"I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven."
Emily Dickinson

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bird calls brought Jurassic World's dinosaurs to life

Nesting brown pelicans at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, Florida. Photo by J.J. Meyer
The sounds of the charging Stegosaurus, the bloodthirsty Indominus rex, and the  screeching Pteranodon in Jurassic World were actually provided by their living descendants: birds.

A baby pelican, an angry osprey, a Harris hawk, a Gentoo penguin and an irate goose were among the birds that had voice-over parts in the film.

Listen to these sounds from the movie at Audubon: Birds in the News.

Happy Birding!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A tribute to hard-working daddy birds

A male house finch feeds a fledgling.
Not all dads will get a day off for Father's Day.  While the role of the daddy bird differs among species, many males including house finches, mourning doves, barn owls, eagles, Western bluebirds and countless others, share the responsibilities of nesting and feeding the young with their mates.

Happy Father's Day to all the hard-working dads out there.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Nuts about woodpeckers?

A male Nuttall's Woodpecker pecks at nuts and seeds.
Californians are lucky to have a unique species of woodpeckers as year-round residents.  Nuttall's Woodpeckers are only found west of the southern Cascade Mountains and in the Sierra Nevada from Northern California to Baja, Mexico.  According to the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, sixth ed., Nuttall's Woodpeckers may hybridize with Ladder-backed Woodpeckers where ranges overlap in the western Mojave Desert and Owen's Valley. They have also been known to hybridize with Downy Woodpeckers in Southern California.

Look for these birds as they creep along tree trucks and branches using their stiff tails as a prop.  They often hang upside down as they probe the bark for insects. Woodpeckers can be found in woodlands and in neighborhoods with mature trees. You can attract them to your yard with suet and stackable seed and nut cylinders as seen in the photo. They have also been known to visit hummingbird feeders--see my post from May 30.

Happy Birding!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wildlife officials now involved in the rescue of the gull tied with ribbon

Photo by Anthony Gliozzo
Here's more on the story from Friday's post.

The Orange County Register ran the following story in today's paper.
Link to it online at: Young sea gull tied with ribbon

Story by Erika Ritchie

DANA POINT – State Fish and Wildlife officials are asking for the public’s help in sighting a young Western sea gull that may be the victim of animal cruelty, officials said Sunday.

The young bird was first spotted by Anthony Gliozzo, a wildlife researcher who observes and logs birds for Cornell University.

Gliozzo saw the bird Thursday at the mouth of San Juan Creek at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point. He was canvassing the area with binoculars when his gaze fell upon the gull tied with green ribbon.

“I noted an immature Western gull in complete misery,” he said. “This appeared to be an act of cruelty involving deliberate human intervention: a young Western Gull with a green ribbon wrapped around its bill multiple times which continued around its neck and bow-tied at its leg joint. This juvenile was unable to open its mouth while it limped along to keep up with its comrades.”

Gliozzo, of Mission Viejo, inched closer to help but the large pack of gulls slowly moved in the opposite direction. After several attempts to help, he retreated to avoid stressing the weakened gull any further.

“Although I was standing and unable to get in the proximity of this gull, it is entirely possible to entice these gulls with food and get them within reachable range,” he said. “Much like anyone feeding wild ducks – they will get within reach and in some cases eat out your hand. This would be one theory as to how this gull was lured and tortured.”

Janice Mackey, a spokesperson with California Fish and Wildlife, said field wardens have been made aware of the situation and will work with local animal agencies to locate the bird.

“If we caught the person doing it, they could be charged with animal cruelty amongst other things,” she said.

Anyone witnessing a similar act should immediately contact local authorities, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife or the CalTIP number, 888-334-CALTIP (888-334-2258) 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Contact the writer: 714-796-2254 or eritchie@ocregister.com or twitter: @lagunaini

Friday, June 12, 2015

Gull found bound with tape; Information needed on this act of animal cruelty

A juvenile gull found with tape tied to bill, neck and leg.  Photo taken 6/11/15 by Anthony Gliozzo
Photographer Anthony Gliozzo shot the above photo in Dana Point near the mouth of San Juan Creek on Thursday. It was reported to the lifeguards.  Though it is possible that this bird managed to get tangled in some type of tape or ribbon, the way it is tied makes it look like a deliberate act of cruelty by human hands. 

Anyone with information on who may be responsible is asked to call the toll free CalTIP number 1 888 334-CALTIP (888 334-2258), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Or you may submit anonymous tips to CDFW using tip411. tip411 an internet based tool from CitizenObserver.com that enables the public to text message an anonymous tip to wildlife officers and lets the officers respond back creating an anonymous two-way conversation. Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to CDFW by texting "CALTIP", followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).  
Thank you.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Guide ducklings to safety, but don't separate them from mom

Starlyn Howard tears lettuce for orphaned week-old ducklings. Photo by J.J. Meyer

Juvenile mallards progress to swimming pens at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach. Photo by J.J. Meyer

My column from Saturday's Orange County Register:

                 About 300 orphaned ducklings are receiving a second chance at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach.
 “It’s baby bird season,” said Starlyn Howard, shift supervisor at the rehabilitation center.  Generally the season runs from late March until August, though over the past few years, ducklings have been arriving earlier.  This year, the first ones were brought to the facility in January.
Volunteers care for about 800 ducklings per year.  Most are mallards, though they occasionally treat Gadwall, wood and ruddy ducklings and Canada goslings.
“They require a lot of work,” Howard said.  They eat and drink incessantly and require constant cleanup. Tiny ducklings need heat lamps to keep them warm.  They grow quickly and in a few weeks, they are moved to swimming pens where they are grouped together according to age and size.  
Why are so many orphaned? People often rush in to rescue ducklings  unnecessarily.
 “What happens is that ducklings often end up in the wrong place,” Howard said.  “People try to interfere and they make things worse.”
Ducks generally nest near water.  But in urban areas, they may choose to nest in back yards, away from parks or golf courses that have water.
“It’s best to prevent the situation in the first place,” Howard said.  “If you see a pair of mallards in your yard, they could be looking for a place to nest.”
             At this point, a homeowner can scare them away and cut back the shrubs to encourage the pair to choose another location.  But once a nest is made, it is illegal to disturb them, Howard said.  Federal law prohibits interfering with nesting ducks.      
            Ducklings can inadvertently end up in a swimming pool and not be able to get out. Young ducklings are not waterproof and need the mother for warmth. They can quickly become hypothermic and drown.  
Howard recommends placing a surfboard or lawn chair in the water as a ramp.  Cover it with a towel so the babies will not slip.  Do not attempt to remove the ducklings for relocation, she said. The mother may fly away and abandon her young.
The brood will stay near the nest site until the mother decides to move the ducklings to water, which usually happens at about four weeks. Ducklings then trail behind the mother often waddling across busy streets. Ducks do not fly until they are six to eight weeks old.
            “The mother often nests a mile away from water. She will lead the babies to it, she knows where she’s going,” Howard said.  “Just leave the gate open.”
            At this point the ducklings are very vulnerable.  The sooner the mother can get her ducklings to water to feed, the best chance they have for survival.  Mallards have one or two clutches, or nests with eggs, per year.  Out of the 13 ducklings typically hatched only two will survive, Howard said.
            Generally, it’s best to leave the mother duck and ducklings alone.  Do not attempt to rescue ducklings unless you know they are truly orphaned.  For assistance, contact the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center, 21900 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach. Call 714-374-5587 or go to wwccoc.org. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Birds killed during tree removal in Newport Beach

A black-crowned night heron was one of the birds rescued. Photo by Sam Gangwer, the OC Register
Reprinted from yesterday's Orange County Register: 
NEWPORT BEACH – Residents of a neighborhood on the Balboa Peninsula are mourning the loss of bird chicks in a tree pulled down Thursday. The tree was filled with nests of snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons.

At least 75 people attended a memorial service Sunday for the birds that died or were displaced by the removal of the tree, which was on private property. People brought flowers and candles and heard “Amazing Grace” from a local guitarist and saxophone player. Event organizer Shelley Ervin said neighbors thought there were 20 to 30 baby birds and parents in the tree.

“We as a community are not going to let this drop,” Ervin said.

Herons and egrets were still circling around the former site of the more than 50-year-old tree on Monday, resident Jeff Dole said.

“It was a catastrophe,” Dole said. “It was probably one of the worst things that’s happened in Newport Beach nature-wise in a long time.”

Lt. Tom Fischbacher said Newport Beach’s Animal Control department is looking into whether the removal of the tree by a contractor was a violation of state laws protecting migratory birds -- based on the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 that protects more than 1,000 species across the country -- with support from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Once the investigation is complete, a report will be given to the county district attorney’s office, he said.

Violations of the state laws could mean misdemeanor charges. Snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons aren’t endangered or threatened species, but are protected under the federal law.

Fischbacher said animal control officers responded to the site at least three times Thursday and Friday, and recovered eight live baby egrets and one baby night heron, he said. All of the animals were taken to the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center of Orange County in Huntington Beach.

Wildlife director Debbie McGuire of Wetlands and Wildlife said a few of the baby birds arrived dead.

Neighbors said the process of chopping down the tree began around 3 p.m. Thursday. Caroline Vassar, who lives about a block away from the tree, noticed the demolition and tried to stand under the tree and catch baby birdsbefore they hit the ground.

“I wasn’t trying to save the whole tree, I was just telling them it was full of nesting birds,” Vassar said. “It was terrible.”

Daniel Broome of Tim Greenleaf Engineering, the company contracted to remove the trees, said the project had all necessary approvals from the city and the state's Coastal Commission. He wasn't aware of any environmental restrictions on the trees, he said.

Broome said he hopes he can work with the local homeowners' association to begin to make up for the impact on the neighborhood.

"We're not happy about how the crew responded to neighbors or how the wildlife was handled," he said. "This whole thing is raising issues internally in our company and pushing us to be a better citizen in the area."