Animals

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As part of “The Great Give Back” through Suffolk County libraries, Emma Clark Library, 120 Main St., Setauket will hold a Pet Food Drive through the month of October. They will be accepting new pet supplies (food, blankets, leashes, etc) in the Library lobby. All are welcome to donate (residents or non-residents) during Library hours. Library teen volunteers will then drop off the donated items at various locations. Questions? Call 631-941-4080.

Gina

MEET GINA!

This week’s shelter pet is Gina, a brown tabby cat who arrived at the Smithtown Animal Shelter in late August after being abandoned outside a local grocery store.

Gina was a little shell shocked initially, but as she learns to trust, she is becoming a sweet little lady. She is approximately two years old and has no medical issues. She would do best in a quiet home.

If you would like to meet Gina, please call ahead to schedule an hour to properly interact with her in a domestic setting.

The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. Visitor hours are currently Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Sundays and Wednesday evenings by appointment only). For more information, call 631-360-7575 or visit www.townofsmithtownanimalshelter.com.

Audubon lecture

Join the Four Harbors Audubon Society for an autumn lecture via Zoom on Wednesday, September 28 from 8 to 9 p.m. Guest speaker and naturalist, artist, writer Julie Zickefoose will discuss her latest book, Saving Jemima: Life and Love With a Hard-luck Jay, the intimate story of how an orphaned bird can save a soul, which she wrote and illustrated after spending nearly a year healing, studying and raising a young blue jay for release.

From the press release:

Naturalist/artist/writer Julie Zickefoose thinks of herself as an unsung, minor, rather dirty superhero. Her superpower: saving small, economically worthless wildlife that would otherwise die. An orphaned jay named Jemima was one such foundling. Spending nearly a year healing, studying and raising the young blue jay for release opened the door to their world for Julie. She began writing and illustrating Saving Jemima: Life and Love With a Hard-luck Jay immediately upon becoming her foster mother. More than a wildlife rehab story, it’s the story of life, love and dealing with great loss; of finding grace and redemption in bonding with a wild bird.

Julie Zickefoose lives and works quietly on an 80-acre wildlife sanctuary in the back country of Whipple, Ohio. She is a prolific writer and painter and Advising Editor to BWD Magazine. Her heavily illustrated books include Natural Gardening for Birds, Letters from Eden, The Bluebird Effect, and Baby Birds: An Artist Looks Into the Nest. Saving Jemima: Life and Love With a Hard- Luck Jay, the intimate story of how an orphaned bird can save a soul, is her newest book.

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This special event is free and open to all. Reservations required. To join this Zoom presentation, you must register in advance by clicking on the link here. Afterwards you will receive an email with link and instructions on how to join the presentation. For more information, visit www.4has.org.

By John L. Turner

Once in a while I get a phone call, text or email message along the following lines:  “John, could I have seen a canary? Moments ago I saw a bright yellow bird at my bird feeder.”. My response? Something along the lines of: “While there’s always the outside possibility of seeing a canary that’s escaped from its cage, it’s much more likely you’ve just seen an American Goldfinch, one of the more colorful native songbirds native to Long Island, brilliantly wrapped in its garb of lemon yellow marked with black wings, tail, and a cap.” 

The black coloration and the white wing bars and undertail coverts complete the colorful and distinctive plumage of this native songbird species, distinguishing its appearance from any exotic canary that has escaped from captivity. 

Goldfinch are common on Long Island both in wild places and as a regular visitor to backyard thistle feeders. They are routinely found in open habitats with trees — picture a meadow dotted with widely spaced trees — and are a common nesting bird here. Given their attraction to open habitats they are a species that has probably benefited from clearing and the removal of forests and are likely much more common today than when the country was founded. Underscoring their abundance, they were possible, probable, or confirmed breeders in 94% of the designated blocks in the 2005 statewide Breeding Bird Atlas; the only place they were routinely missed was in the heavily forested areas of the Adirondack Mountains, making them one of the top ten most widespread breeders in the state.

And, as mentioned above, they are a welcome and regular visitor to backyard feeding stations, favoring cylindrical thistle feeders where they often compete with each other to gain a perch upon which to snatch thin black thistle seeds. In the winter they are often joined by their finch cousins: Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls, all of which relish thistle seeds. Watching these three colorful species jostling to secure thistle seeds provides one of the birding delights of this season. 

Speaking of thistle, the goldfinch has an intimate relationship with the wildflower and it affects their breeding biology. Goldfinch, unlike almost all other songbirds, eat and feed its young very little animal protein such as caterpillars, moths, or beetles. Rather, they eat and feed their nestlings seeds, of which thistle makes up the bulk (but also seeds from other composites). Given this, unlike other songbirds that breed in spring, they have to wait until middle to late summer to breed, until thistle has bloomed and set seed. At a time when other birds have either finished breeding or are well into raising their second brood, goldfinch are just beginning their family-raising chores — it’s not at all unusual to see breeding in late July through August, even into early September.   

Thistle also plays an important role in nest building as goldfinch routinely use thistle down for lining the inner cup of their nest. This material helps the bird to make a tightly constructed nest, so well constructed it can hold water. The abandoned nests are sometimes used as wintering and food storage sites for mice and chipmunks, making snug homes and pantries.       

The most telltale sign of breeding is the male goldfinch’s nuptial flight. With the female watching from below, the male flies in a wide circle a hundred or feet above the ground in a classic undulating or roller coaster-like pattern, all the while singing which contains a phrase that has been likened to “potato chip, potato chip”! We heard a male goldfinch “potato chipping” regularly over our backyard patio while eating dinner outside on several late August nights, suggesting our yard was within breeding territory. I looked for a nest among the yard’s shrubbery but, alas, turned up empty. Henry David Thoreau observed the goldfinch’s nuptial display and characterized the bounding flight as if the bird was “skimming over unseen billows.” I, too, came up empty in feeling any buoyant billows but enjoyed the repeated phrases of “potato chip” as I ate potato salad.   

While the “potato chip” sequence may be the bird’s most familiar vocalization, they have other songs and calls. Their typical song is a delight — varied notes of different intensity and tone, given rapidly, imparting a happy quality to the song. They also have a call that has a distinctive “wheezy” quality, quite similar in sound to other finches.   

After the breeding season, the American Goldfinch experiences a full body molt replacing the colorful breeding plumage with a duller but still attractive feather coat of subdued colors. This is the goldfinch that visits your yard feeders during the colder months. With the arrival of Spring the male molts again, this time a partial molt involving only its body feather (but not its wings and tail) and the “canary yellow” plumage has returned.

Two other goldfinch species ­— Lesser and Lawrence’s — occur in North America. These are both western species and rarely if ever turn up here. So if you vacation in the West be on the lookout for these cousins of the American Goldfinch, and of course you might see American Goldfinch too, as their breeding distribution encompasses all of the lower 48 states. And if you see the American Goldfinch in Washington you will have seen its official state bird (it is also the state bird of  Iowa and New Jersey). 

Much folklore and indigenous American stories surround the goldfinch. Writing about indigenous people stories, one animal folklorist notes: “In one Iroquois legend, goldfinches were originally a drab black or grey color. Dissatisfied with their plumage, these finches only earned their gold coloration through an act of selfless kindness. As the story goes, a fox took a nap beneath a pine tree. As he did this, the sap dropped into his eyes and sealed them shut. He begged for help and the drab grey finches agreed to help him. They worked in shifts pecking at the sap until the fox could open his eyes again. The fox offered them a reward of their choice for their help.  When they asked him for brighter colors, the fox pressed yellow flowers into paint and painted the finches with his tail as a brush. The finches were so pleased with their new plumage that they began to flutter, dance, and sing. This is the reason that finches still flutter while they fly and sing such cheerful songs!” 

Given their bright and sunny colors, bubbly songs, and gregarious nature, goldfinches have long been symbols of good luck and to see one, or better yet, to watch a flock, was a good omen meaning good fortune. I think my spouse, Georgia, I and our three dogs Esmy, Henry, and Daisy are in line for much good fortune because during a recent walk we had a flock of twenty-four goldfinches perched in a copse of shrubs at Forsythe Meadow County Park in Stony Brook. For Georgia and me, though, the good fortune was watching and listening to this cheery flock of lemon-yellow sprites of sunshine, singing away for minutes on end. For the dogs, their fortune came when they each received a barbecue-flavored dog cookie at the end of the walk.    

I hope you also see goldfinch during your late summer rambles or later in the year at your bird feeders — and are imbued too with good fortune, not the least of which is just the opportunity to watch these most colorful and cheery of birds.   

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

Milton
After an investigation, detectives from the Suffolk County SPCA have charged a Lake Grove woman with animal cruelty charges for allowing a dog to be left inside of a van for 5 1/2 hours on a 90 degree day, causing the dog’s death.
Roy Gross, Chief of the Suffolk SPCA said that its detectives charged Jodi Meyers, 51, of Lake Grove, with one count of animal cruelty and one count of failing to provide proper shelter and air for a 3-year-old black Labrador retriever dog named “Milton” in her care and custody, both misdemeanor charges. Meyers, an employee of the Guide Dog Foundation, had taken the dog out for training on July 22 but instead left the dog inside of a crate in a work van while the temperature outside was approximately 90 degrees. The dog was found dead 5 1/2 hours later.
Meyers surrendered to SPCA detectives on Sept. 21, and is scheduled to appear in First District Court, Central Islip, on Oct. 11..
Animal cruelty will not be tolerated in Suffolk County. If you witness any incident of animal cruelty or neglect in Suffolk County please contact the Suffolk County SPCA at 631-382-7722.
A criminal charge is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Holly & Misteltoe

MEET HOLLY AND MISTLETOE!

This week’s shelter pets are Holly and Mistletoe, up for adoption at the Smithtown Animal Shelter. This mother/daughter duo have been together for 7 years and the shelter hopes to keep them together in their next home. 

Holly & Misteltoe

Both small in stature, Holly (in the cat house) was just a baby herself when she had Mistletoe so they have grown up together. They found themselves at the shelter when their human mom became ill. Holly is loving and outgoing and Mistletoe is sweet and cuddly once she gets to know you. If you would like to meet  these sweethearts, please call ahead to schedule an hour to properly interact with them in a domestic setting.

The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. Visitor hours are currently Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Sundays and Wednesday evenings by appointment only). For more information, call 631-360-7575 or visit www.townofsmithtownanimalshelter.com.

Photo by Elisa Hendrey

BUSY BEE

Elisa Hendrey of Sound Beach spied this busy bee on Sept. 8. She writes, “I saw this sunflower at the Carol Baldwin Breast Center in Stony Brook, and because of its unusual color I went for a closer look. That is when I saw the bee. I scrambled to get my phone out and take a photo before it might fly away!”

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METRO photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

Working in a general practice for many years now, I am commonly asked the question of whether or not a growth under the skin is something to worry about or not. The good news is the majority of subcutaneous (under the skin) lumps are benign, or non-cancerous. They are usually lipomas (benign tumors made up of fat cells), or cysts. Some, however, can be cancerous and are better off being removed before they get too big or invade the surrounding tissues making it more difficult or impossible to remove completely. How are we to tell?

It is always good to bring any new growths to your veterinarian’s attention as soon as possible. When I evaluate any new subcutaneous growths I was taught to look for three characteristics:

Is it hard or is it soft? A growth that is hard is not always malignant, and a growth that is soft is not always benign. However, in my book, a growth that is hard is more concerning than a growth that is soft.

Is it freely movable or well attached to underlying tissues? Growths that are soft and freely movable are more likely to be benign than growths that are hard and well attached.

Is it painful, or non-painful? subcutaneous growths that are non-painful to palpation are less likely to be malignant.

I like to have the three criteria in combination to feel confident in telling a pet owner that the growth is something just to be monitored. Therefore soft, freely movable, non-painful is good, and firm, well-attached, and painful is concerning. 

I also like to recommend owners monitor these growths closely for change. The two changes I look for is a rapid change in size, and/or a change in character. If a growth doubles in size in a month or less, or a change in character (soft to hard, freely movable to well attached, non-painful to painful) then please have your pet seen again immediately.

There are different ways to test these growths. My favorite first test is a fine needle aspirate and cytology. This test involves inserting a needle into the growth and aspirating a sample of cells. The sample is then sprayed onto a microscope slide, allowed to dry and sent to the lab for evaluation by a pathologist. 

Cytology is the evaluation of individual cells so it is not as accurate as a biopsy but one can get a lot of information from individual cells. A fine needle aspirate is something that is well tolerated by most patients so sedation or anesthesia is not usually required to perform this procedure. 

There are cases where the fine needle aspirate and cytology are inconclusive and a biopsy is needed. However, I feel a fine needle aspirate and cytology is an excellent first step. I hope this information helps.

 Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. 

This week’s shelter pets are the Seinfeld kittens — Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer — available for adoption at the Smithtown Animal Shelter. 

These 6-month-old babies were abandoned in a tiny carrier and were infested with intestinal parasites, and fleas. They had a severe upper respiratory infection that caused two of them to lose an eye. Thanks to the staff at the shelter, today they are healthy, happy, affectionate, and playful kittens. These little fighters have been through the gamut and they are ready for  the purrfect home to spoil them and love them forever! The shelter is hoping to adopt them in pairs. 

The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. Visitor hours are currently Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Sundays and Wednesday evenings by appointment only). For more information, call 631-360-7575 or visit www.townofsmithtownanimalshelter.com.Shelter