Friday, August 6, 2010

Wildlife Center of the North Coast

For years I've heard about Sharnelle Fee's wildlife rehab center near Astoria. Friends of ours volunteer there plus take injured birds to her from their area of the coast. A whole raft of volunteers are trained on how to handle and give emergency support to injured birds before transporting them to Sharnelle. Another raft of volunteers help at the center. The center is funded with donations and grants.

Johnny and I are particularly interested in the center because several years ago, the Barn Owl parents that nest every year in our barn disappeared and their chicks, hungry and searching for someone to feed them, fell off the ledge. We sent them to Sharnelle's hospital. One survived, was repaired, rehabilitated, and released later back in our barn.

Yesterday, Johnny and I had a chance to visit the "Wildlife Center of the North Coast" that saved "our" baby owl. Wow! Sharnelle's bird hospital has stainless steel cages, swimming pools, spa, surgery room and everything else needed to rehabilitate the wide range of birds that come there. They've had fawns and other creatures as well, but the focus is mainly on birds. Each sea bird, which is mostly what arrives, is given supervised swim time every morning in the small, stainless steel indoor swimming pools. Water birds must be waterproof before they can go into the big outdoor pens with pools that will help get them ready for release.

Outdoors are many covered flight pens, some with trees for the owls and hawks, some with pools for the water birds. Pictured are the Common Murres in their swimming pool, a lovely Northern Fulmar in hers, and a Barred Owl snuggled close to a Spotted Owl, both birds used in educational programs that Sharnelle regularly gives at schools and other places.

Some of the cages are for the birds just moved out of the hospital and in the first stage of preparing for release. Others are bigger and are for birds closer to release time. One flight cage is big enough for an eagle to flap three times from one end to the other. Birds must be strong enough to fly and feed themselves before they can be returned to the wild, so they have to practice. Even an eagle can practice flying in this huge cage!

The two subadult Bald Eagles in the center the day we were there are not yet ready for the big flight cage, so they were in smaller outdoor pens. Actually, one was in the surgery room when we arrived, getting its mangled wing cleaned up. Before we left, it was outdoors, wing bandaged, in a pen next to the other eagle, also not ready for the big flight pen. Instead, pelicans were inside that huge flight cage, hanging out in the shade when we were there instead of strengthening their wings.

Many injured gulls arrive at the center during the summer. Sharnelle says that some people driving on the beaches think it's great sport to race into a flock of gulls on the sand and see how many they can hit. Volunteers prowl the beaches, gathering up the injured survivors and taking them to Sharnelle. Here are some gulls in their big flight pen, safe for now from the lower forms of homo sapiens.

If birds could nominate a human for sainthood, it would undoubtedly be Sharnelle Fee.

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