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adjusting to difficulties at work, concerns about crime, and trying to improve my attitude.

September 8, 2009

Current raptor living conditions.. not ideal.

Expecting things to be perfect or even to be done sensibly is not really sensible.

This is especially true when dealing with other people. And yeah, true when dealing with myself, too. I am not always sensible.

Attitude changes can be tough, but necessary.

This past Saturday, I was not working with the animals, but other folks were, and all our wild great horned owls and our only wild barn owl were released, and this is excellent! Less than half our hawks were released – not so good. Turns out some of our hawks are hawks with pox – avian pox. Humans cannot catch this, so I am told. And I was instructed how not to spread it to the other birds.

The hawks without pox – 8 of them were moved into the owl flight cage, which is smaller than the hawk flight cage, because the owls had been released first. There are only 3 hawks in the hawk flight cage – and this stumps me. I don’t know exactly why the 8 hawks are where they are. I asked politely, but the answer I got I did not quite understand – something about just putting some of the hawks into the other cage for the sake of convenience.. instead of keeping them in a carrying box for a little longer, and then putting them back in the hawk flight cage, and putting the 3 with pox in the smaller flight cage where the owls were. Yes, it is difficult to catch these birds and put them in the carrying boxes, but since they were put in the carriers anyway, the people working with the hawks that day could have waited a little bit, and put the majority of the hawks back in the main flight cage so they’d have much more room to fly than they do now.

The owl flight cage is more suitable to owls, that is how it is. It’s darker in there. There is a tree growing in the middle of it. The owl cage is narrower than the hawk cage, and the ceiling lower. Also, there are two pillars inside the cage holding the roof up. The hawks have to fly around the tree and the two pillars. Hawks do MUCH more flying back and forth than the owls do. Now, they have less room to fly, and have to fly around obstacles. Will the hawks be potentially injured flying in this cage? No, I don’t think so. I doubt they will do much if any flying at night. I watched them for awhile today while inside the cage and outside of it, and I am not worried about the birds hurting themselves. They are very agile creatures.

But there is another problem with this setup. I am in more danger. I have less room to dodge. This is still better than dealing with two large red tail hawks kept in a bedroom-sized enclosure – that is most unsafe and I have had to push and shove them away from me and have had no room to dodge when attacked. As you might guess, this is a scary experience.

The owl cage.. lower ceiling, less sunlight coming in, less room to fly and less room for me to dodge.. great. Only one hawk came at me one time, but it flew at me with talons out. Not a good sign. In the larger cage, the biggest hawks swooped at me a couple times, but with their talons tucked in- they were obviously not trying to hurt me. Hawks like to test us, play head games – swoop without doing harm, bump us with their wings – a little scary, but not dangerous.  It’s different when they come at us with talons extended.

It was unsafe to go all the way to the back of this cage when the owls were there. It is safer now, the hawks (most of them) are more likely to fly away from me than the owls were. However, they are more dangerous in the cage they are in. I wish they were put back to where they were supposed to be.

I didn’t want to be a bother, so I didn’t ask many more questions.. I am not in charge.. and some people there who are in charge are difficult to reason with.. probably not worth the effort, so there it is.  A situation that I can use to help improve my attitude about things, instead of just getting really mad about it inside and have bad feelings. But yeah, it is aggravating.

Only one near-attack today, and that is better than several. That’s something. I think I’ll be alright. I can duck fast, and do have some room to dodge. I did stay in the cage for a little while, not only for cleaning and feeding duties, but to observe them in there, and the one that went after me didn’t do so again but flew toward a different part of the cage, so I think I’ll be.. fairly ok, at least.

Crime nearby.

I have been staying after everyone else leaves these past two weeks. It is quite unusual to be there by myself. I kinda get a little lonely, but it is peaceful. I get paranoid though, when I am there. I have the place mostly locked up, but still.. just down the little road is a park of sorts along the river. I don’t know if much, if any drugs are trafficked there, but so many cars head in and out of that area I’d be shocked to find there were no drugs being sold there. This area is not a place for kids really – no playground, just some grass along a river, some drop offs and steep banks, and a few places that are secluded and not visible from the road. Secluded places where various crimes likely take place. Yes, I am outside the city where I live, but there is crime in many parts of California, not just in the cities.

The city I live in has been known for drugs for a long time. This part of California used to be the meth capital of the nation. Less meth labs now, probably, because it is much harder to get the materials, like ephedrine tablets, in the USA. So, it is now more profitable for the meth makers to create their nefarious concoctions south of the border.

I saw an article in the local paper awhile back, talking about the town I live in being a major hub in the heroin pipeline from Mexico – this town is a major distribution center – the drugs are moved north, a little ways west, and quite aways east of here. The article talked about a particular heroin ring being broken, but that is small comfort. The war on drugs has already been lost, folks.  A heroin bust is better than no heroin bust, but I don’t even want to think of all the drugs floating through this town.

Whoops..had not intended to write about the drug trade.. back to the animals.

Songbirds and Corvids.

I haven’t gone into the songbird enclosures much at all, because I almost never work with the songbirds, but decided to go into them briefly this afternoon. These cages are were designed and constructed really well. Some of the songbirds spend lots more time on the ground than raptors do, so the cages are set up more like a natural habitat – growing grass instead of the usual gravel on the ground, various plants. One enclosure looks especially nice. I think the songbird ladies are doing an excellent job. I hope to learn some from them and eventually work with the songbirds as well.

In the first cage I went into there are mockingbirds and a cedar waxwing – both neighborhood birds I really like. There was also a little wren. There were mockingbirds in some of the other cages. We really got a lot of them this year. There is also a dove cage and one for corvids – corvids are ravens, crows, magpies, and jays. We currently only have one wild corvid, a crow, that has not been released yet.

Besides raptors, songbirds and corvids, we take in water fowl of various kinds too. In our small pond we have various ducks and geese. In other areas we have night herons, green herons and a blue heron. We had a pelican for a little while, but he was relocated.  After checking on the songbirds, I hung out with some of the resident birds for awhile.

I visited with the raven. I fed him 2 dead mice – he likes those. He would not let me pet him though. I hope ravens do not hold grudges. He might still be mad that I chased him around his cage several times. I did NOT chase him for fun. One of my duties is to spend time with the educational animals to keep them used to people, and to handle them – but to handle the raven I had to chase him. I haven’t chased him in weeks, though.. it’s best not to do that, so I will not handle him, just talk with him awhile and maybe he will eventually let me pet him. Some of the other volunteers he really likes. They can pet him quite awhile, yet still have to be careful. He’ll still bite them occasionally – he likes to be tricky – he’s a raven.

I worked with the not-tamed kestrel, handling him a little – a very small bird, but still difficult – would have been so much better if the management had waited to get a baby kestrel to raise – they are easily tamed that way. Adults.. might never be tamed. I think I’m the only one that even tries, and I am only there 3 days a week.

I took the Merlin out. As usual, she was tricky to catch inside her cage, but did well and was mostly calm once I had her on the glove. I held her outside her cage for a half hour or so, and she was fine. By the way, Merlins are quite noisy. High pitched yattering.. hurts my ears. I just walk into her cage to clean it I get an earful. Surprisingly she is quiet much of the time I have her out of the cage.

The barn owl – pretty much the same as he almost always is.. easy to put on my glove securely, but somewhat nervous when out of his cage. I was hoping for improvement by now. He still tries to fly away multiple times, even though he is tied to my glove. I think I’m the only one to hold him as well, except when he is taken to schools for the nature presentations.

We are having our bi-annual event soon, and almost all the residents will be on display. The burrowing owl and the merlin should be fine.. the barn owl.. not sure… might get stressed. The non-releasable great horned owl pulls out his jesses (straps) out of his anklets, and so I don’t handle him. He gets stressed easily. The raven will probably be alright – the lady who takes him to schools is really good with him.

The job, although wonderful in many ways, can be difficult. It is hard to deal with things that are not done well or sensibly, and decisions that are made by people in charge that I don’t feel right about – typical of almost any job on the planet, I suppose. I will try to think more positively.

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