Saturday, December 29, 2007

Just Keep Breathing, Just Keep Breathing...

..just keep breathing, breathing... That was the little tune that Penny, our head rehabber, would softly sing to the Merlin at various intervals throughout the morning's procedure of imping its wing. I know that was my one worry as well, all for naught as it turns out, as it came through the procedure like a trooper. But let's start at the beginning, shall we?

First, you need some wooden skewers, which you must cut into small pieces and then these pieces need to be shaved down small enough to fit into the hollow feather shaft.

Then, one needs to make sure you have all of the tools of the trade at hand.

Super glue? Check! Alcohol? Check! Scalpel? Check!

Then, you need to take a dead bird of similar species and cut off, as close to the quick as you can, the feathers which you have determined need replacing on the live bird.

It's crucial that these remain in the correct order, so we taped them to a piece of paper towel and labeled them.

Notice how the R1 and R2 feathers look different? Here's a closeup of the R2 and R3 feathers.

Those indented feather tip ends, I found out, help the bird to dive quickly, as they do hunt on the wing.

One end of the skewer bits are then glued into the shaft of the feathers. The feathers on the paper towel already had these glued into them. This next part was something that we did on a whim and it ended up being a big help during this imping process. Avian vet and Board Member Dr. Michelle Loftus, or "Zarinda, the Imping Queen" as she was dubbed by the end of the imping procedure,...Smile Michelle!...

..asked me yesterday, the day we had originally planned to do this, to take a picture of the Merlin's good left wing....

..which I printed out and brought with me this morning.

We then numbered the feathers from 1 to 5, starting with the outermost one, flipped the page over and made outlines of the wing tips on the back.

This template helped us in determining length criteria of the feathers and some of the ones we cut off the first bird ended up being too short. Good thing we had a second bird to get feathers from!

Next, we need to prep the patient. It must be anesthetized, of course, so out comes the technical medical equipment and cone mask.

Penny held the Merlin while Dr. Loftus held the mask up over its face. You're getting sleepy...


...and it's out like a light! At this point, after fitting the cone completely over it's head, supplying a continuous amount of anesthesia to it (I learned that birds, especially small raptors, metabolize anesthesia very quickly), we needed to secure the feet. This is in case our little feathered friend here came out of the anesthesia at an inopportune time, like when someone was leaning over it, they wouldn't get taloned. Their talons may be small but trust me, they can still do some damage.

So, we placed a gauze square in the middle of the foot....

..and then wrapped surgical wrap around the entire foot.

Then, with the Merlin sound asleep and the feet secure....

...we are ready to begin the actual imping process. First step is to cut the broken flight feathers as short as you can get them.

Then, while the Merlin was still on its back, we took each feather that we wanted to imp, aligned the two cut ends, and compared the result with our chart to determine if the feather was long enough.

Once we determined that they would all work, some took a bit of adjusting with the shaft and/or skewer lengths, we turned the Merlin over and handed the feathers to Penny, or "The Skewer Gluer Princess" as I was calling her by the end of the process, to have her carefully add some glue to the end of the skewer bits.

The feather is then, making sure it's still in alignment, carefully slid into the corresponding shaft portion on the wing itself.

Then a strip of paper is placed under the shaft juncture and the juncture itself has a spot of glue placed on it.

After every feather, Dr. Loftus always checked to see how it looked. Were the wings looking symmetrical?

Did they look correct when the wings were folded up?

Once all the feathers were glued in, the Merlin was then turned back over. She then looked at the symmetry of the wings from the underside,....

...took a quick peek to make sure our patient was still sound asleep,...

...which he was, and then the feather joints on the underside of the wing were glued as well.

After this, the procedure was done and it was time to wake up our patient. Shona held him upright during the initial wakening period.

Come on little one, time to wake up.


That's more like it! We then placed it in a small kennel, but because they do metabolize the anesthesia so quickly, it was fully alert within minutes of this picture.

We then waited a couple of hours and decided to take it out to a larger aviary, as it needs to build up its flight muscles after sitting for over a month. Shona slowly opened her hands and it flew up to the farthest and highest perch in the back of the aviary with no problems whatsoever! WOOHOO! Or,
as Dr. Loftus kept saying throughout the morning, "This is SO COOL!"

So now we wait, make sure none of the feathers fall out, make sure it can turn mid-flight, and once we determine everything is good, it can be released!

Whew! Well, that was my day at Wolf Hollow. I hope you found it as interesting as I did! Til next time...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Stay Tuned, as Tomorrow's Post...

....should be more than a bit interesting, seeing as how it will involve sharp instruments, super glue, skewer bits, and these.....

Til next time...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Call it Good and Stamp It Done!

And by that I mean, with the releasing of the fawns today, baby season is officially over. Yes, we loaded them all into a fawn trailer and transported them to Orcas Island, since that is where a few of them came from originally. And believe it or not, the loading went very smoothly. The weather was not cooperating this morning, what with it being very windy and rainy, so I don't have pics of the loading process. But here is how the actual release part of the process went:

First we have a picture of Penny (Hi Penny- Thanks for the blog title suggestion. And no, your hair does not look all poofy-like!), our head rehabber at Wolf Hollow.

The bag she is holding contains deer grain, which we sprinkled liberally around the release site. The fawns are in that trailer. Upon the opening of the door, there was some definite hesitation on some to come out....

...while others just barreled their way out....

...effectively negating the hesitantness of others.

And then came the pretty, pretty princess of the release.

Her goat-like qualities were never more obvious than at this time, when I could see her from a distance. All her bits and pieces are shorter and stubbier than her year mates.

After she meandered out, they all huddled near each other, giving their new surroundings some much needed inspection.

After giving their approval of their new domain, some of the bolder ones decided to try their hand at rock climbing.

Then, they all slowly walked down the trail into the woods.

You all take care and thanks for the memories!

I need to send a special shout-out to Bonni and her husband (they are the ones who brought us the piebald fawn oh so many months ago) for scoping out release sites and helping us with the release itself today! Thanks guys!

Til next time...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Here a Raptor, There a Raptor, Everywhere....Raptors!

Did I mention we have a few raptors in residence right now? They run the gauntlet in sizes, so let's start with the wee ones first.

This is an American Kestrel we got in from the mainland. I had to take the picture through the bars of her carrier, as she was too stressed out.

Found by a highway, she held her left eye shut, indicating a possible head injury, and when x-rayed, we saw this:

Yep, she fractured her tibiotarsus, hence the leg splint on her. This x-ray was taken after she was splinted to make sure things were lined up correctly. She was given some homeopathic drugs for trauma and bone healing. After a few weeks or so, we noticed that her left foot was swelling, even though the splint wasn't tight at all and we had made sure she could move her toes. It even got so bad that a talon FELL OFF while I was holding her during an exam. Not pretty, nor was it a good sign. Our wonderful vet and Board member, Dr. Michelle Loftus...Hi Michelle!...came by and suggested we do water therapy and laser therapy on her foot, alternating days. Care to guess what mechanism we used for the water therapy? Tada!!!

I have some not so fond memories of one of these during my 5 painful years of orthodontics, but that's for another time and another blog. We filled this up with warm water and then let the water pulse all over her foot. She struggled a bit during this process and while I patiently tried to explain that we humans pay good money, and a lot of it, for treatment like this so she should relax and try and enjoy it, it was to no avail. Over the next week her foot swelling started to lessen and eventually, after taking one last x-ray to make sure things were healed well and proper....

we took off her splint.

You can see that one toe still looks swollen, and yes, that's the one the talon fell off of, but overall the leg and foot look GREAT! This is the point where I got to try my hand at giving her laser therapy.

It was an easy process, just making sure the laser was set at the proper settings and, while holding it about an inch away from the leg, running the beam up and down the leg. She's doing great and as of last week, she was in one of the outdoor aviaries, stretching her wings and exercising that leg.

Then we got in this Merlin.

Found under window on someone's porch in Mt. Vernon, we assume he flew into the window. It was unable to stand and very stressed out, but there were no signs of neurological impairment, but we gave it non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to combat whatever swelling might be causing its legs not to function properly. When it did start to walk and tried to fly, we noticed it was listing to the left and not flying well at all. The problem? This.

Three of its flight feathers have snapped in half. And it's impossible for it to fly well enough to capture food like this. So, we have two options. The interesting option, which Dr. Loftus is looking in to...Did I mention she specializes in avian veterinary medicine? She is VERY handy and it is much appreciated to have her around in situations like this!! imping the feathers. This is a process by which you graft the feather from another bird of the same species, which has died, onto the broken bits. They are held in place by tiny bamboo sticks which are glued into the hollow shaft of each feather. I am to understand that it is a VERY tricky procedure, as if it doesn't line up properly, the bird still won't be able to fly well. That leaves option two, which is to wait until the bird molts, which they only do once a year. So we could potentially have the Merlin here for MONTHS!! For now we have placed him outside in a small mew.

Then along came this Cooper's Hawk.

Found on nearby Lopez Island, it too had hit a window! It was holding its legs rigid and while able to move them, couldn't stand on them. We started it on some non-steroidal anti-inflammatories for possible nerve swelling. Its left pupil was also dilated. Due to the leg issue, we made a donut out of a towel for it to rest on and also made a tail guard so it wouldn't mangle its tail feathers while it was grounded, so to speak.

We did initially have to force feed it, which isn't fun for anyone....

..but it eventually regained the use of its legs, although it's still a wee bit wobbly, started eating on its own, and its left eye pupil started being more responsive to light. At this point, we moved it to one of the outdoor aviaries where it is doing just fine.

Now, for the big boys! We have in not one, but two Red-tailed hawks! The first to come in was this juvenile, one of this year's babies.

One can easily tell he's a youngster by his light coloring. This poor guy was hit not by one, but by TWO cars, before the people in the third car, having witnessed it getting hit twice, stopped to rescue it! If you have read my blog, you know how I feel about this, so I won't go on another rant. Needless to say he came in with a few issues. He came in with a head injury, slipping in and out of consciousness. His left eye pupil was fixed and dilated. He also had a marked Nystagmus, which is a neurological side-to-side head twitch. It looked like he was slowly looking to his right, and then his head would snap back to the center. He was given meds and vitamins for stress and nerve damage. He was also given steroids as an anti-inflammatory. Because we knew the injury was very recent, within an hour or so of when we got him in, steroids can be used as a neurological anti-inflammatory. I know there are pros and cons to this but after listening to all sides, this is the procedure the staff at Wolf Hollow follows.

And, because he is a critical care patient, he gets the works. He was very dehydrated, so he was tube fed fluids.

He also gets force fed until such time as he can eat on his own.

He seemed to take it in stride, but my guess is that's just because he didn't have the energy to fight us too much on it.

We then got in this adult Red-tailed hawk, who was found standing in a field along side a road.

It can't fly or stand on its left leg. The blue towel you see is a support donut that we can't seem to keep him on. He was given a homeopathic drug for trauma and we x-rayed him but found no fractures, so the leg injury could be one of the soft tissue variety. He, too, gets the full treatment of being tubed.....

...and being force fed, although if you got the meat pieces in towards the back of his beak, he readily swallowed them.

And yes, I know this picture is blurry, thank you very much, but I chose it because it lends an almost surrealistic feel to the feeding...don't you think? I also might have chosen it because it was the best one I had of this process with him!

I think I will leave the posting as such, with just the raptors in care being chronicled. We do have in a Great Blue heron and I heard we got in a Bald eagle that was on the losing end of a territorial battle, but I will have to get the story on her when I go in on Saturday. Til next time...