Flight Complex Construction Underway

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Work first began in late July, when the ground in TreeHouse’s back field was planed in preparation for construction.

There is excitement in the air at TreeHouse.  At long last, the biggest remaining step in completing our move to Dow and fully closing down the old Brighton facility has begun.  Construction is currently underway on our new avian rehabilitation flight training complex.  This unique structure will be the crowning feature of TreeHouse’s new outdoor rehab facilities.  Funded by grants from four separate organizations, the complex is nearly one hundred feet long and rises from eight feet tall at the front to twelve feet at the back.

This innovative new enclosure will have nearly 6,000 square feet of flight space.  Its numerous sliding pocket doors will make it fully reconfigurable, so that it can be used simultaneously for the rehabilitation of numerous birds ranging in size from tiny screech owls to bald eagles.  The basic unit of the complex is a twelve by twelve foot holding compartment, but doors can be opened or closed to give birds access to multiple compartments.  It will also be possible to set up a “track” configuration, in which birds will be able to fly a complete circuit of the entire length of the complex without having to turn around.  In essence, this will allow them to fly an infinite loop rather than landing after a single flight, which will be a great advantage for building up flight muscles prior to release.

With the skeleton of the structure now in place, we really get a sense of the massive scale of the flight complex.

With the skeleton of the structure now in place, we really get a sense of the massive scale of the flight complex.

The structure has a concrete foundation, eliminating concerns about weasels and other predators tunneling into the enclosure, and it will be outfitted for containment of the mice used in prey training.  This is a vital part of release training for any raptor.  Many young raptors have an extended learning period as they first begin to hunt, and in many cases it is impossible to determine whether a bird has recovered sufficiently for release without testing its ability to hunt.

A great deal of work remains before the flight complex is complete, but progress has been steady, and we hope to be able to debut our operational new flight training facilities at our annual Open House this October.

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The new flight complex fits beautifully into the previously unused field in the back portion of TreeHouse’s property.

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The Fawns of Redwall

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Over the past few months, the additional help of several summer interns has meant that TreeHouse has been humming with activity as projects that have been backed up for ages get wrapped up one after another.  For me, the biggest step came a couple of weeks ago, when we completed work on our new deer pen.

The deer pen has been in the planning stages since last winter.  It was originally intended to have been completed in time for last year’s fawns, but a number of factors ultimately made that goal untenable.  To me it was beginning to feel like the enclosure would never be started.  Even after the materials had been ordered and delivered, it seemed like the weather would never cooperate.  So, the first time we had an open afternoon, a few of the interns decided we just needed to start it.

Looking at the enclosure in person, it's pretty easy to imagine guard towers at the corners and crossbows sticking out between the posts.

Looking at the enclosure in person, it’s pretty easy to imagine guard towers at the corners and crossbows peeking out between the posts.

With the help of a lot of hard work by interns and volunteers, the pen went up remarkably quickly.  The enclosure is more than 1500 square feet, and it includes a swinging gate that allows us to separate specific individuals if necessary.  It also, with a bit of imagination, looks exactly like a medieval fortress.

Apparently, TreeHouse interns tend to have a certain number of shared interests.  Maybe that should be obvious—clearly, something drew all of us to want to intern at TreeHouse.  So maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised when I mentioned the Redwall books and found that both of the interns I was talking to had also read them as kids.

A portion of the combined collection of my brother's and my Redwall books.  Apparently there are a total of 22 books in the series.

A portion of the combined collection of my brother’s and my Redwall books. Apparently there are a total of 22 books in the series.

For those of you unfamiliar with Redwall, it is the name of an abbey populated and defended by an assortment of woodland creatures in a series of novels by Brian Jacques.  I loved the Redwall books when I was younger, but I haven’t met many people who read them.   Evidently they’re very popular among TreeHouse interns though.  So it was sort of obvious to all of us, once the name had been brought up, that our new deer pen had to be called Redwall.  At the moment it basically has a moat along the east wall where a new water line was put in a few months ago, it is currently housing about a dozen fawns, and as more of our new rehab enclosures are completed in the coming months, it will be increasingly surrounded by assorted woodland creatures.  I’m not sure if the name is actually official, but to those of us who built it, it will always be Redwall.

The fawns themselves, meanwhile, seem very pleased with their new housing.  Before the enclosure was completed, they had been staying in an indoor exercise room.  They were quite young at that point, so the situation wasn’t bad, but the outdoor enclosure gives the growing fawns a much healthier and richer environment.  The fawns, predominantly car-strike orphans, will live and grow in Redwall until this fall, when they are old enough to set out on their own.  In the meantime, I suppose we’d just better keep a lookout for an invading horde of weasels wielding battleaxes.

Redwall has sunshine and shade, shelter, and plenty of natural vegetation for enrichment when the fawns are old enough to start browsing.

Redwall has sunshine and shade, shelter, and plenty of natural vegetation for enrichment when the fawns are old enough to start browsing.

Chuckles Moves to Dow

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We hit a landmark in the move from Brighton to Dow this week—TreeHouse’s Internet celebrity, Chuckles the red fox, finally came to our new facility.  Her cage is not totally completed yet, but it is operational, and we were anxious to bring her over because she acts as a foster parent for any orphaned foxes we admit.

We currently have two young foxes that were ready to move outside, and they joined Chuckles in the new cage today.  As any of our current animal care volunteers at Dow can attest, these two REALLY needed to get outside.  They’ve been so rambunctious and playful that their freshly cleaned cage would be torn apart before we could even leave the room.

The new cage is much more spacious than Chuckles’ old cage at Brighton was, and she seemed pretty delighted by it.  We gave her a little while to get used to her new surroundings before we introduced the two kits.  The two are near the same age, but they are not siblings, and they have very different personalities.  The first one we admitted, which you can see here, is very bold and constantly in motion.  As soon as we opened the crate we had used to carry them outside, he darted out and started running up and down the length of the cage.  The minute he saw Chuckles, he ran up to her and greeted her as though she was his long-lost mother.

The older kit tries to get Chuckles to join in the fun.

The second kit is much more timid by comparison, and it was a few minutes before he left the crate.  Still, when he did, he too began running around and around throughout the whole cage.  The two kits always got along reasonably well, but the shyer one, who is slightly older, sometimes would be obviously annoyed with the younger one’s antics—the younger one never gave him a moment’s peace.  But when they were both running around outside, chasing each other and playing, all I could see was pure joy from both of them.

For hours, they ran and ran—around logs, up the ramps and onto the shelves, into the den box, around Chuckles.  When I checked on them just before dark, they were still at it.  For the most part, Chuckles just watches them, though every once in a while one of them will try to get her to join in.

You can see a video of Chuckles and the two kits here.  If you come out to TreeHouse, you will be able to see them, although as long as we have orphans getting ready for release in there with Chuckles, there will be a fence around the cage to give them a wider perimeter.  Visitors can view them from outside the fence, though, and Chuckles is always worth paying a visit!

The youngest fox plays with a tee-ball.

The Big Move

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We have a lot of new faces at TreeHouse this week.  Most of our permanent residents and all of our rehab animals except those in outdoor release training cages have now moved from Brighton to our new Dow facility.

Spuds and Mac, our two Brighton eagles, join Hope in their new 960-square-foot cage at Dow.

Four of our permanent resident turkey vultures settle into their new cage adjacent to the eagles. Einstein can't join them until his trainer gives the OK, though.

Cyclops the red-tailed hawk moved in with some new roommates this week. She's showing her good side in this picture, but you can probably guess why her name is Cyclops.

Long-time resident short-eared owl Mocha will have to wait until the weather warms up a bit more before he can move into his new outdoor cage. For now, he'll be staying in the exam room.