Kaatscast: the Catskills Podcast
Sept. 28, 2021

Wild Mountain Bird Rescue

Wild Mountain Bird Rescue

Each year, hundreds of injured birds arrive at Annie Mardiney's doorstep for a second chance at life in the wild. When she isn't rescuing birds, Annie's running educational programs, with companion raptors like Peregrine Falcon Meng, pictured. We spoke with her (Annie, not Meng) at a talk she gave at the John Burroughs' Woodchuck Lodge. Hear her story, plus advice for helping injured wildlife. 

Thanks to our sponsors: Dixon Roadside and the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce

For a list of wildlife rehabilitators near you, visit the DEC directory.

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I love birds. I love wild birds. I've always loved them. There's only a few birds I don't take pigeons starlings and house sparrows. This is cats cast, the bi weekly podcast featuring history interviews, arts and culture, sustainability and the outdoors in the Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley. Who is this bird lover? And why no love for pigeons, starlings and house sparrows. This week, we met up with wildlife rehabilitator Annie Marnay. And there's a good reason she turns a few birds away. We'll hear why. Plus, what got me interested in wild bird rehab in the first place, about the hundreds of birds she doesn't turn away, and what to do if you confront an injured animal. Cats cast is supported by Dixon roadside, and the only bird on their menu is locally raised, antibiotic free chicken Dixon serves up a unique twist on comfort food, using fresh ingredients sourced from the bountiful farms and small businesses of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley open for takeout with a heated patio and indoor seating in Woodstock, New York. And by the central Catskills Chamber of Commerce, providing services to businesses, community organizations and local governments in the central Catskills region. Follow the central Catskills Chamber of Commerce on Facebook and sign up for a weekly email of local events at Central catskills.org. We're members are you bird rehabilitator, Annie martini, and some of her resident Raptors visited John burrows Woodchuck Lodge as part of their wild Saturday's program. Following the public presentation, we grabbed Annie for a recap, and a peek into the very busy life of a wildlife rescuer and educator. My name is Annie Marnay. I live in Rosendale Ulster County, and I've been a volunteer wildbird rehabilitate her for 18 years. I take in 4500 birds a year release 60 to 65%. Back to the wild, which is the ultimate goal. I also do education programs with some 18 unrelatable raptors, but I have it's been a lifelong passion of mine to just be outside in the woods hiking, walking my dogs, and later in life birding. I didn't get into actual birding until about 2530 years ago, although I love them. I used to as a kid run under the pine trees at parks asking for help. I started a four H club really for the purposes of my own three kids who were all into animals but didn't really want to go hiking in the woods. They didn't want to sweat, but they really wanted to have more animals around. So I got chickens. Again, this is a I've had Duane hands, egg hands for many, many, many years. So we had a poultry club that also did a lot of community service. That meant that a whole new network of family friends and for each community decided that I must know something about how to fix that Hawk, or how to fix that Fox. I did not advertise that I would take wildlife. But people would call me drop them off asked me for help. It's difficult to find wildlife rehabbers unless you're already in the network and know someone like me. So when my kids were a little older, I did more research and realized I really didn't want to spend more energy and time with wild birds, especially raptors, and went ahead and did all the appropriate paperwork. Education permits came a little bit later. But a year later, actually. And I have to say that couple the happiest moments of my life. When I got my New York State rehab permit. I was beyond excited. And then a year later, I got my federal permits to not only rehab birds, but also to do education programs. I was just thrilled. before retirement, I definitely was doing bird rehab, but it was just logistically practically hard to respond to all the calls and get the birds and do a lot of birds. So it was more like 100 200 birds a year I would do while I was working full time and still raising my kids. For me. It was good therapy. You have to do something when you're working that hard. I retired four years ago, so at that point, I could say yes and take in a lot more birds and I could when I was working for 810 hours a day for the post office I delivered I was a rural delivery person for 13 years after I retired. It was such a relief to be able to respond, return phone calls, text messages and actually get birds in hand and work with them. So last year, I took in around 500 wild birds so far this year, I've taken in about I think 415 birds, everything from hummingbirds to duck lanes to eagles. And generally speaking, I release 60 or 65% Every year of The Birds in rehab. You know, it just depends on what I get how damaged they are. And the ultimate question is, can they survive on their own in the wild, whatever the species is. So there's only a few birds I don't take. I don't take invasive species. So that is pigeons, starlings and house sparrows. I want to work with native species. I don't want to spend my time with invasive species, who are a big reason that a lot of native songbirds especially are declining. I just, I just don't want to do it and I don't have to rehab. Anything. I don't want to rehab if all I wanted to do was rafters I could choose to do that. But half the birds I take in generally are raptors and the other half are passerines or waterbirds. Raptors are apex predators, hawks, falcons, owls passerines are generally all small songbirds that you see out there. So that includes pigeons, finches, goldfinches, robins, all the little birds. And then there's waterfall which are ducks, geese, herons, great to hear all kinds of Herons, large birds, especially raptors that are seriously injured, probably needed to be seen by my vet, which is really a godsend because it's there's very few vets that know much about exotics. Most vets are trained in dogs and cats, that's where the money is, that's what most people have. So it's difficult to find a vet that is willing to treat an exotic and also donate their services. And I'm very blessed to have a veterinarian down in Newburgh, which is 45 minutes for me, but still well worth the drive because I actually couldn't do much bird rehab, especially with large apex predator birds, I couldn't do much with them without a veterinarian solved. And that may mean that they need to humanely euthanize it, which I can't do that those are controlled chemicals that I can't bring home and use. I have a whole health lab of a triage lab at home meaning my garage, which is where I have dedicated freezers and refrigerators, tables, crates, lights, good lights, and air conditioning. So I can usually look at a bird carefully myself before deciding whether it needs to go to my bed or not. And most of them actually do okay in the hands of a rehabber that has experience. I don't have volunteers that will do driving and pick up there are some rehabbers that do I don't actually want volunteers bringing me more I try to only take in as much as I can personally handle I will take anything, any bird that someone is willing to drive partway to me or all the way to me, I do get birds from New York City and Long Island and sometimes out of state, I get birds from up here from up in Albany, it just depends. There's just so few of us that if if someone is really motivated to get a bird to a bird rehabber, and no one else is picking up their phone, you know, meet people halfway if I can. So sometimes I'll drive an hour, little more than an hour to go pick up hawks or owls. If somebody has already got a raptor contained and they can stick it in the back of their car, then that's helpful for me, because I can meet them off the Thruway or a half an hour away, instead of driving a couple hours, small birds, I really expect people to drive to my door, because they're not dangerous. They're small, I just can't spend all my time driving. It's you know, 400. And some birds this year alone, I'd be crazy to drive to pick up every Robin that someone finds it's just, it's just not doable. So well. Picking up an injured bird can mean an hour of driving after that bird is rehabilitated. And he might have to drive an hour more to return that bird to familiar habitat. If it's possible, I released them back where I found them especially for raptors, and some other birds and especially in the spring, if you know, baby season. Most species mate for life, but they aren't humans. So if their mate has died or has been in rehab for six months or a year, they move on. They don't like sit around morning, they're hoc meet that disappeared. The protocol is to try to get them back. But it's not a fixed rule. It's not a law. And and so the point is, when I release them, whatever it is, I got to release it in a place. That's the right environment. right time of day. I like historic cemeteries a lot, because there's very few people. There's usually a lot of good wildlife, good insects, good trees, no cars or almost no cars away from cats. The cats are a huge thing. Like, I can tell you that my personal opinion my personal stance is no matter what bird I get if it was injured by a cat. I do not return that bird there is a complete waste of my energy to save the bird. There's no state or federal money trickling down to wildlife rehabbers but there's lots of permits required especially for migratory birds. We can take donations and they can come in the mail. They can be in kind goods so people who follow me on Facebook. If they're on the computer, they can go to Amazon to see a wish list of supplies why's that I routinely need donations can be given to me anytime I get events such as this. I do a lot of free education programs, I actually think that doing education programs is much more worth my while, honestly than doing bird rehab in the moment for that bird, it's a huge difference to have someone that can help it and can patch it up can ease its pain. But in the long term, I really think having people be face to face with these amazing wild birds will make a bigger difference in terms of politics and their own personal environmental footprint, the choices they make when they walk into a bookstore looking for something because they have a most problem. You know, they'll avoid the road and poison and the glue traps because they came to one of my talks, they'll buy regular old snap traps, or people who have cats will go home and decide you know what, she's right, this cat is a killer. I'm not gonna let this invasive species outside anymore. So I really do think my ed programs make a big difference. Before COVID I was doing well. Even last year, I was hooked for about 90 programs. I did a couple in January and February. And then of course, everything shut down for the rest of the year. So in normal years, I'm very busy, and he explained how rodent poison can quickly migrate from mouse to Raptor. Mouse eats poison Hawk eats mouse. And then poison talk if lucky, gets treated by a rehabber like Annie. On the day we met in Roxbury and his companions included a red shouldered hawk, a falcon, a trio of screech owls, and a Merlin, all disabled, and all for one reason or another, unable to rejoin their wild companions. All of her educational birds are rescues. Except for one all but my barn owl, the barn owl, I bought from a falconer who had permits to propagate and I bought that bird because barn owls are so rare in New York State, I only have gotten one in 18 years, one wild barn owl that I patched up and set it free, which is the goal, right? So I wanted children to see a species that will very likely be extinct in New York, Mike Woods close to extinct right now in New York, and I want them to see a bird that they may never see again, because I put a lot of hope into the people younger than than us, they're the ones, they're going to have to take on a whole lot of burdens when it comes to the environment and endangered species. So I'm hoping that by seeing a barn owl that close hopefully, they'll remember that and it'll make a difference in decisions they make in their own life later on. And in their profession. All the other birds that I have as education birds, the ones I brought today, and the ones I have at home are handicap would not be able to survive in the wild on their own. They're all raptors, they would not be able to hunt successfully, they would be killed or starve if I just set them loose anyhow. Actually, by law, I can't release any bird that wouldn't survive on its own the birds that I get in the the goal is to patch them up and set them free. Number two would be to humanely euthanize them because they're suffering and they can't be patched up. And option three is these education birds. So there's very few wild bear rehabbers there's even fewer people like me that have permits to possess for education programs. Most Wildlife Rehab is is a hands on Proposition, it goes a lot smoother if you happen to live near a wildlife center or other wildlife rehabbers who are willing to take you under their wing, or let you volunteer with them. When you get a wild bird rehab permit from federal Fish and Wildlife you have to include in the application, at least one letter from a already licensed bird rehabber who's willing to assist you or answer your questions and also from a veterinarian who's willing to help you. The other thing that just makes a big difference is to pick up the phone and talk to somebody who's been a rehabber longer than you. It's difficult in a lot of places in New York State, because there just aren't any bird rehabbers there's too many hoops to jump through to get the federal permits that you need, including photographs of whatever your facility is. When I applied 18 years ago to do bird rehab, the Federal permit asked for proof of 100 hours of hands on work with birds. Now, you have to have 250 hours of hands on work. I wish it was easier. We need more bird rehabbers in a spring through summer I get 30 or 40 phone calls or text messages every single day. A lot of these phone calls and text messages I can successfully solve whatever the issue is by talking to people telling them to do this, you know, put the nest back up, move the bird over to the side of the road or connect them with a closer rehabber. But I'm still taking in usually two to three birds a day right now. Currently, I bought 12 birds in rehab at home, a few hawks a few hours, a few passerines They're all just about ready to go free. So what I try to get people to do is to send me a photograph of the bird in question, a location you know the town they're in and a couple sentences about what the concern is. Sometimes it's really obvious to them and to me that the bird has a broken leg trigger the entire nest fell down. Sometimes through a phone call or text message, we can solve the concern right away like how to read nest a bunch of baby Robins because the parents are still there. I mean, not every bird on the ground needs to get to a rehabber. I mean, it's always better to try to get the young ones back with their parents, if there's a way to physically do that. The bigger birds, raptors, and waterfowl, that sort of thing I'll usually drive to pick up but before I go, I if it's safe, I'll ask people to put something over the top of the bird so that they don't take off and disappear. One thing that is a fact is that any wild bird that's injured or sick, we'll still do anything I can to get away from a person if it has a chance. So a hawk that can fly will run and in a matter of minutes disappear in the woods, and I won't be able to find it necessarily. So that's something that's really helpful is when people contain a bird that might be dangerous. The first thing to keep in mind is safety, personal safety, I will often tell people that are even down the road from me if they have a hawk or a crow or something that they're concerned about. If they can walk up to it and it doesn't go away, there might be something wrong. So put a laundry basket or no fashion laundry basket over the top of it with a rock on top. That way, it's almost guaranteed it's going to be there when I get there. covering it also with a towel or sheet will also comment down and keep it in place. One of the biggest myths that people have about pastoring small birds is that you can't touch them, because appearance will reject them. It's just a myth. Birds other than vultures, for the most part, have no sense of smell a baby Robin that is in the middle of the road, you can pick it up and just put it over to the side under a bush. And it's fine, they can't smell they're not going to be rejected by their parents. You can put it back up in the nest if it's a nestling and the nest is still there and you can reach it. One out of every 10 calls I get in the spring is you know baby bird on the ground or a fledgling bird on the ground and you you don't know what to do. So that should clear up a lot of phone calls, pick it up, put it in a safe place. And also don't hover by the nest. If you hover too close, the parents may not come back. If this is a new world for people to the world of birding and understanding the stresses and pressures on wild birds and just appreciating wild birds, what I would encourage people to do is connect with local nature societies like John Burroughs organizations, Audubon organizations across the state, really all of them lead guided burden walks, where you will learn so much in a couple hours of being outside with someone who knows more than you about bird species or the how to fix a Windows that birds keep banging into. Or what's that species that you've always seen, but you don't know what it's called. Most rehabbers I know don't touch the phone. Really year round. Because we are inundated it's impossible to return phone calls. It's much more efficient to send a text message with a photograph or video and your location. It really helps have a list of rehabbers within your region so that you can in a few seconds in a few minutes. Send a text in that photograph of video to a rehabber so that you can get a response to contact Annie and for pictures and videos of her latest rescues. Follow wild mountain birds on Facebook. For a list of wildlife rehabilitators near you go to D c.ny.gov. And thanks to our production intern Keith Kortright for all his post production work on this episode. Cats cast is a production of silver holo audio. Please be sure to subscribe wherever podcasts are found for free and automatic delivery every two weeks. Thanks again to our local sponsors and to you our listeners for your contributions to the show. You can help us keep it going by visiting cats cast.com and clicking support. Until next time, I'm Brett Barry. Thanks for listening 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai