Summer Solstice Newsletter

Our 13th year of helping wild birds!

From May 8th, the first day we “opened” until now, we’ve taken in 546 birds. We have about 145 birds in the Center now, 9 in flight cages, 23 goslings at various caretaker’s houses, and 10 nestlings in the incubator.
We are asking volunteers who can, to take an extra shift until we get the numbers of birds down. Interns and staff are staying late in order to get the baskets changed and the birds fed before they leave for the night.
This juvenile Nuthatch came in as a nestling with a wing injury. The wing was taped (see photo) and has healed. It has been flight-tested and is flying well although not ready to be released.
Clinic Manager Gabby and Staff member Seana taping the wing of a Tree Swallow.
Each year, we release hundreds of orphaned and injured birds back into the wild, many of which first need to gain strength in a flight cage. Each flight cage houses as many as 150 birds annually. Unfortunately, one of our cages has been crushed by a fallen tree and will need to be rebuilt. We are also looking to build  additional flight cages as our intake numbers grow.
To help the Bird Center reach the goal of raising $1500 for this cause, please visit:
The Bird Center receives no state or federal funding, and is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit.
Please share this link. Thank you for supporting the Bird Center’s mission.

Volunteers Jake West and Liam Pendleton staffed the Bird Center table at
the June 9 Annual Mayor’s Green Fair.
“The Green Fair went really well!” said Jake. “It was a really nice evening and we had the chance to talk to some pretty interesting people.”
I asked Jake and Liam about working at the Bird Center.
Jake told me,”I am a senior Biomedical Engineering student at U of M aspiring to become a veterinarian. As a pre-veterinary student, I have devoted myself to being involved in various animal care based opportunities including research, clinic work at a veterinary hospital, and of course, volunteering at the Bird Center. The Bird Center has been a wonderful experience for me, as I have been getting exposure to animal care in a way that is new and refreshing. I joined the volunteer staff at the Bird Center because I wanted to help the local community and its avian wildlife, as well as diversify my animal care skills and experience. Working at the Bird Center has been amazing in giving me this chance to broaden my scope of animal care. It has also exposed me to a group of people who are as truly passionate about wildlife as I am. “
And Liam:
“I’m studying environmental biology and I’m also a volunteer here at the Bird Center. I started back at the beginning of May and my duties at the center have involved cleaning and arranging enclosures for birds, feeding, and a variety of other tasks that are needed around the Center. I was received warmly by the staff and interns working at the Center, and I absolutely love the time I spend here. I’d recommend to anyone looking to get some hands-on experience with wildlife rehabilitation to volunteer at the Bird Center.”

Birdology, by Sy Montgomery
“Birds, which are more different from us than any other class of creatures we commonly see, can see polarized and ultraviolet light, experience colors we can never know, sense the earth’s magnetic field, and navigate using subtle changes in odor and barometric pressure:
Birds are the only wild animals most people see every day. No matter where we live, birds live with us. Too many of us take them for granted. We don’t appreciate how very strange they are, how different. We don’t realize what otherworldly creatures birds are. Their hearts look like those of crocodiles. Birds are covered with modified scales — we call them feathers. Their bones are hollow, permeated with extensive air sacs. They have no hands. They give birth to eggs.
No other scientific classification of living creature we commonly see is so different from us as is the class Aves. We don’t even think of birds as animals (although they are — as are humans, of course). We consider animals to be our fellow mammals, with whom our kinship is obvious. … We shared a common ancestor with even the most distant of our fellow placental mammals as recently as 100 million years ago. The last ancestor we shared with the birds, however, traces back 325 to 350 million years ago.
A bird is as distant from us as a dinosaur. But unlike the extinct mon-sters of the Jurassic and Cretaceous, birds today are everywhere among us — on our sidewalks, at our bird feeders, on our dinner plates. Yet despite our disparate evolutionary paths, scientists are now beginning to reveal the extent to which birds’ emotional and intellectual abilities are remarkably like ours. …
The first thing you need to know about birds is that birds are Individuals. … Although a flock of hens is all about community, each chicken is quite distinctive, and the personality of each individual is extremely important to the flock dynamic. People who don’t know chickens are always astonished to learn this, but when you are in the company of birds, you must be prepared to be surprised.
A second fundamental truth of birds is that Birds Are Dinosaurs. That may be difficult to see when you’re watching a fluffy chickadee at the feeder, but it is abundantly clear when you are crashing through the rain forest of Queensland, Australia, pursuing a 150-pound cassowary, a bird as tall as a man, crowned with a helmet of bone on its head and a killer claw on each foot. … The dinosaurian lineage that became the birds left the earth for the skies. And in doing this, they utterly reshaped their bodies inside and out. … Their bones are hollow; their feathers weigh more than the skeleton. Their bodies are full of air sacs; their feathers, also hollow shafted, are sculpted to capture and move air. Birds are essentially feather-fringed bubbles. …
Birds are able to apprehend the world in ways that we cannot. They can see polarized and ultraviolet light. They experience colors we can never know. They sense the earth’s magnetic field , navigate using subtle changes in odor and barometric pressure. They imbibe realities of this world that we cannot fathom and use them to circumnavigate the globe. We are only now starting to understand how birds accomplish these extraordinary feats, by way of one of our most ordinary and unappreciated birds, the pigeon. …
“Though gifted with instincts and senses that we lack, birds’ intellectual capacities are shockingly similar to our own. Some birds appreciate human art to the extent that they can learn to tell the difference between the paintings of Monet and those of Manet. Some birds love to dance. … Birds’ capacity for song is of course so legendary that many cultures tell us the birds taught music to humans. There are birds who can even speak to us meaningfully in our own language — something that, many scientists believe, even our close hominid cousins, the Neanderthals, probably could not do.”
Sy has written many books for children and adults, among them
Soul of the Octopus and The Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood.
 When Birds Think You’re Too Close to Their Nests
There are a variety of behaviors birds display when they feel threatened.  Understanding them will make you a more responsible birder.
Observing bird behavior is one of the many pleasures of birding. Each species has its own quirks of feeding, flight, and social interaction, and seeing a bird engage in these natural behaviors gives the burgeoning birder a better understanding of the species beyond just field marks and identification points.
Of all the behaviors a bird engages in, however, new birders should take care to learn some sooner than others: namely, the variety of ways birds tell you that you’re too close to their nests.
It’s the beginning of summer, and birds are either sitting on eggs or already have hungry hatchlings to feed. This time of year is when birds are most vulnerable-and the most defensive.
The consequences of getting too close to a nest can be severe. Birds can abandon nests if disturbed or harassed, dooming eggs and hatchlings. Less obvious, repeated human visits close to a nest or nesting area can leave a path or scent trail for predators to follow. If you know you’re birding near a nest, the NestWatch site from Cornell Lab of Ornithology recommends against taking a “dead-end trail” to a nest area so that predators won’t have a direct route.
Birds won’t abandon a nest easily, though, and adult birds have developed a variety of ways to distract or deter unwanted visitors from visiting a nest.
Some of these behaviors are unmistakeable. Like dive-bombing. You won’t miss being dive-bombed. It’s the most aggressive form of anti-predator behavior, and it’s just what it sounds like: birds fly directly at the intruder in order to drive them away from the nest.
All kinds of birds dive-bomb. If you live in the suburban United States, you may have noticed aggressive Northern Mockingbirds in recent weeks. Here is a news report of some Brewer’s Blackbirds dive-bombing passers-by in downtown San Francisco. Here’s another news report, this time a scary one, claiming that dive-bomb attacks by crows are “on the rise!” (They’re not.) I’ve even heard of Goshawks-yes, Goshawks-dive-bombing people and putting big gashes in their heads. And in Victoria, Australia, dive-bombing Australian Magpies are so prevalent in the springtime that the government provides citizen-science based maps of nesting birds to help people avoid being attacked.
To find out more about dive-bombing and other defense displays, I called up Caroline Thow, a PhD candidate studying behavioral ecology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She even has her own dive-bombing story: While researching gull nests, Thow says that she and her colleagues had to wear bike helmets to protect themselves from the pecking!
While you rarely can get scratched or pecked, truth is, dive-bombing is most dangerous for the bird. They’re spending energy trying to scare you away instead of feeding and caring for their young. There’s really only two pieces of advice for someone being dive-bombed: cover your head, and get the heck out of there! Don’t linger, don’t film it and put it on YouTube, just leave. (Scientists in the act of science are exempt, of course, and should look into buying a bike helmet.)
Not all birds defend their nests as directly and aggressively as dive-bombers. Some species try more creative approaches to distract or scare away predators from their nest. Nesting raptors are very sensitive to disturbance, but occasionally they choose nesting spots that allow people to safely observe and photograph from afar. That’s the case with the Red-tailed Hawk nest in Ithaca, New York, which is about 70 yards from a bridge. The most famous distraction display is the Killdeer’s “broken wing” act. When a curious human or a predator gets too close to a Killdeer nest or some young birds, the adults can turn into full-on thespians, loudly and pathetically faking a broken wing in hopes that the predator will pay attention to them and not the nest. Once the bait is taken, the Killdeer will lure the predator as far away as possible before making a miraculous recovery and flying back to the babies. It’s truly an Oscar-worthy performance.
While perhaps not as dramatic as the Killdeer, other birds also have clever tactics for deterring predators. “Some birds will do their best snake impression, by hissing and swaying their heads around when you get too close to a nest,” Thow says. Other species, including some shorebirds such as Piping Plovers and certain grassland birds such as sparrows, will do what’s called a “rodent run,” distracting predators by conspicuously running through the grass like a mouse.
According to Thow, there is a lot of variance in distraction displays. “It really depends on the type of bird involved, and sometimes even varies between individuals in a species,” she says. “I’ve seen a broken-wing display from an American Avocet and been mobbed by another in the same population.”
The simplest type of distraction displays are vocal. Adult birds can issue a quick call when a potential threat approaches that baby birds intuitively know means “sit still and be quiet.” When everyone in the nest is frozen, the parent bird can head elsewhere and distract the predator with vocalizations. These attention-getting noises can also vary widely, according to Cornell’s Birds of North America database, including “short, snarling, and faint cries” in Sanderling, “growling and hissing” in Mexican Whip-poor-will, and a “ventriloquial whisper song” in Bachman’s Sparrow. The more you bird, the more you’ll begin realizing which calls sound more like warnings or distractions than others. .
As a good rule, when the behavior of a bird seems oddly conspicuous, it’s probably trying to deter or distract you from an area. “Anti-predator behaviors generally are intended to get the attention of the intruder or surrounding birds,” Thow says “So if you see a bird acting in an exaggerated and noisy way you don’t normally observe in your birding outings, you might be too close to a nest!”
Because of this, birders need to be aware of their surroundings and should be on the lookout for birds acting strangely, especially during nesting season. “Part of recognizing these behaviors is situational awareness and arming yourself with a little natural history,” Thow says.  “Ask yourself: Is it breeding season? Am I in good breeding habitat for the species that seems to be behaving strangely? If your answer is yes to either of those, the chances are that the behavior is an anti-predator behavior is much more likely.”
Context clues are also important because some species won’t do any sort of distraction display at all, instead opting to hunker down when predators are nearby. If it’s breeding season and you’re walking across a field or other dense low habitat when an adult bird flushes from practically beneath your feet, you might be right on top of a nest. When that happens, you should look very carefully at the ground around you, and even if you can’t spot a nest, back up slowly and detour around the site.
Birders have a responsibility to not harm the birds we’re enjoying. Nesting season is a stressful time for birds, so let’s not make it any worse. Birds will tell you when you’re getting too close, and learning to recognize those behaviors will help protect the birds and let you enjoy the pleasure of bird behavior-from a safe distance.
You can help nesting birds! 
Start providing the shelter and food nesting birds and their chicks need by growing native plants around your home.

The Summer Solstice. Those endless summer days,
and long, lingering twilights. Fireflies!!!
A pair of Chickadees has built a nest in a gourd hanging from my crabapple tree with a great view from the porch  to watch the busy goings on. The babies have hatched, we think they are 6-7 days old. There are constant trips to the nest bringing food, and like all cavity nesters, the parents take away the fecal sac from the nest and leave it some distance away which keeps the nest clean. I timed the number of visits to the nest in a ½ hour. 10 trips to and from the nest

Condor returns to thank man…

Published on Jun 13, 2017
A condor has struck up an unusual friendship with a man who saved the huge creature’s life.

The man nursed the condor back to health after it reportedly fell from a nest as a baby.

And the condor clearly didn’t forget his rescuer, as video footage shows the pair greeting each other with hugs and one big warm embrace, after the condor returned.

After being rescued, the condor – the largest bird in North America – was then able to learn how to fly and return to normal life.

It is not unusual for the condor to fly back and visit its rescuer, and according to locals the bird is said to return to visit the man fairly frequently.

Animal lovers have hailed the condor on social media where the heartwarming clip has been viewed nearly 2,000 times.

Emma Johnson commented how the video made her day, before adding: “Great people do exist.”

And Roxanne Reeves said: “This warms my heart to see this for a change instead of animals being abused, this man truly has a kind heart and soul and the beautiful condor can see it.”

Memorial Day Newsletter

The door to the building is open-
I can hear them half a block away, loud and frantic. I can picture them, beaks wide open andnecks stretched up shoutingfeedme!feedme!feedme! And they will get fed, every 15-30 minutes. Here at the Bird Center, volunteers, interns and staff are super busy keeping up with the care of the orphaned and injured songbirds that have been brought to us.
There are 114 birds at the Center, a mix of nestlings in incubators, fledglings in mesh covered buckets, and the older birds in covered laundry baskets.
In less than 2 weeks the robins, finch and other songbird babies will transform themselves from pink skinned fuzzy nestlings to feathered fledglings and to juveniles. Then they will be transferred to a laundry basket and slowly, finally learn to be self feeding. We’re almost at capacity and it isn’t even June.
Intern Tyler Heyen, staff members Nicky Diroff and Remy Thomas, and brand new volunteer Stephanie Christau are busy cleaning baskets, feeding birds and answering the phone. Stephanie tells me she started just the day before. She found an injured robin, took it to the Humane Society and they sent her to us. She knew then and there that she wanted to volunteer and signed up on the spot! We are caring for a Horned Lark with a wing injury and a Grosbeak that has a head and shoulder injury, both birds are unable to be released and we are in contact with the Akron Zoo.
 Intern Tyler Heyen and Staff member Nicky Diroff feeding the birds.

It is with our deepest sorrow we report that the Bird Center of Washtenaw County and the rehabilitation community has lost a wonderful wildlife rehabilitator friend, and colleague.
Amanda Margraves died Saturday night in South Dade, FL.
Amanda started out her career at the Bird Center from 2005-2007 after graduating from U of M with an anthropology and zoological degree. She relocated to Georgia and then to Belize where she rehabilitated birds. She later made a home in Florida where she worked as a rehabilitater with the South Dade Wildlife Rescue Center and as a zookeeper at the Miami Zoo.
Amanda had a huge heart for animals and would go above and beyond to do anything for them. She was a big asset to the Center when it opened and to Carol Akerlof, the Center’s founder.
We send our deepest thoughts and prayers to the friends and family of Amanda as they accept this sudden sad loss. Amanda would want us to continue our mission and tend to the birds.
Thank you Amanda for all that you did.

 Every year The Bird Center
sends one of our staff members to the
 National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association Conference.
 This scholarship will be named
 the Amanda Musgraves scholarship
Staff member Daniella Silver holding a female Mallard Duck that had been hit by a car. She is recuperating well and we are hopeful that she will be released.
“I love working at the bird center because it has allowed me to become a part of a great community with a common passion for wildlife. I learn something new from my peers every day. I also learn from the birds, each one with its own personality.
This mallard laid an egg when she first came in. I call her big mama now”.


Dear Bird Center,
Have you ever been to the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden? Hundreds of the plants are in bloom now! The garden is near the CS Mott Children’s Hospital. It’s the largest peony garden in the US.
 Take a picnic !
 Have a lovely weekend. Phyllis

This is an important and very informative article.
With spring finally here, meaning tick season has returned as well, Washtenaw County Public Health is reminding residents that Lyme disease has been detected here. The conditions exist for Lyme transmission to occur throughout the county. This is where it’s helpful for residents be aware – both to take preventative steps to prevent infection, but also to submit ticks for identification and testing.”
Lyme disease is spread by the tiny deer tick. Ticks feed on blood, and infected ticks transmit the disease as they feed. Although the deer tick prefers to feed on wild animals, especially mice, birds, opossum, raccoon, and deer, they will also feed on dogs, cats, livestock, and humans. When people visit or live near deer tick habitats, they run a high risk of contracting Lyme disease. For your own safety, you should become familiar with tick habits and habitats, and you should learn how to prevent tick bites.
Favorite Tick Habitats
Deer ticks prefer to live in the woods. Dense, mature woods with a thick undergrowth of shrubs and small trees are their favorite habitat (85%). They also are found, to a lesser degree, along the edge of the woods, where the woods meet lawns or fields. Very few (4–8%) are found in lawns, because properly mowed lawns are too hot and dry to sustain the tiny deer tick. Ticks prefer the cool, moist woodlands where they have a better chance of finding an animal host.
Where you live, your hobbies, and your habits may influence your risk of a tick bite. Notice in particular these high-risk factors:
   * yards surrounded by dense woods
   * birdbaths, birdfeeders
   * outdoor pets that come indoors
   * woodpiles, brushpiles, stone or rock walls
   * swingsets, treehouses in the woods
   * outdoor occupations: landscapers, utility line workers, farmers, etc.
   * outdoor recreation: freshwater fishing, camping, hiking, hunting, etc.
Many of these factors encourage wildlife near the home, and these animals may carry ticks. Mice in particular are known hosts of immature deer ticks and carriers of Lyme disease. Reduce, remove, or avoid these risk factors as much as possible.
Personal Protection
Outdoor pursuits need not be discontinued as long as precautions are taken to prevent a tick bite:
   * Wear light-colored clothing (ticks are easier to see).
   * Wear long pants tucked into socks.
   * Avoid tall grass and shrubby areas.
   * Widen trails through woods (to 6 feet).
   * Remove brushpiles.
   * Keep turfgrass mowed.
   * Thin out low shrub vegetation in woods.
   * Wear a tick repellent.
Repellents contain the active ingredient permethrin (Duranon, Permethrin Tick Repellent, Permanone), or N,N-diethyl-meta-tolumide, usually called DEET (Off, Cutters, Muskol, etc.)* Follow label directions; apply until clothing is damp and allow to dry. These products repel 82-100% of ticks.
Tick Identification
Seventy percent of all Lyme disease cases occur from the bite of the immature (nymph) deer tick. Before feeding, nymphs are the size of a poppy seed with a dark head and translucent body. After feeding, they swell and appear dark gray and round, about the size of a mustard seed.
Adult deer ticks are the size of a sesame seed before feeding; females have a black head and brick red abdomen. After feeding, they turn gray and swell to the size of a sunflower seed kernel.
Deer ticks are active all year round, as long as the temperature is over 35°F. Peak activity months are May-June (nymphs), and October-November (adults).
Ask your county extension agent for a free copy of the bulletin “Protect Yourself from Ticks and Lyme Disease” for specific ways to identify different ticks.
Finding and Removing Ticks
Ticks don’t fly, jump, or drop from trees. They inhabit shrubby vegetation (nymphs: four- to six-inch vegetation; adults: waist-high vegetation) and wait for an animal to brush by. They then grasp the animal’s fur or skin, and crawl up the body. Ticks will wander on the body for 30-60 minutes before they insert their mouth-parts and begin to feed.
INFECTED DEER TICKS MUST FEED FOR AT LEAST 12 TO 24 HOURS before they can begin to transmit the Lyme disease bacterium. Therefore you should remove ticks as soon as possible. Take a shower after outdoor activity and check your body thoroughly, paying close attention to the armpits, the groin, and neck. Use the buddy system! Look for ticks nightly, especially if you have young children.
Remove ticks with tweezers only (bent, “needle-nose” tweezers are best). Do not use alcohol, nail polish, hot matches, petroleum jelly, or other methods to remove ticks. These methods may actually traumatize ticks, causing them to regurgitate gut contents, which may include the Lyme disease bacterium.
More information about Lyme disease and tick-borne disease prevention is available on the county’s website.
Washtenaw County Public Health encourages residents to submit ticks for identification, noting blacklegged ticks found in Washtenaw County tested positive for the Lyme pathogen in 2016.
The more local ticks are tested, the better the county will know how widespread the risk of Lyme disease is in different areas of the county.
The state also has a program to identify ticks, and if it is a live blacklegged tick, test for Lyme disease. Information is available on the state’s website.
Ask your county extension agent for a free copy of the bulletin “Protect Yourself from Ticks and Lyme Disease” for specific ways to identify different ticks.

Early May Newsletter

Dear Bird Center,
May 8 will be the opening day of this season. Abundant rain and warm weather have hastened the flowering of the trees and flowers in gardens and along the streets crabapple, cherry, tulip magnolias, all in bloom. In my garden, a pair of chickadees are building a nest in the wren’s house.
The Bird Center will be open from 7AM until 9PM . The ivy covering the building was beginning to damage the walls. 63 bags of ivy were removed by the hardworking team of  Volunteer Maintenance Jamie Rivard, Gabby, Don Garlit, Bee Friedlander and Zachary Mobley. Gabby planted pansies and tulips in the garden.
Last week, April 21, there were 7 birds and 12 Mallard duck eggs at the Bird Center. The mother duck had been nesting in a secluded corner outside a UM dormitory building and was killed by a dog. Two students found the nest and brought us the still warm eggs. Staff member Rachel Gumpper determined that they were fertile and put the grey-green eggs in one of the incubators, marking them on each side to indicate how to turn them 3 times a day just as the mother duck would.
We also have 2 flickers. one has a head injury and the other is blind in one eye, a downy woodpecker and a fledgling dove. We also have a male Mallard duck that was hit by a car and suffered a head injury.
Our building is also a polling station! In preparation for the Tuesday, May 2 City election, the Bird Center was cleaned and the birds were moved by Gabby and volunteers over to the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital.  Wednesday the birds will be moved back to the Bird Center.
Thanks for the great work done by volunteers Elise and Tim Muftitt, Zachary Mobley and Kathy Scott!
April 30 there are 13 birds including a Baltimore Oriole with a ruptured air sack, a common in birds caught by cats.
I took my granddaughter over to the AAAH to see the progress of the 12 duck eggs. We were excited to see that 10 had hatched over the past 24 hours! They are delightful to watch, brown and yellow babies peeping and hopping around in the incubator.
After 2 weeks of care, the male Mallard appeared ready to be released but needed to be flight tested. Seana, Andrea and Gabby took him to Hunt Park where there is a tennis court surrounded by a very high fence. The plan was to let him fly, but to be able to catch him again in case he had problems .Everyone was hoping for the best but nervous because the duck had been in such bad shape when he was brought to the Bird Center. To their delight, he was tipped out of the carrier, flew up, over the fence and away to life in the wild.
     Every year we raise about 100 baby mallards and wood ducks. We have each one for about 6 weeks and release it just before it can fly. We house them in plastic bins with lights for heat until they grow too big, then we move them to play pens, where they will need heat for a while more. Underfoot they have outdoor carpet, which needs to be changed, hosed off, and put out to dry. We could use some people either just for this year or to make a long term commitment,
Ducks are pretty charming and do not need constant care. It would be a mess to do this if you lived in an apartment and a good place is on a screen porch. We have plastic bins, playpens, heat lights, waterers, and mats ready to go. People would probably buy their own food.
Call the Bird Center at 734-761-9640 if you are interested in raising ducklings in your home.
25 new and potential volunteers were welcomed by Bird Center Clinic Manager Gabby. Staff member Andrea Auito talked about her experiences working at the Bird Center. Bird Team Volunteer Coordinator Rachel Schwartz is in charge of new volunteers. Phyllis Ponvert will be interviewing volunteers and staff for the newsletter. Kaisa Ryding talked about the basics of rehabilitation.
We had a visit from the Bird Center’s educational bird, Blue. Our Blue Jay visits schools and retirement communities to tell them about the work we do and the importance of protecting birds and the environment.  Blue shares her time between care takers Rayelene Mieske and Ken Antkowiak.
There were many lively discussions and lots of questions from the group. It was a big success!
Sherri Smith
        Monday evening I came home to find a phone message that there was a loon down in the median strip of US 23 south of Ann Arbor at mile 33.  I gathered up my loon catching and handling stuff and fought my way thru traffic toward where he was reported.  I drove on the left lane and pulled over onto the wide shoulder when I spotted him, a Common Loon, in a bathtub sized body of water, in big trouble.  I put on my goggles and heavy gloves and grabbed my net.  I had him hauled out of the water and was working to make him go in a big cat carrier a minute later.  I bet hardly anyone even saw it.  Loons are big, strong and fierce, glad to put out your eyes with their long sharp beak.  On my way home I realized that he was not only dirty but probably slightly oiled from the highway. My informant (great eyes to have noticed that he wasn’t just a duck) said that she saw him pulling himself thru the grass with his wings.  He needed a bath.  I recruited Keith Taylor and his wife Kris to help me and we headed off for one of the classrooms where I teach in the School of Art and Design.  It has large sinks and doesn’t run out of hot water.
It took all three of us to wash him, Kris immobilized the very dangerous head, Keith held his body and I washed various parts of him in turn. We needed occasional help from amazed students who were there working. He did not make the loon call, but made plenty of nasty remarks about us.  Then we had to rinse him at length to make him waterproof again.  You can’t leave any trace of Dawn, detergent of rehabbers, in them.  Their feathers, when detergent free, turn dry under running water.  This is true of all birds, not just water birds.  It was getting dark when we took him out to Barton Pond and poured him out of the cat carrier.  We could see his pretty long legs kicking off from the shallow bottom like a frog until he got into deeper water and could swim properly.
Why was he in the medium strip of the highway?  We think the sudden hard rains of the day combined with one of those violent down drafts forced him to the ground where he could be discovered by mere chance.*see below
Sherri Smith is a staff member and long time volunteer at The Bird Center
and expert bird rescuer.  
  • The Common Loon swims underwater to catch fish, propelling itself with its feet. It swallows most of its prey underwater. The loon has sharp, rearward-pointing projections on the roof of its mouth and tongue that help it keep a firm hold on slippery fish.
  • Loons are water birds, only going ashore to mate and incubate eggs. Their legs are placed far back on their bodies, allowing efficient swimming but only awkward movement on land.
  • Loons are agile swimmers, but they move pretty fast in the air, too. Migrating loons have been clocked flying at speeds more than 70 mph.
  • A hungry loon family can put away a lot of fish. Biologists estimate that loon parents and their 2 chicks can eat about a half-ton of fish over a 15-week period.
  • Loons are like airplanes in that they need a runway for takeoff. In the case of loons, they need from 30 yards up to a quarter-mile (depending on the wind) for flapping their wings and running across the top of the water in order to gain enough speed for lift-off.
  • Loons are well equipped for their submarine maneuvers to catch fish. Unlike most birds, loons have solid bones that make them less buoyant and better at diving. They can quickly blow air out of their lungs and flatten their feathers to expel air within their plumage, so they can dive quickly and swim fast underwater. Once below the surface, the loon’s heart slows down to conserve oxygen.
  • Like many young birds, juvenile loons are really on their own after mom and dad leave at about 12 weeks. The parents head off on migration in the fall, leaving juveniles to gather into flocks on northern lakes and make their own journey south a few weeks later. Once the juveniles reach coastal waters on the ocean, they stay there for the next two years. In the third year, young loons return north, although they may not breed for several more years (on average they are six years old when they start breeding).
  • *Migrating Common Loons occasionally land on wet highways or parking lots, mistaking them for rivers and lakes. They become stranded without a considerable amount of open water for a long takeoff. A loon may also get stranded on a pond that is too small.
  •  Loons from the Great Lakes region migrate to the Gulf of Mexico or Florida coasts.
Washtenaw Community College held its Volunteer Fair March 28.
The Bird Center joined 29 other non- profit organizations that have opportunities for volunteers. Staff member Maureen Smith and Bird Team volunteer Phyllis Ponvert talked with students about the mission and work of the Bird Center and why volunteers are such an important part of the success of the Center.
This weekend get out your boots and umbrella and take a walk in the rain. There are wild flowers in Eberwhite woods.