release

Neotropic Cormorant

This Neotropic Cormorant was brought to the Wildlife Center by a Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden.  The bird presented with a wing droop and was very lethargic.  Veterinarian exam and x-rays showed no breaks or swelling.  The cormorant was put on cage rest and was given fluids.  Several days later it was on its feet and eating great. The Neotropic Cormorant is very common on the Mexican border. The Galveston area also supports a large population.  This cormorant is the only one that ranges over the entire tropical American region of Western hemisphere thus having the name neotropic.  It was known as the olivaceous cormorant in earlier times. The neotropic is a blackish bird with a long tail that holds its neck in a S shape.  The pointed posterior edge of the gular skin is often pointed with whitish border.  Their bill is long with a hook on the end. Juvenile cormorant begin brown and slowly shift to black with their adult plumage. Cormorants swim well and dive for fish from the surface.   The staff and volunteers know the cormorant at the center is feeling better because it is doing a great deal of vocalizing.  This consists of a low gutteral pig-like grunt.  Every time they hear it everyone’s head snaps to attention thinking someone just brought in a pig.  Upon leaving the water the cormorants hold wings and tail open in a “spread eagle” fashion to dry them. And while holding the wings out to dry seems like a good idea, why do so few exhibit this trait, all sea birds and water birds get their feathers wet. Some researchs believe that the "spread eagle" pose is a method of themal regulation. Vultures often [...]

Ongoing Research

For the last seven years, Wildlife Rehab and Education has been working with biologists Woody Woodrow with the U S Fish and Wildlife Service, Sharon Schmalz Director of the WR&E Wildlife Center and Dr. Ray Telfair a well known ornithologist and former Texas Parks and Wildlife colleague of Woody’s study the movement patterns in Yellow-crowned Night Herons.  While these herons are a common sight in our ditches and neighborhoods, biologists don’t know too much about their movement patterns.  They are high tree nesters and so banding them in the nest is extremely difficult.  Each year WRE typically releases a considerable number of these herons.  To Sharon and Woody, this seemed like an opportunity to band some birds and hopefully collect some information about the birds.  With the help of Dr. Ray Telfair banding and marking began in 2003.  Additional research is being conducted by Dr. Heatley from Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.  She is using small blood samples collected from healthy birds to determine normal electrolytes and other blood parameters in these herons.  Thus when ill or injured herons are, these values will help rehabilitators, veterinarians and biologists determine appropriate treatment and to diagnose diseases or toxicoses.    Before the banding began, Sharon had started to apply hacking techniques used with raptors with the herons.  This allowed the birds to transition from a captive state to living without her assistance.  When the birds are ready to go, the team bands them with a USFWS number specific aluminum band.  In order to track observations of the birds, a nylon flag is also placed with the band above the bird’s wrist (what we think of as their knees).  The bands are typically aluminum gray but the [...]

Grumpy Old Men

While baby bird season is beginning to wind down, we are still receiving Mockingbirds, Blue Jays and Dove. The pictured Mockingbird is a fledgling. From hatching of an altricial species to the unfurling of enough flight feathers to flutter short distances is considered the nestling stage. Babies are completely dependent on the parents at this stage for nourishment, warmth and protection. Once they fledge, the young will continue to beg for food, but will begin to search for food on their own. Within a few days they are flying well and feeding themselves. Precocial species like Killdeer, chickens and ducks are mobile and self-feeding shortly after hatching. They require mom’s protection and guidance to find good sources of food. They will hang together as a group until the young are flying well. Then the group will disperse. Raptors, especially the larger owls have an additional development phase called branchling that occurs between nestling and fledgling. Branchling babies can’t really fly yet, but they leave the nest and spread out along the nearby branches. They continue to be fed by the parents and strengthen their wings by vigorous flapping. They begin to experiment with flight by jumping and fluttering between branches.

Home Sweet Home

The three armadillo brothers that were raised at the Wildlife Center since they were a couple of days old were taken to a remote site that already has armadillo on it for release. It was wonderful to witness these unusual mammals grow, change and learn. Watching their instinctual behavior emerge gave us confidence that these boys would have the tools they needed to survive at release. The landowner dug a trench to create an artificial den. At the uphill end of the trench, he placed a five-gallon bucket. To the cap of the bucket, he connected  a “tunnel” of metal dryer vent. Then everything except the entrance was buried. A low fence was erected to guide the armadillo to the nearby pond. Back-up food was provided. The armadillo had been busy digging around the enclosure, so the fence was removed. The landowner dug up the den one week later check on the health and well-being of the brothers. He discovered that two of the three armadillo was still calling it home. It is thought that the largest of the three was probably foraging nearby or had struck out on his own. It is expected that the remaining two will eventually abandon the artificial den, but it will be there in case they need a place to hide. What a perfect release! It makes all of the work worthwhile.

Pair of Red-tailed Hawks wow crowd

In honor and memory of Dr. Ned Dudney, two juvenile Red-tailed hawks were released from the The Dr. Ned & Fay Dudney Clear Creek Nature Center in League City, TX Saturday, March 6, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. His widow, Fay Dudney and daughter Vaness Hamilton were in attendance. A planned third hawk was held back because damaged talons needed a little more time to heal. An excellent photograph of the event was published in Sunday's Houston Chronicle, City section (B2). Several other media outlets were in attendance. It was a gorgeous spring morning and the first hawk circled and landed in the top of a nearby tree. The second hawk circled and landed in another nearby tree.  The two rendezvoused briefly in a single tree before flying off together.        

Public Release of Three Red-tailed Hawks

The release of three Red-Tailed Hawks will be in honor and in memory of Dr. Ned Dudney who for 50 years served as family doctor to many grateful patients, some across 5 generations. He enthusiastically participated with the early development of League City and the greater Bay Area. This leadership and his service to his profession earned him the Ashbel Smith Distinguished Service Award from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He loved the outdoors. His gardening and weekly golf game was his getaway and rejuvenation time. From his humble roots on a farm in Southern Arkansas he gained a lifelong appreciation of the natural world around him. His particular fondness for the sand hill cranes who winter in the League City area is known by many of his friends and family. Please join us for the release Saturday, March 6, 2010 10:00 a.m. The Dr. Ned & Fay Dudney Clear Creek Nature Center in League City, TX On Egret Bay Blvd (FM 270) between Nasa Rd. 1 and FM 518

The Stories They Could Tell

The Peregrine Falcon loved city life. It ran in his family, he was born high atop the U.S. Bank building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the spring of 2007. Humans banded his leg before he could fly on May 31st, the band read (b/g) E/43, but the researchers called him Samson. He grew strong and learned to fly. He beat the average mortality rate of 60 – 70% during the first year. He was sexually mature the spring of 2008, but because he had established a bountiful territory, he probably waited until his second year to mate. We’ll never know the astounding aerobatics he performed to attract her, but we know that she probably accepted his proposal of lifelong devotion by flying upside down to accept a gift of prey from his talons. In April of 2009, Samson and his mate appeared at a next box constructed on the top of the Engineering and Mechanical Sciences Building on the campus of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. We know this because the nest box was constantly monitored via webcam. The nest box was constructed at that site a year earlier in hopes that peregrines would eventually make use of it.  Over the course of several days, Samson’s mate laid 4 eggs. You can only imagine how excited the students of the University of Wisconsin and researchers were as they followed the family’s progress. Mom incubated the eggs, but sometimes Samson took a turn. The eggs began to hatch on May 16. All four of the chicks survived and flourished. On June 8, the humans came and banded the legs of all of his offspring. They grew strong and fledged – the circle was complete. We know [...]

Life of a Wildlife Rehabber

I Made a Difference for That One! The people who bring us orphaned and injured native Texas wildlife and their stories begin to blend together after a time, but what I’ve often noticed is that saving this one animal or this one litter or clutch takes on a life of its own. One that is much bigger that the simple act of kindness in bringing an animal for care and surrendering it to a wildlife rehabilitator for treatment. Deep emotions are frequently revealed when at last someone says “Yes, I can help”. This single act could be a turning point, never to be forgotten; the discovery of an avocation; a cathartic release that even though a loved one had not been spared, the person COULD save this animal. A weight could be lifted that was much greater than most persons would ascribe to the life or death of an animal. Animals whether they are domestic or wild bring to us ways of dealing with emotions that we either didn’t know what to do with or realized that we even had. I’ve heard stories - the man who’s wife of many years died of cancer brought a  fluffy yellow duckling to us to save. In some small way he was filling that empty uselessness he felt as she slipped away from him. The man who needed to be needed and in a quirk of fate, even though he wasn’t a big animal lover, began building cages great and small. The 12 year old son that watches all of this and can trot out every speech I’ve ever made, then quietly help me decide that this one can’t be saved and can’t be left to suffer. But [...]

Operation Rescue

  OPERATION RESCUE Hundreds of orphaned and live trapped opossums and raccoons are brought to the center by the general public and animal welfare organizations each year. With neighborhood expansions, many of these youngest opossums are found on or around dead mothers in our roadways or brought to owner’s doorsteps by family pets. Raccoons often invade attics and garages to find safe nesting sites. Mistakenly, homeowners often live trap and relocate Mom only to find a litter of helpless infants days later. Our rescue program is a growing endeavor. ‘Rewarding’ is a term used to define our ongoing work in this area, but it costs resources, money, gas, and land use. Several opportunities are available for our communities to assist. Items such as gas cards or money for supplies, transport and release would be welcomed due to the numbers and distances necessary to travel to remote sites. Ultimately, having release opportunities on private or corporate land would enable the relocated wildlife to have a fresh start in natural surroundings. ‘Letter of permission’ from the landowner will be required for land use. If you can help in Operation Rescue in any way it would be greatly appreciated. In the event you are able to assist in this endeavor, please feel free to contact the wildlife center at 713-861-9453 or email us sharonschmalz@wrande.org. We look forward to hearing from you.