Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lead Poisoned Fledgling, Red-tail and Prairie Expert John Blakeman and South African Film Maker Adam Welz Comment


Houston Tiercel on Tuesday sits with his nictitating eyelids closed for some minutes.

MANY COMMENTS AND EMAILS HAVE COME IN CONCERNING THE RESCUE OF THE HOUSTON TIERCEL AND THE OPINIONS THAT WERE EXPRESSED CONCERNING THE MODE OF RESCUE AND WHO SHOULD AND SHOULDN'T DO RESCUES.

DISCOURSE IS A GOOD THING.

TODAY'S FIRST OPINION FROM RED-TAILED HAWK AND PRAIRIE EXPERT JOHN BLAKEMAN--

Donna,

I have for several Ohio park districts done programs on prairie management for working supervisors and naturalists. In each case I asked them to consider that unless they personally don't change their ways, the public will come to the rather correct perception that these naturalist types self-appoint themselves as the nature priesthood, authorized to go in places the public isn't, allowed to do things with wild animals the public isn't, and just simply present themselves as holier than all lesser others.

I've seen this in virtually every public natural park system, from (obviously) NYC, down to the smallest township or village park with a nature trail. The "naturalists" come to believe that they know more than anyone about nature and the species therein -- always with the final result that the public just doesn't participate in parks natural history events. The condescending attitudes are so coldly presented and perceived by the public.

And the most disconcerting examples of this nature priesthood arrogance is when these self-important jerks try to tell people like you and me how to conduct our nature business. They defer to no one. They'd tell Aldo Leopold himself to change his ways and come into conformity with their narrow views.

I am a premier expert on prairie design, planting, design, and management, with 35 years of experience. Most of these characters can't even give the Latin names of three tall grasses, but they quite often tell ME how these should be planted.

Example...and I hear this one all the time. I tell parks people that if the remnants of an original prairie still exist along a railroad or a fenceline, they definitely need to go out in Sept and Oct and collect all the seeds from these remnant plants they can. Those seeds will be used to create a new, much larger local prairie of local ecotypes.

But what do the naturalists (most women, I might add) do? The claim that ethically they can only "harvest" a small fraction of the seeds. The rest must be left to "reseed" at the local spot. Crap. Prairie plants are some of the oldest living organisms in the Midwest. They are long-lived perennials and they don't "reseed" themselves. By plucking every single seed from a rare prairie plant simply does not endanger the local population. When those pluckings are used for new restoration prairies, the plants get properly (as per my directions) planted -- "reseeded." These characters just simply don't know about the reproductive life histories of prairie plants. I do. But that doesn't stop them. They have a narrow, constructed, and artificial view of natural history and it's so often almost impossible for them to divert from it. The nature priesthood.

Sincerely,


John A. Blakeman

AND A SECOND OPINION FROM SOUTH AFRICAN FILM MAKER ADAM WELZ WHO IS IN TOWN MAKING A DOCUMENTARY. ADAM WAS THE FAST THINKING GENTLEMAN WHO RESCUED HOUSTON 3 WHEN HE FELL INTO THE BUSY STREET AFTER A FAILED ATTEMPT TO RETURN TO THE NEST.


Hi Donna



I think it may be appropriate to point out that--




1) The Houston male has been found to have a severe infection. He probably would have died had he not been picked up. He is still not yet out of danger. (Kathy Horvath found a small injury on his leg - he may have sustained a bite from a squirrel or rat, or been injured in some other way. This may or may not have been the source of his infection.) It's very easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize those who intervene to act on behalf of the hawks, who are damned if they do and damned if they don't; if you were to have left the Houston male on the ground and he died there I'm sure your inbox would have been filled with hostile email, too.


2) The Houston female, alone, would have a harder time raising Houston chicks 2 & 3 than with the male being around. As you know, the possible release sites in that neighborhood are not ideal. The 'safe areas' are very small. There are huge roads around, construction, and a lot of people. It is legally up to Bobby Horvath to make the call whether to release the young birds back in that area, or to get them raised up and hacked off into the wild someplace safe. No hawkwatcher can make that judgment call. Any rehabber worth his/her salt will tend to release a bird into the care of its parents (besides anything else, it's much less hard work than raising the youngster and teaching it to hunt over months and months.)


3) As soon as Bobby lays his hands on a bird he is obligated to be responsible for it, and obligated to act in such a way as to maximize its well being and chances of survival. Again, there are a lot of amateurs out there who have never handled a bird, never looked after one, never made one well and released it into the wild. Bobby has done that his whole life. Rather than fling off accusatory emails in all directions, people may do better by learning something more about the difficult choices that need to be made in these circumstances. Bobby is not a wild animal trader. He does not sell animals into captivity. His aim is to see Houston 2 & 3 fly free under circumstances that maximize their survival chances. Although it's sad that the Houston St neighborhood is down to one hawk, Bobby cannot ethically be releasing birds back into a situation where their chances of survival are lower than the alternative situations, for example being raised and hacked off in a rural part of the State (his primary obligation is to the birds, not the Houston St neighborhood, or couch-potato know-it-alls who have never held a raptor). If he thinks that Houston 2 and 3 will have a good chance with only the female to raise them in that area, he will release them. If not, he won't.


4) Some people may question why, with my filmmaker hat on, I picked up Houston 3. Perhaps I should have just let the drama unfold before my camera. I certainly would have had a fantastically compelling sequence for my film! After all, I'm not a bunny-hugging animal rights activist or an avowed vegan. But I'm also a conservationist that cares about the creatures I'm involved with, and a part-time raptor biologist. (My friends laugh at how it takes me an hour longer than anyone else to drive across the Karoo, the wonderful semi-desert area in west-central South Africa, because I'm always stopping to take tortoises out of the road, or killing the half-dead ones with broken backs that have already been hit.) Houston 3 was in danger, and I could do something about it better than anyone else around. At the time it was a simple act - just get the poor guy out of the road and into safety. When I realized that safety was relative (an area filled with tens of screaming people or a dirty catbox roughly held by a gruff policeman) I picked the lesser of two evils. I certainly would have liked Houston 3 be released into the care of his parents in his neighborhood, but that wasn't possible then. As soon as I picked up Houston 3 it was like I had a contract with him, and it was then up to me to make the tough decisions as to his future under less than ideal circumstances. Again, it's very easy to sit in the bleachers and fling rotten Twinkies at the players on the court.

There are no perfect answers in these circumstances, although a lot of people will try to convince you that there are. I hope the readers of your blog will in future consider this before firing off hostile sentences in all directions.

Cheers,
Adam

THE CATHEDRAL LEAD FLEDGE
Bobby Horvath, who is caring for the Cathedral fledgling female that has the paralysed leg and also the Houston Tiercel, sent medical reports.

As we know the Cathedral Fledge is suffering from lead poisoning. A level of 10 is considered toxic. She was found to have a level of 19.1. This is one sick bird.

A paralysed extremity is a common symptom of lead poisoning in both hawks and humans. It is called peripheral neuropathy and in this case most likely caused by brain disruption by lead and is sometimes reversible, depending on many factors.

Where did she get the lead? The Cathedral Church of St John the Divine has a lead roof. We surmise it came from there. Why hasn't it happened before? Possibly because of the activity on the lead roof. The roof is being worked on. Scaffolding has been attached as have ladders which might well break small bits off. It only takes a pin points worth or so to poison a hawk or even a child.

More on the Red-tailed Medical Care to come. Many thanks to the Horvaths for their work in attempting to save the Cathedral Fledge and the Houston Tiercel.

Donegal Browne

2 comments:

Sally said...

Perhaps the local public health agency would like to follow up regarding possible human lead contamination in the cathedral area? This is certainly not the first time raptors, top of the food chain along with us, have shown we, the humans, the dangers of toxins in our environment and saved us from demise from our own chemicals!

Donegal Browne said...

You're so right, Sally. I'll look into it.