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animal updates

October 25, 2009

I’ve only been volunteering at the center two days a week these past few weeks. Gas is rather expensive (not as bad as in other countries, but still) and I only buy Chevron gas – have some carbon blockage in the engine, but a mechanic told me that techron stuff in the Chevron gas actually works (haven’t noticed it working yet). I’d like to be out there 3 days a week, but oh well. It is approximately a half hour drive one way, and I have a Mustang with a V6, and it is not exactly a new car, so gas mileage ain’t great, even though the car has a manual transmission.. so 2 days are better than none.

I got to do more animal care today, because whoever “cleaned” the raptor cages didn’t do well – some of the cages didn’t look clean at all. The resident barn owl’s cage was the worst – looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in several days.

Owls and hawks spit out globs that look like poop but are actually castings – they can’t digest fur and feathers, or bones, so their bodies form capsule-shaped globs called castings. And yes, it is gross to watch a hawk or owl spit one up.  There were many castings on the ground of the barn owl’s cage. He spends very little time on the ground, preferring to sit on his branch, but still, I like to take very good care of the animals, so I cleaned out his cage. He was much happier than usual to see me, making his hello hisses and chirps. I was surprised and pleased. Sometimes he really does like attention! I also cleaned the kestrel’s cage, which is near the barn owls, and spent some time tidying up the main hawk cage as well.

Only 6 hawks in there now, and tons of room for them to fly over my head inside the flight cage, and still a red tail hawk tries to go after me! I waved it off and it practically went backward in the air! I didn’t know hawks could do that! The other hawks were fine, and didn’t trouble me.

I fed our resident crow two small dead mice. He is tame and I pet him awhile. His foot was worse today. It seems he is not getting better. I think the humane thing to do would be to put him down, but I am not in charge, and will be dismissed by the boss, and hated by the other staff if I were to end the crow’s life. He’s a very sweet soul.

I visited the raven very briefly, and fed him 3 dead mice.  I then kneeled by the skunk’s door so he could smell my hand, and I talked to him for a little while. I also petted a domestic rabbit we have who is awaiting adoption – I’m not allowed rabbits where I live, so I can’t take him.  I even got to feed a young squirrel – or rather tried to feed him.

We have 3 squirrels that are still too young to be released. They live in a large cage while the supervisor is on duty, then are put into a smaller cage in the evening. My supervisor just handed me a squirrel I was supposed to feed. This one doesn’t bite, but was a little tricky to hold. I tried to feed it with a small bottle, but the little critter was full, so it got put into the smaller cage, with the other squirrels. I wish I had the camera with me today. The two slightly larger squirrels were wrestling a lot inside the cage, it was quite humorous. Last shift, the black squirrel somehow managed to jump and turn itself upside-down in the air, and hang upside-down from the top of the cage! I was stunned!

Squirrels are lots of fun. I lived in Chicago back in the ’80’s – and when I say in Chicago, I don’t mean the suburbs I mean in Chicago. There were a LOT of squirrels in our neighborhood, and they adapted perfectly to city life, even in the frigid winters. They could scamper a long way across telephone wires – very entertaining. We lived in a third floor flat, which was 3 and a half stories up, and they loved to climb up on the wooden back stairwell. They’d camp out on a window sill in the snow, and sometimes even climb up on our screen door in the summer time and sneak in! It’s an unusual experience to chase a squirrel out of a large apartment. They were really fun.

In our neighborhood in Chicago there was a little creek that meandered through, and so occasionally we would spot raccoons or skunks wandering around. The Chicago nickname for skunks is “city kitties.”

I really like skunks. I worked in the Santa Cruz mountains for several summers back in the ’90’s, and there are many skunks out there. They were fun to watch. I always feel disappointed I can’t pet the friendly skunk at the center. Oh well. At least I can play with owls, and pet crows and ravens and get close looks at opossums, raccoons, water birds, raptors and other critters. I am blessed!

Mostly today, I did more data entry, and played some Celtic music from the Riverdance soundtrack, and by Anuna (the choral group that was part of the Riverdance troupe), Donal Lunny, who is an Uillean Piper (uilleann pipes are the Irish pipes that have a bellows attached, and don’t need to be blown into by mouth) and Joannie Madden, who is one of the best pennywhistle players out there. Good music to have on one’s iPod.  I can only do data entry for so long before needing to go out and visit the animals.

It’s good just being in the center. There is a slight rise in the ground just past our back gates, an area just above our property, with orchards everywhere, and we are very close to a river. Last shift, I had the front and back doors open, and a wonderful breeze came through and I could smell the river. Very nice being that close to nature. The only thing I don’t like about the center’s location is that it is just off a very busy country road, and so there is road noise. Otherwise, it is beautiful. Many songbirds live in the area, and occasionally a red shoulder hawk will fly over. I can tell it’s a red shoulder hawk by the sound it makes. I love birdies! I’m glad I can go out there to the center at least twice a week, and be close to creatures that I normally would see only at a distance, if at all.

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