My name is Ingrid Hein and I am a retired journalist living in Hudson. I had heard good things about Le Nichoir, but nothing that prepared me for what I was about to find while visiting last August. Le Nichoir is an awe-inspiring place, full of interesting and very special people that have an amazing drive to help. For anyone looking for an optimistic view of the future, Le Nichoir can provide one. What follows is what I heard and saw on that day back in August. I hope that you enjoy the read.
Baby birds that need hourly feeding, dozens of messy cages that need cleaning, live squirmy mealworms to separate and grapes to chop in bits are all tasks performed by volunteers at Le Nichoir.
Roxana, who has been volunteering for nearly 20 years, is a trained medical doctor and lover of wildlife. “All birds are different and have different needs,” she explained to me. Currently, Roxana is mainly taking care of waterfowl. She has treated Great Blue Herons with frostbite and ducks covered in oil. She says releasing these birds back into the wild is so very rewarding.
Of late, she has been releasing goslings to foster parents. “They need a family willing to adopt them,” she explained. “I often lose sleep the night before. A successful release is comical, beautiful, and wonderful to watch,” she explained. “When it all goes smoothly, I always get home with a huge sense of relief and satisfaction.”
Jo-Annie is a biologist and the full-time staff member responsible for bird care, and much more. Her day begins by mentally accounting for volunteers, interns, bird medications, and caging. She determines which birds will be released, which ones are still sick, and which birds need to be on what feeding schedule. Every bird’s cage needs cleaning. “They’re really messy,” she grins. Once she’s got it all straight in her head, she plots all the tasks, birds and people on two magnificent charts. One is for outside, one inside. On a typical summer day, it takes seven volunteers and several staff to complete everything that needs doing.
Birds arrive with caring citizens from all over. Jo-Annie works to triage them to surgery, to receive antibiotics, re-hydration and more. Birds need to be treated for broken wings, puncture wounds, skin wounds, fish hooks, cat bites, and oil slicks. Each is given the best available treatment and generally spends 4 to 6 weeks recovering. In more extreme cases, they stay much longer. Ultimately, the goal is to get birds safely back into the wild.
Le Nichoir is a place for wild bird rehabilitation, but also for much-needed education. In North America, about 40% of bird species are declining in number, and one in eight are threatened with extinction. According to the most recent research, about 3 billion birds have disappeared from North America and Europe in the last 50 years.
Birds are engineers, pollinators, seed dispensers, scavengers and predators. But despite their important role, they are increasingly threatened by agriculture, logging, and habitat loss. Domestic cats also play a huge part, killing an estimated 100-350 million birds each year in North America. Clearly, more education is called for.
Elise Laferriere, Le Nichoir’s Education Program Coordinator; is currently developing a nationwide program for schools including a “who dunnit?” educational adventure game. “Children are always very good at learning about what happened to the bird and are extremely empathetic,” she said.
While giving seminars, education programs and at community events Elise responds to a wide range of concerns, questions and opinions about birds. She educates the public about how Le Nichoir has the resources and knowledge to provide for the distinct needs of each species, including feeding, habitat, introduction back to the wild.
Le Nichoir is ever grateful to its volunteers, and to its donors. Both play essential roles. Core funding is important to pay for the aviaries, resources and full-time staff needed to provide consistent care for birds, create menus, stock the two kitchens, provide educational programs and keep the lights, fridges, water pools and laundry machines running. I encourage you to continue your support.