2022 Year in Review: Dr. Olivia Schiermeyer, Veterinary Intern

It’s time to look back on 2022! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2022 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

I am a huge bird nerd and I make that well-known to everyone I meet. Throughout my veterinary internship this year, I have been delighted to work with many exciting birds – from our Mississippi Kite to the numerous fall warblers. I enjoy seeing every avian patient, although the songbirds are my absolute favorite. I am always ready to help identify a new intake and love the challenge of it! Most of our avian patients are readily identifiable backyard birds and it can be so easy to take them for granted, especially at the height of baby season.

One memorable and somewhat common avian patient for me arrived on July 2 this year. A nestling Barn Swallow #22-2118, weighing in at a tiny 11 grams, was dropped off at a veterinary clinic with an unknown history and subsequently was transferred to the WCV. At that point in the year I had already examined many tiny songbirds, and most of them blur together. This patient’s exam was not particularly outstanding (other than it was precious!), outside of a fracture of the right leg. I took radiographs as part of my admit exam and confirmed a fracture of the right tibiotarsus. I had seen this fracture in several other birds and began gathering my supplies to create a splint.

I had grown fond of placing this particular splint, known as a hockey shin guard splint, as it feels very much like arts and crafts. I made my measurements on the thin cardboard of a glove box and fashioned the splint with the help of a tiny piece of padding and some tiny strips of paper tape. This splint was by far the tiniest splint I have placed to date and it was so much fun!

We closely monitored the fracture for healing and after a short 11 days, the fracture healed and the splint was ready to come off. I was thrilled that this tiny bird had healed, and shortly thereafter we transferred the Barn Swallow to Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary for continued rehabilitation. Due to the continuous flow of patients coming into the WCV, the little Barn Swallow drifted to the back of my memory.

A few weeks later, Karra was visiting Rockfish and sent me a video of my little Barn Swallow in the aviary. It was so heartwarming to see this tiny bird that did so well when so many cases I see every day go south. On July 2, I received 17 patients and this Barn Swallow was one of two that made it all the way to release – a poignant example of how difficult wildlife rehabilitation can be at times. Despite the amount of loss I may see day to day, I cling to the tiny happy moments. For that reason Barn Swallow #22-2118 will absolutely remain one of my favorite early successes!

— Dr. Olivia Schiermeyer, Veterinary Intern

Check out all of our year-in-review posts!