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June 16, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Happy ending: mother hawk survives major injury Happy ending: mother hawk survives major injury (June 16, 2004)

By Marion Softky
Almanac Staff Writer

"There's a bird in the living room." The house sitter at a Stanford faculty house told us she had just found glass all over the floor of the living room, a broken window, and a bird. She wondered what to do.

Returning from a walk around the Stanford Dish, we peered into the room full of elegant and breakable antiques. Sitting motionless in a far corner we spied -- not a dove or a blue jay -- but a very large hawk.

What to do? A call to Wildlife Rescue was referred to Animal Dispatch, which was referred to Santa Clara County.

What to do again? From previous articles I have written on Wildlife Rescue, I somehow managed to dredge out of my fuzzy memory bank the name of Valerie Baldwin. A veteran volunteer for Wildlife Rescue, Ms. Baldwin nurses hurt or baby eagles, hawks, falcons and owls in several flight cages in her Portola Valley back yard. (I once took a picture there of a golden eagle, found wounded near Whiskey Hill Road in Woodside.)

Fortunately, Ms. Baldwin was listed in the phone book. Fortunately, she was at home, preparing for a Memorial Day barbecue. Fifteen minutes later, she drove up, equipped with gauntlets, a bath towel, and a yellow box.

Before the bird had time to panic, Ms. Baldwin had the towel around her, and was holding her by both legs -- so she couldn't scratch with her fearsome talons.

She was an adult red-shouldered hawk, which had already molted this year, and she had babies, Ms. Baldwin announced. The hawk spread brindled wings and tail in a dramatic display, then was popped into the box.

Could she be released here to her home and her babies? Ms. Baldwin deftly felt the hawk's breast between the wings and central keel bone.

No, the bird can't be released; she has been in the room too long. She has dehydrated, and lost too much weight from her flight muscles to hunt, Ms. Baldwin explained crisply. She took the bird home.

That was Monday. By Thursday, Ms. Baldwin reported she had transferred the bird to Karen Hoyt, raptor team leader for Wildlife Rescue. "I don't know if she'll make it," she said.

The bird had a concussion from crashing head-first through the plate glass window while hunting for food for her babies, Ms. Baldwin said. She was still dazed and had to be force-fed. We hoped that the father hawk was on hand and feeding the two or three young, who are probably adolescents just learning to fly and hunt.

On Saturday, June 5, Ms. Baldwin called again. The bird is fine. She's eating, and we're going to release her at 2 p.m. near her nest on Stanford campus, she said.

As Ms. Baldwin and Ms. Hoyt drove up on Saturday, a male red-shouldered hawk cruised overhead to some trees, screeching. Maybe her mate? Maybe he's taking care of the babies?

On the back lawn, near the still-gaping, 2-foot hole in the window, the mother hawk stretched her gorgeous wings as Ms. Hoyt held her. Then she took off, flying low into a nearby tree.

The newly released hawk gave a squawk, then perched quietly in a tree. Was everything OK? Was her mate still faithful? Did her babies make it?

We may never know. But the rescue was successful, and mom is home, thanks to Wildlife Rescue.

How to help

Valerie Baldwin, a veteran volunteer for Wildlife Rescue, has a suggestion for people who want to help local wildlife.

If you find a creature in distress -- a lost baby, an injured animal -- put it in a box and call the Peninsula Humane Society, which serves San Mateo County. Or take it to the humane society at Coyote Point.

"Keep it warm, dark, and quiet," she said. Don't try to give it food or water. The food could be wrong; the water could choke it. "People kill animals out of kindness," she said.

Ms. Baldwin also warned people to be careful about scheduling tree trimming when small animals may be raising their families. Squirrels raise their babies in nests in trees between February and May, and baby birds are vulnerable from March through June.

For help and information, call the Peninsula Humane Society at 340-7022.

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