Sunday, March 31, 2013

Just Marking the Date

I always try to make a mental note, and often a physical note of when my chimney swifts arrive each spring.
I heard their familiar and hard-to-miss twittering last night when I was locking up the chickens.

They were on to twittering (tweeting?) before Jack Dorsey was even born. 
In case you didn't know, Jack Dorsey invented Twitter.  You have 140 characters to express your deepest thoughts and desires---or not.

I digress.


Me either.

Anyway, the Swifts arrived on March 30, 2013.
(They must have spent the three extra days in Cancun this year for spring break.
They fly right over it after leaving their winter homes in Peru.)

It's very likely that the five birds I've seen circling my house are related to the original pair that nested here in the spring/summer of 2000.
Crossing my fingers that at least one pair raises a successful brood this summer.

photo credit: Dave Rintoul

Monday, March 25, 2013

Newton's First Law

Quinn at center
An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion 

with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an 

unbalanced force.

Every single soccer season,  I look at photos and wonder how on earth the boys are upright.

In Newton's law, the final part of the sentence says, "unless acted upon by an unbalanced force."  
I'm thinking that gravity is a pretty strong force.
Still, these boys defy gravity at every turn.
Their actions and reactions are a beautiful thing to watch.
They are each so blessed to have healthy bodies.
The wonder that is the human body, is evident with each stop, start, turn, direction change and kick.
Muscles, tendons, ligaments and bone, all working in synchronization.
All without thought from the owner of said body.

It frees his brain to think of things like where to pass and to whom should he pass it.  Should he shoot for goal from here, or wait a moment for a better shot? How can he move to the ball and throw off the young man in hot pursuit of he and the ball?

It's physics in real life.
It's biology in real life.
It's magic in real life.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Now You Seem 'Em, Now You Don't

When baby squirrels are all awake and freshly fed, they are busy.
Very busy.
They wrestle like puppies and kittens.
They play "king of the mountain" like baby goats.
They nibble madly at tiny tree branches and new leaves like they are grown-up squirrels.

Out of the 30 or so shots of them, the only one that was in focus was the one you see above.
The very next moment they were busy again.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Menagerie' Math

I'm not very good at math.
This equation is nothing I am proud of, but what does it mean?
It means that living and dying are a part of life.


Photo Credit:

My trek back into wildlife rehab began this year on March 8th, after 14 years away.

The "A" part of the equation, A8:
I got in a cottontail baby that had been rescued from a family cat.  He died that night.
Over the last two weeks, I got in two separate nests of baby bunnies whose mother had been killed.  Tiny things.  Over course of the next two weeks, they died off--one by one.  No obvious cause.
"Completely normal" say all the other rabbit rehabbers.
A drag, nonetheless.
Last weekend, I got in a fairly large, probably weaned, baby bunny.  A cat was involved.  He died by morning.
Eight rabbits in.  All have died.
My only consolation is that their little bodies won't go to waste.
They were given to one of our rehabbers, Ed, who cares for raptors.  
The circle of life, with a stopover at my house.

The "B" part of the equation, B4:
Squirrels, gloriously robust squirrels.
First, I got one tiny guy who had lost his siblings in a tree cutting incident.
He was quickly becoming a pet to us all, which is not the objective.
When I took the rabbit bodies to Ed, I talked his wife out of 3 of the baby squirrels she was rehabbing.
Three boys and one girl.  None will be pets, as it should be.

The "C" part of the equation, C1:
One cute baby opossum.  
A huge learning curve for me, as they aren't fed with a nipple.  A tube is threaded into their stomach, via their mouth.
I made a mistake and he aspirated formula.
He died from milk pneumonia.
I felt terrible.  
Ed and his wife Kay told me they killed their first opossum, too.
Made me feel a wee bit better. 
 Not much, though.

The "D" part of the equation, D1:
Last night, someone called to say they were bringing me a baby opossum.
Turned out it was a day old (umbilical still attached) raccoon.
The whole family brought it to the house, carried in by the little girl.
"Will it be okay?"
The answer to little girls is always, "Yes, yes it will".  
It's not in my job description to teach sweet, brown eye'd eight year olds about the circle of life.

The really great news is, Ed's wife, Kay is a bang-up raccoon rehabber.
Even after 30 years of doing it, she just cooed when I handed the tiny thing over to her this morning.
So "D" isn't technically a subtraction in the sense that he died.  He just moved to a place where he had a fighting chance.

I told Ed this morning, "No more rabbits!  They just turn my freezer into a little rabbit morgue.  It freaks the kids out."  
He just laughed, "Yea, right.  Good luck with that."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Strange Bedfellows

Jenna captured this scene while Eric and I were in Colorado on a ski trip.
Hobbes and Mandy never occupy the same space.
They are never nearly touching.

Hobbes has a disdain for all things canine. 
 He pretty much has a disdain for all other living creatures, unless they serve him in some fashion. 
I serve him.
I provide the food opening and the door opening and the lap to lie on when he is chilled.
The 'laying on my lap' is a nightly occurrence.
If I haven't settled in somewhere by 8 o'clock, he makes it clear I should do so at my earliest convenience--or sooner.  Or yesterday, gosh darn it!

Mandy, however, is all about me.
She's where ever I am.
The kids often say that if they can't find me, they'll look for Mandy.
She's protective and unusually attached at the same time.
She will always be between me and anyone new who comes to our house.
She's not aggressive, just a presence.
She would dearly love to tear the cat to pieces, but refrains out of respect for me.
I've trained her not to, and that's good enough for her. 

So why are two animals, who clearly do not like each other, lying on Jenna's bed?
Almost touching!

Routine, I suppose.
I'm gone and it's thrown off their whole groove.
The cat cannot have "cat lap" and Mandy simply doesn't know what to do with herself without me around.
They find the next best woman for the job----Jenna.
Jenna and I both are fascinated by the fact that she's the one they go to when I'm not around.
Is it that she is female like me?
Or is it because she's the caretaker and they sense it.

I guess we'll never know. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Squirrel Lady

When I was a rehabber, 14+ years ago, I did only squirrels.
I don't remember how it happened that way, but it did.  

This time around, I've also taken in bunnies and an opossum.
Honestly, the opossum is wildly simple to care for.  They only take a moment to feed, because they are "tubed".  I put a tube down the little guy's throat and squeeze in the opossum milk replacement formula.
I told someone at church today that I could feed a whole room full of opossums in the time it takes me to feed four bunnies.

Squirrels are right there between bunnies and opossums as far as care and keeping.  They can be rough to feed, but they're eager learners.  
They get sidetracked.  
Once their eyes are open, they're too busy to bother with eating. 
That's the case with this little guy.  He woke up this morning and his eyes were magically open, whereas yesterday, they were closed.
Yesterdays good eater is a distracted eater today.

I got him in, on Thursday night.  He and his siblings were the victim of an accident.  A man was chopping down a tree and then proceeded to section it.  He ran his chainsaw right through the hollow in the tree where they were nesting.  One sibling was killed by the saw and his other sibling was probably killed by the fall.  This little one was slightly nicked by the saw, but is healing nicely.

He weighs 3.7 ounces and is growing by the minute.  He eats 4 times a day and still has to have a heating pad to keep his body temperature regulated---especially now that he has no roommates.
With eyes open, he is quick to climb my up my sweater, jacket or shirt.  "Up" means safety from predators that lurk on the ground.  This is why, nine times out of ten, a squirrel can out maneuver and outrun your dog or cat.  They've had lots and lots of practice.

I see myself becoming the Squirrel Lady again.
They suit me.
Plus, they're downright adorable.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

I challenge anyone to think that this baby isn't a cutie pie.
The cuteness doesn't carry into adulthood in my opinion, but that's okay. Opossums don't really care what I think.

This wee one was rescued off a busy road last night.
The girl that found him sounds just like me at her age--"I'd have a whole house full of animals if my husband would let me.  I'd have kept this little guy, too, but I'm a teacher and wouldn't have time to care for him.  Please send me pictures as he grows.  Don't you think he's adorable? Please tell me he'll live!........"
She was so concerned for his well-being that she drove 40 miles to bring him to me.  
She also stopped traffic to rescue him.
So like me.

Let's get one thing straight---I am not a fan of opossums.  
This wee one will be well cared for and cooed at when I feed him.
He will be congratulated when he finishes all his formula.

He will also be released when it is time, somewhere far, far away.

Opossums will eat just about anything, including chickens.
My chickens.
The awful part is, they'll usually just eat the head.

They also carry a protozoa that causes Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM)---something that will disable or kill horses. 
It's an ugly, ugly disease.  Expensive to treat and most often unsuccessful. 
I have three neighbors that have 9 horses between them.  
I would not be a good neighbor if I released this little guy on my place.  

Aside from chicken eating and EPM, opossums are an important part of the food chain.  One of their favorite things to eat is carrion (roadkill).  The dispose of all the ickiness in the world. 
They are also outstanding mothers.  
Gotta love a good mother, no matter how scary she looks.
Fifty, razor sharp teeth and no hair on your tail would make anyone look scary.

If you'd like to know more tidbits about opossums, click HERE.  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Office Assistant and the Plastic Bag Ban

Austin recently joined several other cities in enacting a law that makes it illegal for merchants to give you your goodies in a plastic bag. 
 My office assistant, Hobbes, is against the ban.  He feels as though it is infringing upon his rights to have fun every time I come home from the grocery store.

 Lucky for him, we don't technically live in Travis county, so the bag ban doesn't affect him much.
He will continue to be able to get in the bags.  Hide for a moment, and then get stuck in the handle on the way out.

While the ban doesn't affect him personally (catally?), it will affect me.  I shop in Austin.
BUT, not often enough that I remember the bag ban.
I wonder how many merchants will ring up someone's order, only to have them say, "Oh hey, I have to run out to my car to get my reusable bags." (raises hand)

 I once did a lot of research on "plastic or paper." 
 I discovered that they are equally as bad for the environment, in different ways.
I ended up choosing plastic because I reuse the bags more readily than paper ones.
I also chose plastic because the office assistant prefers them.

Monday, March 4, 2013

"Teeny Bun-Buns"

Me: (phone rings) "Hello."

Her: "Hi, this is Stephanie.  I got your name/number from Kim"  "I've got teeny bun-buns and she said you'd take them?"

Me: "Wait, you've got what?"

Her: "Six teeny bun-buns"  "Really tiny, they are 35 to 50 grams a piece."  "Came from two different nests maybe." "Some ranchers clearing land found the nest and brought them in because their dog killed the momma."

Me: "I'm sorry.  I'm not understanding.  What is a bun-bun?"

Her: (laughing), "Oh sorry, I've got six baby rabbits and Kim said you'd take them." "Ed would take them, but he's full right now."

Me: "Sure, I'll give them a go.  Can you bring them to me, or shall I meet you?"

Our conversation went on from there.  I met her half way.  She was delightful.  She even gave me some very expensive goats milk that she'd bought and some pedialyte.  I'd forgotten how friendly rehabbers are.  I look forward to getting to know her better.  She does birds.  She said mammals make her nervous--to easy to kill.
These babies are "teeny".  
The smallest weighs less than a slice of bread, the largest weighs almost as much as two slices of bread.

I have a very sharp learning curve ahead.
Like I said in my previous post---cottontails die.
I have six.

Luckily, I found a heating pad that doesn't shut off every two hours.
That means I can sleep all night without having to reset it, just to keep the babies alive.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

And So It Begins

There was a time in my life, before Quinn was born, that I was a wildlife rehabber.
That was 14+ years ago.
I primarily took in baby squirrels.

I know, I know---"tree rats".
But you know what, rehabbing is often just as much about the human who found the animal, as it is about the animal.
Saving an animal brings out the good in humanity.  It makes us feel benevolent.  
Heck, it makes children go "aaawww".  
It's a teaching tool.  
A parent who rescues a baby bunny from the family cat and brings it to a rehabber is watched closely by their child.  
"How do I treat animals?" is no longer a question.

So, down off my soapbox.  Tree rats or not, I'll take 'em and do the best I can.

I have reentered the life of a rehabber.  
Long hours, no pay, middle of the night feedings, life and death, scratches and bites. 
I'm ready.

This little cottontail rabbit weighs 51 grams.  That's 1.8 ounces.  He is approximately 10 days old.
He eats 5-8 ccs of a special formula, twice a day.

In all honesty, it's unlikely he's going to make it.  
Cottontails are notoriously difficult to rehab.  
Their gut flora is very exact.  Momma's milk is best. 
He was also brought in by someone's cat.  Cat saliva is pretty toxic.  
Infection is common and deadly.

We'll see.  
Time will tell.  
He did eat, and he's warm again.  
If he dies, at least he'll have died safe and quiet and with a full tummy.

Update: This little bunny died early in the evening of the day I received him.  Like most cottontails kits, he was (seemingly) doing fine and then was dead.