“Coming Together”

FB_BlogMG_8133_Dec2013Plenty of rescue stories come through the door at the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter in Newport that volunteers and staff repeat over and over again because they bring us joy and an opportunity to recall the 2nd chances we help make happen. But sometimes a wildlife memory is produced at the shelter that has nothing to do with an injured or distressed animal admitted to our clinic. In this season of giving and reflecting, it’s a great time to share this once in a lifetime story, so let me tell you one of our favorite memories. If there exists such a thing as a normal, or let’s say routine day at our wildlife shelter, especially in the winter, it would be one of manning the phones and admit desk, examining incoming patients, preparing specie specific diets for delivery at meal time, administering medications, cleaning and disinfecting kennel cabs, sweeping, mopping, taking out the trash, locking every patient in for the night and setting the alarm. If there’s a moment of down time in all of that, the small crew of two or three rehabilitators come together to discuss patient care or the latest happening in each of our lives over a spot of afternoon tea in the humans’ kitchen. One winter day started ‘average’ enough, but turned out to be anything but routine. We witnessed an “in the wild” incident so rare it begged for a camcorder bolted to the top of a helmet, similar to those worn during extreme sports or the super bowl, which I should surely be required to wear while tending to tasks at the wildlife shelter. Of course, no one at the shelter wears one, but without videotape, who will fully appreciate or believe our story without seeing it play out for themselves. Still shots can only do so much but here goes.  Passing through the kitchen, I stopped to watch the over wintering hummingbird hover near the nectar feeder outside the window. My hummingbirds at home in Jacksonville packed up and left for Brazil or Costa Rica months ago, but this little chubby guy was still hanging tough in our 40-degree weather. At the same time, a Great Blue Heron passed over the building, straight as an arrow, his long thin legs dangling after him like the tail of a kite. I ran to the gift shop window to see if he was coming down to our pond. Although Herons find swampland more suitable at mealtime, they visit our pond occasionally, and he did. I didn’t know if he would stay long, though. Being solitary hunters, the presence of so many ducks and geese may prove annoying for the lanky fisherman. I yelled for Maria to come watch and through binoculars we saw him gracefully move into position behind the bare limbs of a bush whose roots drink from the pond. With head lowered, he stalked all movement under the water and despite twenty geese paddling over to nose into his business, within minutes his head shot into the pond, catching a six-inch Bluegill with his spear-like bill. He immediately took flight over the building with the fish tightly clamped in his mouth, so we hurried to the back window to see him go. By the time we reached clear pane, he was turning around and heading back toward the pond with no fish. The fish was way too wide to swallow whole in flight, so we figured the large, gray seabird dropped the fish, but wondered why he didn’t just come down and get it? Maria and I decided to go outside and look for this fish out of water. If it were still alive, we’d throw him back in the pond. Come on, it’s what we do. Donned in puffy vests we spread out and walked toward the aerial path taken by the Heron. “Stop. Don’t move,” Maria whispered loudly. Within 25 feet, we stood face to face with a stout and sturdy Redtailed Hawk on the ground, her talons securely embedded in the fish the Heron accidentally dropped, or quite possibly, the aggressive, territorial bird of prey caused the Heron to drop it. We will never know for sure, but something told us it was probably the latter. With her mouth open, the Redtail, North America’s largest hawk, looked at us, then down at the fish and back at us. Since her eyesight is eight times more powerful than a human’s, we knew she was seeing us and our intent much more clearly than we were seeing her. We backed away slowly and like a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter, the heavily built Redtailed Hawk lifted to a sturdy pine branch, Bluegill in tow and proceeded to dine on fish.  RB_BlogRedtailDec2013We weren’t sure if she’d ever eaten fish before, as they usually feed on small rodents and an occasional snake or frog. After watching her tear into her alleged stolen food for a few minutes, we went back to the gift shop window and found the Heron, planted and waiting patiently in the same fish blind he’d used before. The geese had lost interest in his presence. It only took a few more minutes until the Great Blue surfaced an even bigger Bluegill, at least 8 inches, which he toyed with a bit before seriously making short work of his lunch. Even in nature, good karma is present (at least for the Heron . . . not so much for the fish). This extraordinary experience was compelling, absolutely powerful and took all of ten minutes or less. Those precious moments were a once in a lifetime “coming together” of Heron, Hawk and Humans. Though brief, a strong message was sent and well received . . . . We should all be walking life’s journey fully awake.

MERRY  CHRISTMAS  EVERYONE!!

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of “Save Them All

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Wild and Merry!

Every wild release is a time to celebrate at the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter (OWLS). When months of care, monitoring and mentoring of wild animals pay off and animals are eventually ready to go their merry way into natural habitats where they can enjoy the lives they were meant to live, it is a time for jubilant high-fives all around. It’s truly a team effort by OWLS wildlife rehabilitators, volunteers and donors that helps get the hawks, eagles, owls, pelicans, marsh birds, cottontails, squirrels, opossums, songbirds, muskrats, ducks, geese, turtles and all the other birds and critters that pass through our clinic door at 100 Wildlife Way in Newport, back to tip-top condition and capable of living in the wild again.
Each wild animal admitted to our care goes through a process of diagnosis and identification of illness or injury that entails a thorough physical examination, x-rays if necessary and laboratory work. We gather as much information as possible on the nature of injury to include the situation and location where the animal was found. After diagnosis, we begin appropriate treatment according to the individual needs of each species of wildlife. The initial treatment is extremely significant and instrumental to a successful rehab outcome. We also consider the stress the animal is trying to manage and remember that this may be the first encounter with humans for this animal coming from the wild.
At the end of medical treatment, to prepare for release, each animal patient is transferred to a pre-release enclosure that mimics life in its native habitat and our monitoring continues. Here, the animal is able to prepare for challenges it will face upon release. Practicing skills such as flight, hunting and life around other animals is crucial for survival following any animal’s release into the wild. During this time, we also research and determine an optimal release site, which is chosen according to the natural environment typical for a specific animal and, if possible, the site where it was found if deemed not to be a perilous location. The timing of release will be determined according to the lifestyle of the animal, daily active hours and months of migration.
In the past few months, releases for our shelter have been sweet, joyful and numerous. A mature Bald Eagle downed by pneumonia is flying free again in Pender County. A young Red-tailed Hawk lacking hunting skills and suffering from starvation recovered to a full figured gal who now knows how to feed herself in the wild. Two sibling Barred Owl babies from Jacksonville that refused to stay in their nest as rambunctious youngins and who were no match for predators on the ground were raised by our resident Barred Owl, Dinah, and released in a wooded area of Onslow County. Pelicans, admitted with fishing gear injuries recovered from lacerations and infections with the help of administered antibiotics, have rejoined their flight crews to skim ocean waves again. Parking lot Ring-billed and Laughing Gulls, clipped by cars or suffering from malnutrition as a result of eating a steady diet of popcorn, bread or Cheetos, are now feeling the wind flow through their wings as they stand guard on dock poles after supervised R&R and a healthy diet of fish. Hundreds of helpless baby squirrels orphaned after the most recent hurricane became fast and furious releases that will continue to amuse us and dwell in trees everywhere. Young, misguided flying squirrels, who had moved into someone’s attic, were added to a robust colony after spending a short time at OWLS. Even a Sora, a small, very secretive marsh bird, hardly anyone ever sees, was returned to the marsh after a brief stay with us for a concussion. Although, a tiny Least Sandpiper could not be released due to a shoulder injury that never healed to 100% function, we did find a home for her with the Boston Aquarium. And there were many more! We’re never sure what’s going through their minds when they take flight, skedaddle into the brush or waddle toward a waterway on release day, but we’d like to think they’re celebrating too and appreciative of their second chance even if they found wildlife rehabilitators somewhat annoying or irritating during their stay in ICU for treatment or while encouraging them to practice their skills, even when they didn’t want to, in their pre-release enclosure, readying themselves for the big “I’m free” day.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone! In this wonderful season, I wish you all the warm and special memories your heart can hold!

Linda Bergman-Althouse
Author of “Save Them All”

The Christmas Squirrel

When I got the late afternoon call, it didn’t sound good. A squirrel was cat attacked and rescued by a little girl who had been holding the adult squirrel in her lap for over an hour. As a wildlife rehabilitator with years of squirrel experience, my first thoughts were, this squirrel is mortally wounded and on his or her way to squirrel heaven or the squirrel’s in shock. If it was the latter and the squirrel came around while on the youngster’s lap, the scene would not be pretty and could possibly become dangerous to downright bloody. After the gentleman caller told me that he thought “all the squirrel needed right now is to be held and kept warm,” I knew I had to get that squirrel off the nine-year-old’s lap. I met the family at Burger King around 6 pm, and the little girl was still carrying the squirrel in her sweatshirt, even after my advisement to place her in a box for transport. The squirrel was moving but not responding normally, so I gently transferred her from the sweatshirt by towel to a kennel cab. In the triage at my home, I placed the kennel cab on a heating pad and gave her some time. An hour later, she was a totally different squirrel. She growled, chattered and charged the door more than once when I checked on her. Confirmed: it was the latter. Even though the towels evidenced no sign of blood, I figured a ride to the Outerbanks Wildlife Shelter (OWLS) in Newport, when I went in for my shift the next day, was in order to give her the once over for possible puncture wounds that would need to be cleaned and treated. The ride to the shelter went well, but the exam room was another story. She was totally IN rather than OUT of her little squirrel mind and wanted no part of an exam, probably reflecting on the cat that pounced on her and carried her around a day earlier. Maria and I are much bigger than the cat! We decided not to sedate her because of the risks involved and since she was acting her normal squirrel “in survival mode self,” avoiding us at all costs and still no signs of blood or injury, the decision was made to take her back to her neighborhood and the trees she knows. It was dark when I arrived home on Christmas Eve, so back into the triage she went. She would be a Christmas Day release, or so I planned. Christmas morning, after feeding all the outside critters, I headed into the triage and the place looked like a robbery had gone on in there; things were overturned, knocked off shelves AND squirrel poo pellets were ON TOP of the kennel cab! She had chewed her way through the side of my toughest kennel cab and was no longer inside. She beat the live trap three times Christmas Day before finally being caught Christmas night. Then it snowed quite heavily the very next day!!!!!!! Snow is welcomed by most North Carolinians, because it happens so rarely, especially on the coast and even more appreciated around Christmas, but not so much when you have an agitated adult squirrel to release. So, I had to wait for a partial melt off before her release, which wasn’t until two days later. While confined to the live trap, she had plenty of food and water, and even felt comfortable enough to do a little remodeling by chewing at least five cover towels to make nesting material and because it was Christmas, I used red, green and white towels, of course. She chose white as her dominate color as you can see.
On Tuesday, I called her rescuers to let them know she was coming home. The little girl wanted to be present, along with her Dad and brother. I’m thinking – there’s not a lot to see with the speed of a squirrel release, but it was cute. They were all standing in the road, flagging me into the drive, when I arrived. I found a big tree and pointed the live trap towards it. No one saw anything! She was so fast, she was out of the trap and up the tree before our eyes could register anything! It even took a while before we could locate her in the tree! After dumping a zip lock bag of squirrel munchies at the base of the tall pine, I wished the family a Happy New Year! and we parted to enjoy the remainder of our holiday season. I’m hoping, with everything the squirrel experienced in the past week, she knows to be a whole lot faster, way more vicious and a little wiser when moving about during her daily scheduled activities.

Happy New Year Everyone!!
Linda Bergman-Althouse
Author of “Save Them All”

Backyard Fatality . . .

As much as I love nature and nature loves me,
I can’t seem to escape the occasional backyard fatality.
Their hunt is aggressive but manners demure, it wasn’t a cat, that’s for sure.
Feline free roamers with pure criminal intent are not nature to me.
Wildlife has little defense against efficient sport killers as these.
With cats, death is usually quick and quietly carried away.
They leave no trace, there is nothing to know, no guilt to pay.
No . . . this was a hawk, Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s variety,
Who must also eat, so I reluctantly accept an occasional loss and know it must be.
Nature circles where I live; my grounds, my mind, soul, and in my heart.
Disjoined bed of feathers, tragic scenes such as these give way to guilt’s start.
Which to save . . .  is not for me nor others to say, it’s nature’s way.

I try to keep them safe with cover and food; the doves, cardinals, flickers, squirrels,
Wrens, bluejays, titmouse, robin, thrasher, chickadee, opossum and sparrows.
But there’ll come a day when one is not alert or fast enough to out sway,
And I shall gather up all that is left of one I encouraged to stay.
I’ll always love nature and nature will love me,
Just wish I could escape the tormenting backyard fatality.

 

Linda Bergman-Althouse, author of “Save Them All”

DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT THIS YEAR’S AUTHOR’S HOLIDAY GIVE-AWAY BASKET AND GET ENTERED BY DECEMBER 10TH!

AUTHOR’S HOLIDAY GIVE-AWAY IS BACK!

It was so much fun last year, I have to do it again this year!

“AUTHOR’S HOLIDAY GIVE-AWAY”

Date: From 22 September to 10 December 2008

Time: Ends midnight, December 10, 2008

Location: USA

Everyone who purchases a copy of my novel “Save Them All,” directly from author (address below) or through PayPal will be entered in my “Author’s Holiday Give-Away” drawing for the goodie basket below.

“>The winner will receive a green and gold harvest basket filled with a blue plaid fleece throw, a crazy cute pink poodle, an over-sized mug with Sen-Cha tea, a happy snowman, festive reindeer hand towel, a spiral “fat book” for note taking, a wildlife print pen, an aquamarine cushion grip pen, some sweet treats and a signed copy of my novel, “Save Them All” with wildlife bookmark to gift one of your favorite people.

The contest begins on Monday, September 22, 2008 and will end midnight on December 10, 2008 when the winning name will be drawn.   The winner will be notified by email on December 11, 2008 to let her or him know their prize basket is in the mail.

For your copy of “Save Them All” and an automatic entry into the “2008 Author’s Holiday Giveway” drawing, please send check or money order in the amount of $21.95, which includes shipping, to:

Novel / Save Them All
130 Aldersgate Road
Jacksonville, North Carolina
28546

I encourage you to ENTER!! It’s definitely a lot of fun for me, you receive a GREAT read and I still believe your ODDS of snagging that basket and it’s goodies are much better than powerball, our state’s lottery or even a scratch off card!!

Just ask Bea B., last years winner.

Good Luck and have Happy & Safe Holidays!!
Linda Bergman-Althouse

Paws Pause for Christmas

‘Tis the season to be jolly with my friend’s niece Molly. I bought her a dolly, and she named her Holly!! Okay, I’ll stop. I always look forward to Christmas. Although I hear many a heavy sigh, followed by “not again,” it’s never too much for me. I love it all; the decorations, baking, the sweets that none of us should eat, the shopping, the presents and the wrapping, the music, the Christmas cards, friends coming over for tea, the hugging and the all encompassing reason for the season. I embrace every minute detail! My cats, Kitty, Pearl, Cybill and Seven, can’t possibly comprehend any of that, but they seem to love the holiday season even more than I do. Normally, we’re a fairly laid back household. I can’t get the furry ones to do much more than sleep, eat and make deposits in the litter box during the rest of the year. And I’m usually the only one who moves toward the door when the bell rings and when people enter, one might hear the lack of traction on the kitchen flooring because the furry foursome can’t become invisible fast enough. Some people don’t  believe I have cats, they never see them (even the pet sitter) until Christmas time. I was even accused of renting them just for the holidays. But when the season begins, my “hideouts” are definitely under foot. They want to see everything and everybody. The postman is exceptionally exciting because he usually has a box to open, which means they get to watch me remove presents, which they sniff audibly and when the box is empty, they jump in. There’s some pure joy current in the air that truly has an affect on them. It begins when the tree and boxes of decorations come down from the attic, watch out, they can hardly contain themselves. Fortunately they are not destructive, they just want to see and be a part of everything. They paw the ornaments before I get them to the tree and visit each light on the strand as it lays across the carpeting during testing. After the tree is up and decorating completed, my furry children want to be near it, either on the arm of the sofa, sitting in front of it gazing at the twinklings or under it, but never in it.

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Christmas Carols will bring them close to the stereo or radio. Kitty and Pearl don’t seem to mind how loud I play them. Presents are something to rub against or lean their heads on when they snooze. You won’t find our cats approaching anyone throughout the year, but during the holidays, they want a pet from everyone, they even become so bold as to jump in a strange lap or two. They get ecstatic when we open gifts on Christmas morning. They are simply so thrilled to roll around in the wrapping paper that it appears they have been waiting for this special treat all year (and there is no presence of catnip). Their unusual behavior at Christmas always astounds but warms me. May you, also, enjoy some of that strange behavior as our paws pause for Christmas. Savor the holiday moments, connect with those you love (or merely tolerate), sniff all the Christmas goodies, feel the vibrations of some great carols and jump on a lap or two. I remember reading a verse that goes something like: “When you worry and hurry through your day, it is like an unopened gift . . . thrown away. Life is not a race. Take it slower and hear the music, before the song is over.” Those wise words are a regift from me to you.  Please carry them with you to 2008.
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Merry Christmas To All and To All A Good Night!!!!

Linda Bergman-Althouse

Author & Wildlife Rehabilitator

(Let’s hope there are lots of “Save Them All” under Christmas Trees this year!)

Author’s Holiday Give-Away Winner!

The contest began on Monday, August 20, 2007 and expired at midnight on November 20, 2007. Everyone who purchased a copy of my novel “Save Them All,” directly from me at a signing/reading or through the mail via my home office or through PayPal were eligible to enter my “Author’s Holiday Give-Away” drawing. All the eligible names were placed in an Abercrombie and Fitch shopping bag (something my son left behind when he went out into the world) during the three month contest. Upon expiration of the contest, the winning name was drawn. I had all my shipping materials ready (the perfect box, new air packs rather than annoying Styrofoam peanuts) for mailing anywhere; Virgina, South Carolina, Ohio, but the winning name happened to reside in Onslow County, North Carolina, well within driving distance. Since she didn’t have an email address, I called the number on her entry to tell Ms. Belinda “Bee” B. she had won. She sounded thrilled, said she couldn’t believe she had won something and also mentioned she was at work. So . . . my husband and I headed on down the road to her place of employment to deliver Bee’s winnings on Thanksgiving day.
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She gave me three hugs (which were more valuable than the prize basket), and Belinda received an attractive unisex, flat woven and lined basket, two $50.00 Books-a-Million gift cards, a soft green (my favorite color) 50” x 60” plush throw, four wildlife bookmarks, two aquamarine, comfort-grip pens, some sweet treats, a squooshy & friendly Monkey pillow and a signed copy of “Save Them All” to give to her favorite person as a gift. Bee told me she has purchased three of my books for gifts already after reading “Save Them All” last year and was needing another copy. So that worked out very well. The contest was so much fun for me, I’m sure I’ll be looking for another opportunity to fashion another one. Now I know how Oprah feels when she gives all those “Favorite Things” away each year or possibly the ladies on the View, when they pass out a new gift each day for the Twelve Days of Christmas! Not Quite!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Linda Bergman-Althouse

Author of “Save Them All”