flew out his view.

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.

Part Two: The Mysterious Affliction of Grace

A female Cooper's hawk. Photograph by Ken Smith.

I hadn’t even left Shayne’s house, before I got a call about another hawk. Jim and Maureen’s neighbor had found it in their back pasture, unable to stand. After many phone calls (recall this is New Years Day), they were referred to Owl Moon Raptor Center, and I met them there when I arrived. It turned out to be another Cooper’s hawk, an adult female, a beautiful bird I called “Grace.” I will warn you from the start that Grace’s story ends sadly, though I was not without hope when I first examined her.

Grace’s condition was perplexing. She could not stand, but she could move her upper legs. Her lower legs were folded at the hock or (ankle) joint, and both her feet were clenched. The joints were rigid and difficult to pry open. My first thoughts were 1) spinal injury, as Cooper’s hawks are particularly prone to impact traumas involving the head or spine because of their aerial pursuit of avian prey, 2) some kind of toxin, or 3) West Nile Virus (WNV). We are past the normal season for this mosquito-borne disease, but it has been a warm fall/winter here, so I didn’t want to rule it out. I have never seen a case of spinal injury with these specific symptoms, but I started Grace on a NSAID, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, which is prescribed for CNS disorders/injuries, as well as in treatment for WNV.

That afternoon I brought her to Second Chance, where Dr. Pat Klein examined her and took x-rays. The x-rays showed no visible spinal damage, but this is often the case even when symptoms are clearly spinal, as there can be soft tissue injury, including nerve damage, with no visible displacement of the vertebrae. Pat considered toxicity as well, but spinal trauma was the prime candidate. She recommended I continue NSAID treatments and hope for improvement in the next few days.

With the NSAID and supportive care (fluids and hand-feeding 2-3 times daily), Grace grew stronger and more active and alert over the next several days, but her legs remained folded underneath her. I worked on her joints a bit, and they gradually loosened and became more pliable, but she was not very responsive to the touch.

My next step was to email avian specialist Dr. Erica Miller at Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research in Newark, DE. She advised me of a test I could do to confirm spinal damage: if I pinch the toes and she pulls back, but does not look at her toes or attempt to bite or do anything else, then it is indeed spinal. If not, she advised that clenched feet are associated with some neuro-toxins, including organophosphates (Ops), carbamates, and organochlorines. Ops and carbamates will slow the heart rate, and there is an antidote for these toxins. With organochlorine poisoning you can only provide supportive care and hope it will work its way out of her system.

Unfortunately the test confirmed that Grace had spinal damage. I wanted to give the NSAIDs more time to work, so I continued to treat and support her for a few more days. My hope of a good outcome faded with each new day when I saw her lying down. After a full week I took Grace back to Dr. Pat intending to euthanize, but in a last ditch effort we decided to give her the antidote for Op and carbamate poisoning in hope of a miracle. She did not respond to this treatment either. Thus, after eight days of intensive care, Grace was euthanized.

-Suzanne Shoemaker

Part One: Hawk Trapping on Aisle Ten

I’m back! I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from the blog over the last few weeks necessitated in part by the fact that I have been too busy with patients to sit down and write. Now I have so much to catch up on that I had to break my story into three parts to make it more manageable to read. So hold on and prepare yourself, because over the next three days I will take you on the roller coaster ride of events that has been my last few weeks.  We begin where I left you last time, on Wednesday, December 28, 2011…

Cooper sitting in the rafters at Sam's Club. Photography by Pat Gilbert.

Part I: Hawk Trapping on Aisle Ten

I received a call from my friend and fellow rehabber, Judy Holzman of All Creatures Great and Small Wildlife Center in Columbia, MD. Judy had just spoken to Pat,  who manages a Sam’s Club in Baltimore. She and her co-workers had discovered a hawk flying about high in the rafters of the superstore. Pat knew the bird was in trouble, as there was no hawk food in the store and no easy way out for the bird.

Judy and I both knew that it was most likely a Cooper’s hawk. Cooper’s hawks are bird hunters, and prone to getting trapped in warehouses and other large buildings. They fly in chasing their prey, such as house sparrows and starlings, which sometimes seek food and shelter in such places. You have probably seen these smaller birds flying around in your local Home Depot or other superstore. The hawk flies in chasing it’s prey, but once inside it gets spooked and flies high into the rafters seeking safety. Unfortunately most of these buildings have skylights, but no openings in the roof. The exits are close to the ground, and the hawk won’t fly down to where it would find its escape, not without something to lure it down.

In this matter, rehabbers often enlist the help of falconers or raptor banders, who have the equipment needed to lure and capture hawks. I called Ken Smith, a raptor bander who has helped me before with such cases. Ken has a number of hawk traps, including a Bal Chatri (a.k.a. BC). This trap is basically a small welded-wire cage with a weighted base and loops of monofilament fishing line tied all over the outside. A live pigeon, starling, sparrow, or mouse is placed inside the cage, which protects it from the hawk. The trap is placed below the hungry hawk and, if possible, on a surface above the floor such as a high shelf (so the hawk will feel safe approaching it), or on the floor near an open exit (so it has the option to keep flying through the exit). When the hawk lands on the trap, its feet become caught in the monofilament loops and it can’t fly away.

Judy, Ken and I arrived at Sam’s Club at 8 pm, a half-hour before closing, and met Janice, the night manager, who kindly walked us through the aisles to where the hawk was perching, over the store bakery. Fortunately, this was also near the large freezers, which had a good solid roof, and a ladder that reached the top.  This made an ideal set-up. We could anchor the trap on the freezer roof, which was close enough to the hawk that it would spot it (but not spook when we placed it there), and high enough above the workers who were restocking shelves, that the hawk would feel safe in approaching it. The plan was implemented! We set the trap on top of the freezer where we could observe it from the ground, and then climbed down and watched at a distance with our binoculars.

We had prepared for a long evening of waiting, but it took only about 20 minutes before the hawk landed on the trap. , Once we were sure his feet were entangled Ken and I rushed to the ladder and climbed to the hawk. Ken got a hold on his feet and we untangled him from the trap. When we reached the ground with the hawk, Pat, the store manager was there with her camera, and a number of employees were snapping pictures with their cell phones. They were excited to see “Cooper” the hawk, whom they had proudly named after identifying his species.  A quick examination revealed that Cooper, a juvenile male, was dehydrated and in need a couple of days of fluids and food before being turned loose. So we tucked him in a box and I took him home to Owl Moon Raptor Center.

As expected, Cooper recovered quickly, and he was ready for release on Sunday; New Years Day. Though I normally release birds back in their home territory, I was reluctant to send Cooper back to his urban home, with all of its traffic hazards and the very real chance of him winding up in another superstore or warehouse. A juvenile hawk has not mated or established a nesting territory in its first winter, so it is not a major disruption to move them. We decided to release Cooper in rural Ellicott City, where Shayne, a friend of Ken’s, has several acres of prime Cooper’s hawk habitat: a stream, meadows, and tall trees. I met Ken there, and after Ken banded Cooper, Shayne’s mother was given the honor of releasing him. He flew straight through a bamboo thicket and kept on going!

-Suzanne Shoemaker

Suzanne Shoemaker and Ken Smith remove Cooper from the trap. Photograph by Pat Gilbert.

Sam's Club staff gather around to see Cooper after he is safely removed from the trap. Photograph by Pat Gilbert.

Cooper's head is covered with a can to keep him calm while Suzanne Shoemaker and Ken Smith band, weigh and measure him before release. Photograph by Shayne Twigg.

Carolyn Twigg prepares to release Cooper. Photograph by Shayne Twigg.

An Owl in the Family: January 11th, 2012

Neesa: Owl Moon’s first owl. Photograph by Suzanne Shoemaker.

Hello! My name is Natasha Lewandrowski. I am Suzanne Shoemaker’s daughter. I’ve been with Owl Moon from the beginning, but I’ve recently become more involved through collaborating with my mom on this blog. Usually she writes the posts, and I help her edit them and manage the site. However, this week my mom is busy finishing end-of-year reports to keep Owl Moon up and running, so I am stepping out from behind the scenes to bring you a story about the origins of Owl Moon Raptor Center.

Sixteen years ago, when I was ten, my mom and I began volunteering at Second Chance Wildlife Center in Gaithersburg, MD. It was the sort of unique educational opportunity that was only possible because my mom forwent a traditional career in order to homeschool my brother Callum and I. She believes in the value of hands-on learning. Thus, through scouring opossum cages and syringe-feeding orphan squirrels,* I learned about the animals that shared my neighborhood and my mother discovered her calling as a wildlife rehabilitator. A wildlife biologist by training, my mom has always been interested in working with animals. During my childhood she worked as an animal control officer, a veterinary technician, and a cheetah interpreter for the National Zoo. When she was a kid my mom wanted to grow up to be a rabbit, she told me. Given her current companions, I’m pretty sure she’s glad she didn’t!

At Second Chance my mom met Gary, who became her mentor in falconry. She also met Neesa; a yearling barred owl with a bum leg that prevented him from returning to the wild. Neesa became my mother’s first raptor. Having an owl in the family is actually a lot less cool than it sounds. Wild animals do not make good pets. In fact, they make barely tolerable roommates! I took to wearing a bicycle helmet when I did my laundry to protect my head from Neesa’s dive-bomb attacks. After my parents bought their first house, my dad built two large flight cages (called mews) in the backyard. I think his original idea was that we would get the laundry room back. Instead, it allowed for full scale rehab operations to begin and the official founding of Owl Moon Raptor Center!

Having a rehab clinic in the house made for some interesting times during my teenage years. Whenever I brought a new friend over I would inevitably have to explain why there was a cup of frozen mice thawing on the kitchen counter. If they were grossed out by the mice, however, it was quickly forgotten when they met the patients. My husband, Dustin, still remembers how the first time he went to my parent’s house for dinner, half the freezer was occupied by a bald eagle.

Dustin and I moved out to Seattle in 2007. My mom and I talk frequently on the phone, and she always gives me the updates on her current patients. Even 2000 miles away I feel like I am getting to know her birds. I feel excited when she releases one, and sad when she loses one. Each bird’s story is unique. I kept telling her, “mom, you need to write these stories down,” but with all those birds to take care of she never found the time.

Then, last October, my mom asked me to help her design a calendar to raise money for OMRC. As I was working on the layout it occurred to me that the calendar really should have a web address on it where one could go for more information. Just one problem, Owl Moon didn’t have a website. Setting up the site itself was easily done, but I needed my mom to write the content for it. Now my mom can be a bit of a procrastinator when it comes to projects (just ask my dad when her quilt will be finished), but she’s also a perfectionist; so instead of asking her to write the content I wrote it myself and sent it to her. She sent it back “fixed” the next day. Then she sent it back even more fixed the next day…and the next.

Now that the blog is up she is having a lot of fun relating the weekly stories. I’m having a lot of fun too; helping her and following along every week with you. Thanks for joining me today! Next week we will be back to our regularly scheduled program, which I hear has to do with a hawk trapped in a Sam’s Club and a late night rescue!

-Natasha Lewandrowski

* The syringes have nipples rather than needles on them.