2022 Year in Review: Liz Duffy, Wildlife Rehabilitator

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.

It is very weird to say, but I have officially completed my first year at the Wildlife Center! This year contained so many firsts – including my first experience with Black Bears, foxes, fawns, and so many other species. And of course, it was also my first ever full-blown baby season! I have to say, those months were some of the hardest but also some of the most rewarding as well. Throughout the season, I found that the baby raptors that we raised took a special place in my heart. There was one group especially that were a handful and a half, but they never failed to make me smile.

At one point in the summer season, we were caring for five Red-shouldered Hawks, all in one enclosure. This cohort originally came in as a group of two and a group of three, but with the appropriate size enclosure and proper introductions these five were grouped together. While doing their daily care and exercise one day I noticed a hole that had been dug under one of the wood panels on the side of their enclosure. The hole, coupled with some other experiences, made me suspect that there may have been an intruder overnight. I filled the hole with a large rock, then went to grab one of our trial cameras to hopefully catch the culprit on film. Not only did we catch our intruder – a skunk – on camera, but the footage and photos that I found recorded the next day had me full-on laughing in my office.

To those who have not worked with trail cameras before, they are designed to take a picture or a video when they sense motion. This action can be signaled by a click or whirr sound from the trail cam. Our fledgling hawks were VERY interested in the camera. There were close to 250 pictures and videos that had been captured throughout the night and following morning. Apparently, the cameras started out as something very scary – we have videos of one hawk doing some defensive posturing at the camera. The hawk spent multiple minutes inching his way closer, all the while being very prepared for the trail camera to come to life. Once it was deemed to no longer be something scary, then the others started to investigate.

During the investigation process, the camera was knocked over from its upright position, where it settled on its back with the camera facing straight up. It then became a bed for one of the hawks. It might have been warm from the work it was doing and that’s why it seemed like a good sleeping spot. There were so many photos of one of their underbelly floofs. When it wasn’t being used as a bed, it was being used as a perch. Since the camera was most likely making some kind of sound when it was taking all of these photos and videos, the others all had to take a peek too. A lot of the videos were just of the hawks looking straight down into the camera and doing confused head bobs. It was so precious. Some of them even went to the length of trying to capture and eat the camera by footing and biting at it.

For me, one of the simple joys in life is watching our patients grow up. There is nothing like watching a bird learn how to bird, and these five let us see a glimpse into their behavior when we are not around. The trail cam came out of the pen alive and without a scratch on it. All five Red-shouldered Hawks successfully passed all of the hurdles that the rehabilitation team laid out for them and have been released.

— Liz Duffy, Wildlife Rehabilitator

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