Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Winter Was Tough on Owls and Waterfowl

This Screech Owl was one of many found starving around our region - she was helped in time
With the harsh weather finally beginning to abate, we hope that hard times will soon come to an end for the region's raptors and waterfowl. Last week I conducted yet another release of a Horned Grebe that had come down in a parking lot. Prior to the release the bird had spent at least a week at Woodhaven Wildlife Center (WWC) where it was fattened up with minnows. Other recent waterfowl coming into WWC from around the region included a Red-breasted Merganser, Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Canvasback and Red-necked Grebe. Owls have also been coming into the center with disturbing regularity. I myself brought in a female Screech Owl from Clinton. The bird had been discovered perched on a low porch railing - apparently oblivious to her surroundings and to any potential danger. People and a dog walking in and out the door didn't even elicit the slightest reaction from the owl. Most likely rendered unable to hunt given the deep snow, the owl seemed like it had just given up. Given her state, I didn't hold out much hope for a recovery, but after a week at WWC, she had regained her strength and was ready for release. When I arrived at the facility to retrieve the Screech, more birds were pouring into the Center including a Barred Owl and a Redhead duck. Both of those birds were also starving.
The Owl release went well. The bird lunged out of the carrier as soon as it was opened. She landed in a large conifer in the backyard, where she effectively melted into the surroundings.
Another Horned Grebe released into the Mohawk River
A small group of ducks including 2 Common Goldeneye were upstream of the release site
This grebe, like the 2 released last week, almost immediately began diving for fish
The grebe is quickly heading downstream and out of view
A pair of Canvasback Ducks recover in a bathtub at Woodhaven Wildlife Center
A male Red-breasted Merganser waits for his  turn in tub
While boxing up the Screech Owl, a  starving Barred Owl was brought into Woodhaven 
After being released the Screech Owl found a place that well matched her camouflaged plumage

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