Saturday, August 24, 2013

Peanut safely back in the sky

It's great to share the wonderful news posted yesterday on the Franklin Hawkaholic facebook page by Michele Wellard at the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic:

"I'm happy to report that today Peanut was released to an excellent undisclosed location. He is flying, soaring, and hunting. He will be supported with food drops to ensure he gets his bearings. It's the perfect spot for a hawk - lots of prey and perching, but not too many human-caused dangers. Thank you all so much for caring so much, and for the donations to the clinic. Fly free and live well, young hawk!"

Michele shared pictures of his release and additional information:

"Moments after he burst out of his carrier box and flew skyward, he landed in that tree."

            Michele Wellard

"We sent him off after a nice meal - squirrel, as it happens." [You can see his full crop here].

            Michele Wellard

"For once in his life, Peanut was quiet during and after release!"

            Michele Wellard

Michele also gave us some information about Peanut's condition when he was brought into the clinic, and how he had progressed through his rehab:

"It's so amazing to look at these photos - remembering my first look at him as a patient - a badly injured hawk who could not even stand up - to this: a soaring, dashing young hawk, ready for his new life, ready to take on the world."

"His body condition was great when he left us - that's one of the things we evaluate before release. He should have nice breast muscle that you can feel - in many ways that's more important than his weight in grams (although obviously he should not be lighter on the way out than he was when he came in!)" 

"He is very small for a Red Tail - 847 grams when he came in, and he wasn't skinny - his body condition was good, with nice breast muscle. He's small, but naturally so - he's within the normal weight range, just at the low end, making him almost certainly a male. He's one of the smallest I've ever dealt with.  Some of the higher end weight females are absolute bruisers!"

Several hawkfans asked why he was not returned to the Ben Franklin Parkway to rejoin the haggards, Mom and T2.

Michele responded "With all three hawks seriously injured or dead on the Parkway, it was a no-brainer to locate him somewhere better, since he would be leaving [migrating] soon anyway. Imagine releasing him on the Parkway and a day later he's hit by a car again! It's too much of a risk. Obviously we're not into relocating all the city's hawks, but a juvenile [hawk] with his family's record, who has just recovered from a serious injury, and who would be leaving anyway - well, his welfare is the ONLY thing we consider when choosing his care and release plan. The choices were made to give him the best shot and a long and healthy life - like we try to do for all of our patients."

A couple of days before Peanut's release Rick Schubert moved him into the 50' flight cage where he was able to fly more freely.  

Carolyn Sutton who volunteers at the clinic described this new environment: "Now, he has the huge cage to fly around in. It's got large perches on each end and he can fly back and forth between them.  Ellen Boyar, another volunteer at SWRC, described him flying " big circles, swooping and dipping. He flew beautifully..."

So the saga of this year's three Franklin Institute eyasses ends well for the youngest and tragically for two oldest.  Who knew when we saw this image way back on May 4 of the surprise hatching of the third egg days after the other two, that the little scrap of eyass on the left would be the only one to survive?

                    Katy Mae

Rick Schubert and Michele Wellard at the SWRC did an extraordinary job of nurturing Peanut through his recovery.  Not only did they bring him back to health, but through their careful choices and timing of each stage of his rehab they also made sure he was equipped to fly free, hunt and join the migration south that all juvenile hawks will make in the next few weeks.

The haggards - Mom and T2 - will winter here again in Philadelphia and we will keep track of their activity over the next few months.  Just to whet your appetite for the next blog post, here's where they are now spending quite a bit of time!

                             Carolyn Sutton

                       Carolyn Sutton

               Dinko Mitic

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Peanut is now flying!

Peanut's recovery continues under the good care of Rick Schubert and Michele Wellard at the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic. On August 14, hawk fans were delighted to read this update from Carolyn Sutton who volunteers at the clinic:

"When I arrived at SWRC this morning, Rick asked me if I'd like to feed Peanut, who has been moved outside to one of the large raptor enclosures. I took him five mice and was really excited to see him flying back and forth between perches. As I was dropping the mice, Peanut flew to the ground about three feet away and looked me right in the eye. Maybe he wanted me to convey best wishes to his fan club. 'Hi guys. Every day in every way I'm getting better and better.' "

It is so positive that Peanut is now flying. The next step will be the introduction of live prey into his routine to assess his hunting skills. He will most likely make another move to the  50 ft flight cage so that he can fully regain his flying fitness.

Meanwhile, back in the city, Mom and T2 make tantalizingly unexpected appearances. No longer needing to maintain the parental routines imposed by raising their young, they are gadding about town!

Here's T2 looking a bit more put-together last Friday as more of his feathers grow in from the summer molt.

             Carolyn Sutton

Carolyn and Kevin observed both hawks last Friday, and gave the following report:

"We met on the Schuylkill River Recreational Trail [near the Art Museum] and followed Mom and T2 as they hunted and preened along the western edge of their territory. I first spotted T2 on the west side of the river. Kevin and I managed to link up and follow T2 back to the southern end of the ball field at 24th St. where he flew from tree to tree, then sat and preened. Kevin spotted Mom as he was heading back to work. She had staked out the north end of the ball field and Eakins Oval."

Mom now has brand spanking new red tail feathers that probably glow in the dark, they are so bright! There is now a much more noticeable dark stripe across the bottom. She is also sporting a new look - white eyebrows - as her head molts out!

           Carolyn Sutton

Observant readers may wonder why it suddenly looks wintry in Philadelphia - but it's nothing  more than her perching choice of a dead tree!

On the same morning, T2 picked pine for his perch..

                     Kevin Vaughan

                      Kevin Vaughan

             Carolyn Sutton

The sad events earlier this summer leading to the loss of F2 and F3 pre-empted a couple of blog posts, so I want to go back and share the happy day in late June when T2 entertained us with his bathing antics...

           Debi Rabin

... in the beautiful reflecting pool at the Barnes Museum.

            Della Micah

No matter what angle you look at this pool...

            Della Micah

            Della Micah

... the view is sublime.

           Della Micah

On that hot June day, T2 seemed more interested in aquatics than aesthetics!

            Debi Rabin

            Debi Rabin

            Debi Rabin

The Barnes Museum is a wonderful addition to the hawks' environment, and one of my favorite images from this spring was the morning when all three of the juveniles - F1, F2 and F3 - perched confidently together on the Barnes roof.

            Kevin Vaughan

All three had successfully navigated their way over the Vine Street Expressway and the Ben Franklin Parkway, and though they had fledged on different days, and flown to different places, they had reunited on the Barnes roof, and at that point looked as if they had everything in place for a fine summer of hunting and flying and then migrating.

As we know, this was not to be, but hopes are high that Peanut/F1 will continue to thrive. Stay tuned for more progress reports.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Peanut's recovery continues

I am delighted to report that Peanut (F1) continues to recover from his trauma from most likely being hit by a car. He is in his twelfth day of ICU rehab at the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic.

Here he is last Thursday, August 8, perching strongly but looking a little wary and fluffed up, and not quite the sleek hunter/flyer he was becoming just a couple of weeks ago.

              Molly Daly

Molly Daly, news anchor at KYW Newsradio, and an avid birder and Franklin Institute hawkfan, was able to take this picture while working on a story about Peanut's recovery. Molly interviewed Rick Schubert, director of the SWRC, who shared information about the bird's condition, prognosis and possible plans for release if his recovery stays on track.

We also learned that Peanut is an unusually vocal hawk, making it quite obvious when he needs a mouse, and during the interview, he was screeching in the background.

This first link takes you to the complete interview as it was published on the CBS Philly website. This version has all the details and information about Peanut's rehab and recovery from Rick.

Franklin Institute Red-Tailed Hawk On The Mend « CBS Philly

In the shorter radio version that went out on the KYW radio station, you can hear Molly and Rick speaking, along with Peanut's unmistakable hawk scream. (At the end of the segment, you will need to click off the player, otherwise it will continue to broadcast other recent stories from Molly, which actually are really interesting but not hawk-related.)

Though hawkwatchers' attention has understandably been focused on Peanut, let's not forget the other Franklin Institute hawks, Mom and T2, who continue their summer routine, though it's a routine that sadly no longer includes food drops for their juveniles.

Adult red-tails begin their annual molt at this time of the year. No longer the beautifully feathered, handsome hawks we saw in the spring, they are starting to look a little moth eaten in spots!

Here's T2 on August 4 perched with his wings dropping away from his body - perhaps to stay cooler in the oppressive heat. He has lost some flight feathers in his wings, as well as some tail feathers.

           Dinko Mitic

When he is flying, the missing flight feathers give a ragged edge to his wings.

                                       Dinko Mitic

Mom is losing her characteristic dark brown feathers that cover her head, giving her a lighter, almost gentler look.

                    Dinko Mitic

Because she is also lightening up under her chin, it is much harder to tell her apart from T2 these days....

                                        Dinko Mitic

... especially now that T2 has taken to sitting on Mom's favorite perch - the letters on Drexel University's College of Medicine.

                                      Dinko Mitic

Though they no longer need to hunt for their offspring, they still need to feed themselves. Chris Ryan was lucky enough to see Mom take off on a hunting run from the Granary building at 20th and Callowhill St. She had spied a small bird deep in the foliage of a nearby tree. Her wings too are clearly molting.

          Christopher Ryan

The unlucky bird probably had no idea he was in her cross-hairs.

           Christopher Ryan

           Christopher Ryan

I must express huge thanks, as always, to the skillful photographers who spend literally hours observing the hawks to capture these lovely images.

As a follow-up to the information I gave last week about donating to the SWRC, here is a list from their website of vitally needed in-kind gifts that you can drop off at the clinic. If you have any of these items looking for a good home, there could be none better than the SWRC.
  • Paper towels
  • Extra large trash bags
  • Bleach
  • Latex gloves
  • Innova Evo dry cat / kitten food
  • Hospital blankets (non-terry cloth blankets)
  • Facial tissue - toilet tissue
  • Gift cards: Lowe's, Home Depot, Acme, Shoprite,
  • Laundry detergent
  • Purina One dry dog food
  • Canned cat and dog food
  • Cat and dog carriers
  • Clean, gently used bath towels and receiving blankets
  • Shovels and rakes
  • Vetwrap sterile gauze
  • Tegaderm sterile telfa pads
  • Reptile heat bulbs
  • Full-spectrum bulbs
  • Standard fluorescent bulbs

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Finally..... Some happy news!!!

I am so happy to report that F1 is making significant progress in his rehab after some scary days when it was not certain that he would make it.  Hawkfans universally refer to him as Peanut because, as the last to hatch, he was always the smallest.  I must admit to having some difficulty calling this fierce young raptor "Peanut" but as his medical updates refer to him as Peanut, I will use that name in this post.

When I last posted, Peanut had been taken to the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic, and all we knew was that he had survived his first night, and was eating cut up mice.  He could not stand up even though there seemed no apparent damage to his legs.

On August 1, the indefatigable Carolyn Sutton who volunteers at SWRC took Peanut over to the Animal & Bird Health Care Center & Hospital in Cherry Hill, NJ, to be examined by Dr. James Boutette.  Exactly a week before to the day, F3 had made the same journey and similar to him, nothing untoward showed up for Peanut. Encouragingly though,  Dr. Boutette thought Peanut was much livelier than his sibling - alert, and aggressive. The concern was why he was having trouble standing, when there were no broken bones, and no neurological damage that Dr. Boutette could detect.  Peanut could move his toes and feet, and had feeling in them.

On the morning of August 2, he had not declined in any way - everything was about the same.  The SWRC staff continued to hand feed him cut up mice.  Knowing that F3 succumbed Friday evening following his Thursday vet trip, we were all so anxious on Saturday hoping for better news for Peanut.

It was a huge relief to get that August 3, Saturday morning update from the clinic that Peanut had made it through the night, and was resting in a dark, quiet cage,  continuing to receive supportive care.

And the good news kept coming....

Michele Wellard, assistant rehabilitator at SWRC, put a perch in Peanut's cage. When Ellen Boyar, another loyal SWRC volunteer, checked in on him, he was already on the perch. Ellen reported that "Michelle put in two mice and he gobbled one right up and then, while I was still watching, he started to preen!"

It was a huge step to see him preening.  It is sign of the hawk feeling good, or at least much better.  Sick birds don't preen, and for Peanut it also indicated that he was steadier and more comfortable standing and moving around.

By Sunday, he was grabbing dead mice as soon as they were thrown into his cage, and in Carolyn Sutton's words, Peanut was "perching proudly with 'addytood,' (that's Philly-speak for attitude). He looks SO much better than last Thursday when he visited the vet." 

Carolyn Sutton added this information: "When Peanut arrived [at the clinic] he could not use his legs at all, although he responded to reflex tests. He has been given pain meds over the past week and his preening is a good sign that whatever pain he has had is subsiding, The x-rays showed no obvious damage, but some injuries can't be seen on film. At this point no one is really sure what caused his condition, but blunt force trauma, perhaps from an encounter with a car, could be the answer."

Anyone who has ever been in a traffic or auto accident can attest to how beaten up one feels even if there are no fractures or visible injuries.

Then another wonderful development -- Peanut started calling - no, YELLING for food!  Michele Wellard made this video and told us,  "Today is the first day we heard Peanut's voice at the clinic! We knew he must be feeling better.  Apologies for the rubbish camera work and people talking in the hallway. I gave him mice right after he yelled. He made himself clear; he wanted food."

Turn up your volume to hear a real hawk scream, but don't put earphones on!!

Then Michele filmed him eating the mice she put in his cage. "Here's Peanut eating mice on his own.  Previously we had to hand feed him, so his eating on his own is such an improvement. It represents a real improvement and although Peanut has a long road, it makes us cautiously optimistic. "

Michele also provided us with this additional information: "The cage is larger than it looks  in the video, and he is wearing a temporary paper wrap "tail protector," since their tails are the most susceptible to damage in a cage, and are the most crucial to flight.  Also, you have to remember that before today he did not move at all, but instead sat in one small spot.  His moving around is a big improvement!  As he progresses, we will give him different and larger enclosures as appropriate, ending with, hopefully, a large 'flight cage' before release. Though sometimes, paradoxically, a smaller enclosure is safer. A larger enclosure has more room to bang oneself."

Many hawk fans have wondered if it turns out that Peanut can be returned to the Parkway in a week or so, will the haggards (Mom and T2) go back to making sure he's fed?  

I asked John Blakeman that question, and he replied, 
"Yes, the haggards will feed the released fledgling, as though nothing happened --- which for them, nothing did.
Now if this were two weeks later, when the photoperiod, length of daylight, begins to discernibly decline, the adults would be more reluctant to entice a mid-August immature to hang around. At that point, it's time for parental pressures to move the kids on their way.
But not yet. Should the young hawk regain full faculties, all should be well (or, more accurately phrased: 'normal,' in as much as a normal summertime for young Red-tails is not always "well," as we've so disconcertingly seen this year)."
--John Blakeman

It is hard to know at this early stage in his recovery whether he will be able to be released on the Parkway in the next couple of weeks. Rick Schubert will need to ensure that he can fly safely and catch live prey before he can be released.  It is a process that cannot be rushed.  Rick is enormously experienced in this work, and will make the best decision for Peanut.

Let's just hope that he continues to make good progress, but we can still dream that he will be back in the sky where hawks belong as he was just last week.  These pictures of Peanut were taken the day before he was found injured on the ground.

      Dinko Mitic

This tree is at 21st Street and the Parkway.  It is a favorite launch pad for chasing little birds, and Peanut was found lying only yards from its trunk.

             Dinko Mitic

Without Rick Schubert and Michele Wellard at the SWRC, and Dr. Boutette, Peanut would not be alive.  Many people have asked how they can help support this work.  Ellen Boyar, the SWRC volunteer who took F3 and another hawk over to Dr. Boutette has done some research on this issue.

"There is a way that we can have an immediate impact on SWRC's rehab work. Every time they take an animal, like F3 and Peanut, to Dr. Boutette's office, there is a charge. The doctor donates his time, but the clinic is charged, at cost, for medications, blood work, x-rays, etc. Joanne, the office manager at Dr. Boutette's office said that a special SWRC fund can be set up to be used to offset the charges that will be made to SWRC for the treatment of animals. 

A significant amount of money is spent at Dr. Boutette's office every year. For instance, it cost the clinic approximately $200 when I took F3 and a Cooper's hawk, who is on the road to recovery, to the vet. A contribution to an SWRC fund there [at Dr. Boutette's office] would be of great and direct assistance to the clinic. This would help our hawks, as well as other animals that the clinic cares for as it would free up the vet money for use at the clinic itself. 

If you want to contribute to an animal/bird care fund at the Dr. Boutette's office, please make out your donation to the Animal & Bird Health Care Center & Hospital with a notation to "Fund for SWRC."  Send it to Joanne's attention at this address: Animal & Bird Health Care Center & Hospital,  1785 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003. I don't think these donations are tax-deductible, but I'm not sure. The money that was already sent by some of you to the vet's office is being directed to that fund."

If you would like to make a donation directly to the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic, click on the box below and look for the "Donate Now" button on the right.  When you scroll down to the 
 "I want my donation to be designated toward" you can use the drop-down menu to select the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic. 

                                 Kevin Vaughan

And finally, echoing the celebratory mood we are all feeling today, hawkfan Lisa Schallert wrote:

A Doggerel Ditty for Peanut (to the tune of Scotland the Brave)

Hark when the night is falling
Peanut is loudly calling
Still in the morning calling
"Feed me again!"

While we are still a-sleeping
Peanut is once more peeping
"Feed me, oh feed me, 
Oh feed me again!"

Towering in gallant feather
Peanut, our hearts forever!
Long may your red tail gloriously wave!

Peanut, the first to ledge
Peanut, the first to fledge
Peanut, our hearts are with you!
Peanut the Brave!!

            Dinko Mitic