Blog Archive March 2012

Late Winter Storm Damage

Posted on 10 March 2012 by Dawn Keller

The morning after the storm - taken February 24, 2012

I cannot think of a single sound in the world (minus human or animal pain) that ellicits a more visceral reaction in me than the sound of a chain saw. So when two late winter storms with heavy snow caused a domino effect that started with the mid-trunk snapping of a 75’ oak and ended with a total of 6 trees uprooted in its path from bearing its weight – parts of the mass potentially threatening our Barrington facility – we were left with no alternative but to call the experts and have them removed with near-surgical precision (as near surgical as a chain saw can be, I suppose).

Our one pond-side spruce seemed to be holding up the mass and we hoped that it would withstand the heavy load until the tree cutters could arrive, which they said had to wait until the snow melted due to safety concerns. The spruce leaned and struggled under its burden but held it did. And now it stands alone amid a clearing of nothing more than piles of formerly statuesque oaks, cherries and spruce.

When the storms first hit, I felt my normal anxiety over the heavy, wet snow that came late enough in the year to threaten Great Horned Owl and squirrel nests. I found myself conflicted when admiring the beauty of the snow recognizing the damage that the storm could have on our native wildlife. Sometimes storms cause devastation to the animal population we serve and it really just all depends on the timing of the storm relative to what species are nesting as well as the storm’s severity, of course. A couple of summers ago, torrential downpours led to an influx of 34 nestling Cooper’s Hawks. This year’s late winter snowstorm didn’t lead to a similar spike in our admissions and my hope is that the nestling owls and newborn squirrels weren’t impacted.

We often ask people not to cut trees during nesting season, which in Illinois spans from January through October, unless the tree is a safety issue. There was absolutely no way that we could wait on this dangerous situation and I knew that it was very early in nesting season with squirrels, raccoons and Great Horned Owls being the only likely candidates. We knew that we didn’t have a Great Horned nest in any of the trees but couldn’t be certain about the other two.

So as I listened to the sound of chain saws I hoped that the cutters wouldn’t find babies. I was relieved when they reported that there were no nests in the trees. They agreed to put our business cards in all of their trucks because, although nests are protected and tree companies are not supposed to cut a tree if they know it has an active nest, sometimes mistakes happen.

We are grateful that our spruce stood strong and tall and that the trees didn’t fall on our buildings.  We’ll clean up the massive piles of our former trees  and begin planting. I see young oaks in our future.To the right of the original oak tree that snapped, five other trees
uprooted and were leaning on our one remaining spruce

The oak tree that snapped and started the domino effect

To the right of the original oak tree that snapped, five other trees
uprooted and were leaning on our one remaining spruce

By the time the snow melted and the tree cutters could safely remove
the trees, the spruce was signficantly leaning under the weight

Some of our former trees

Piles of debris surround our ponds and waterfalls, waiting to be cleared away

And our half dead spruce, now relieved of the weight of the other trees,
once again stands tall
! We are grateful that this spruce never gave away.


Funniest Bird Releases

Posted on 8 March 2012 by Dawn Keller

In working on content for our new website, we found some release photos and video that I just had to share. No birds were injured in these releases - these are birds that were fully recovered from their injuries and ready for release but simply did unexpected things during their releases. I can only say that these images captured some of the funniest release moments we've had so far at Flint Creek Wildlife.


Red-tailed Hawk - we called him Spider Man while he was in the flight chamber:

Red-tailed Hawk (Spider Man) Release photo copyright 2009 Phil Hampel

Scarlet Tanager that flipped upside down (voluntarily) as he left my hand then righted himself mid-air and flew off:

            Scarlet Tanager Release Photo copyright 2010 Phil Hampel

Summer Tanager - I love the look before it flies away:

American Kestrel that was so focused on me he didn't realize he could be free - these images are sequential:

American Kestrel Release copyright 2010

American Kestrel Release copyright 2010 Phil Hampel

American Kestrel Release copyright 2010 Phil Hampel

American Kestrel Release copyright 2010 Phil Hampel

American Kestrel Release copyright 2010 Phil Hampel

For more information about Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation visit our NEW website at or our Facebook page at


This post originally was written by Dawn Keller, Founder and Director of Flint Creek Wildlife, for North American Birding


A Red-tail of a Different Color

Posted on 3 March 2012 by Dawn Keller

We originally received a call about an injured Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a low fence on an entrance ramp to the expressway. Although we responded to the call right away, by the time we arrived there was no sign of it. We searched all around to no avail and then left.

Same thing two days later - another call about an injured Red-tail at the same location. Again, we went to the location - and again we came up empty-handed. We were frustrated and worried that this bird had been injured and without help for a couple of days.

Three more days passed and we received a call from a resident that lived near the expressway. It's got to be the same bird, we thought. Fingers crossed that we would find him this time. We high-tailed it over there.

He was sitting on a fence facing me when I approached and at brief glance looked a bit unusual to me. I confess that when I am about to rescue a bird, I get tunnel visioned and focus strictly on making sure I get the bird swiftly and safely. I quickly assessed the condition of the bird, its apparent injuries and any surrounding hazards that might jeopardize its safety during the recovery. As soon as the bird saw me, he flushed backward off the fence into a large open park-type area between the back yard and the expressway. He could fly low but not correctly.

I went several houses south to gain access to the open field and then circled the bird wide in order to approach it from the direction of the expressway. This way if he flushed again he'd be headed back towards the houses. He was flying low but not well or correctly. He obviously had a fractured right wing.

As I approached the bird in the field, I approached low. He didn't fly again but flipped on his back and extended his legs in defensive mode. I realized that the bird was an older male - quite striking and absolutely different than the many other Red-tails I'd rehabbed in the past. He was a bit leucistic with a lighter than normal head and creamy white up the base of his tail.

His Beautiful Chocolate-brown Eyes Contrast with His Lighter than Normal Chest and Head

The leucism is evident in his tail

Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk - Back View

His wing fracture wasn't too bad but he was emaciated - no doubt from the many days of not hunting while we searched for him in vain.

Fortunately, his rehabilitation was smooth and uneventful. He pulled through the emaciation just fine and the wing healed perfectly.

We took him home and released him in time to hook back up with his mate in time for season. He's been spotted hunting along the expressway - just like old times.

Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk Just as He Is Released

Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk Showing No Signs of Prior Injuries

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