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wildlife center updates, continued..

November 17, 2009

I worked on Sunday. I have only been volunteering two days a week for awhile now. This is due to not having enough money for gas to drive a half hour to the center, and a half hour back. I would like to be out there three times a week, and could help out more.

This shift on Sunday was significant for several reasons.. which I will soon explain..

Some shifts, I don’t do much animal care at all. There are many volunteers who do animal care, and the paid staff mostly do animal care as well. There are few of us who know how to do the data entry, though it is simple. It is a tedious task, but needing to be done, and I don’t much mind it. Also, I am a fast typist – not always accurate, but fast. I put on my iPod and headphones. This helps. I was listening to conservative talk radio..

Years ago, I was a regular listener of conservative talk radio, but finally gave up listening to it. Not all the conservative shouters were assholes and lunatics, but most were. There was one guy on the air (might still be on the air, I don’t know) named Rusty Humphries. I found the sound of his voice to be somewhat annoying, but I mostly liked what he had to say. He was also funny at times, and humor certainly helps.

Obama is too liberal for me in many ways, so I thought why not try listening to conservative radio again while typing into the computer  the fates of the animals brought into the center. And, I could not tune in NPR (National Public Radio) which I listen to everyday.. so I tried Glenn Beck.

I did not like Glenn Beck.

Anyway.. this past Sunday, I listened to part of an audiobook by Daniel H. Pink called “A Whole New Mind,” about how our occupational culture is changing and soon right-brain types like myself will rule the workplace, right brain vs. left brain thinking, that sort of thing. Haven’t listened to all of the audiobook yet.. I played it on the car stereo in my Mustang on the way home (driving a Mustang can be fun, but even a Mustang with a V6 instead of a V8 burns much gas). Mr. Pink got very repetitive in listing so many companies that have outsourced many thousands of jobs.. I am hoping the rest of the audiobook is better. I will let you know.

I didn’t do much data entry this past Sunday, though.

Two of our volunteers who are usually there on Sundays, including a woman who takes very good care of the raptors, were not there. I don’t know why. Another volunteer who is there on most Sundays did show up, but she doesn’t clean out the enclosures well. She empties and refills the water bowls, and brings in the dead mice, but that is pretty much it. I do NOT want the birds to live in squalor, I want a clean environment for them while they are in captivity – waiting to be released, or serving out the rest of their days in our care because they are non-releasable animals. So,, I did some cleaning.

One significant thing that happened, or rather, did not happen.. Usually, the smaller rooms where the hawks or owls are kept, are dangerous places for me. I walk in and get attacked, or at least badly menaced. The owls in the small rooms have not done this yet, but the hawks have regularly.

This time, when I cleaned out the smaller walk-in cages, I was not attacked. In one room was a sharp-shinned hawk. This is a very small hawk –  I would even say it is cute. I was not afraid of that one. It could hurt me if it flew at my face and clawed me, but it didn’t act aggressive at all – which is cool.. some of the smaller hawks can be very uptight. I’ve not taken care of a sharp-shinned hawk before – I am glad it is much more mellow than the little cooper’s hawk’s we’ve had in the past. Those hawks, also called chicken hawks, are mean and agitated. I got to just watch the sharp-shin hawk for a little while. I was glad to finally see one up close. Some hawks are very common in our area, and we get a lot of them – such as red tail and red shoulder hawks. We don’t get the little ones in as often.

In another small enclosure there is a marshawk – also called a northern harrier. This one is female – mostly brown.Marshhawks have faces like no other hawks – their faces look more like owls. It’s a beautiful bird. It is excitable, but has never come after me. I had to get fairly close to it though, to clean its living area. I was down on my knees picking up dead mice that had fallen under the feeding platform, with the hawk looking almost straight down on me, as it stood on its nest box. That was.. yeah, kinda scary, but it didn’t go after me, and so far, never has.

We have two non releasable great horned owls that have been living in a small enclosure at the center for years. Only one of them can fly. They are a mated pair and keep each other company. One is a surrogate parent to baby great horned owls that we get, the other is an educational animal. Their room was quite messy, so I spent some time in there. Neither of them are mean, and the one that can fly is nicer than the one that can’t. I don’t mean he’s friendly, but is fairly tame. I’ve held him a couple times. He just flies from one perch to another, and is only a little scary. Great horned owls, just look scary – they look mad all the time. But, as usual, no incidences. I like being in there with them. It’s strange though, being with two owls in a little room.

The cage I was most worried about cleaning is one where two larger hawks live. These two are recovering from avian pox, and cannot be put with the other large hawks in our main flight cage, so they are in a littler room. They usually go right at me when I walk in.

I’d been thinking about these two hawks for hours before I got to the center. I had made up my mind they wouldn’t get me.. this was a choice, but also a hunch – I just felt better about going in there.

While I was cleaning, the red shoulder hawk fly back and forth to and from a perch right by my head several times, but on this occasion did not fly at me. I was even able to spend close to 15 minutes in there raking the leaves. The roofs of our enclosures are partially lattice-work or rebar, and partially covered with wood. There is a tree growing through the rebar in our owl flight cage, and leaves fall through the bars and lattice work, so I rake the leaves, while the birds are in there with me. The red tail hawk didn’t fly to the perch nearer to me once, and appeared relaxed. I was very pleased.

I did a bit of raking in the hawk flight cage – currently occupied by red shoulder, red tail, and swainson’s hawks – 6 total. I like being in there with them. As long as I mostly walk along the sides of the cage, they don’t come after me – well, almost never come after me – they just fly above my head, and that is cool. I like to watch them. The littlest hawk in there is used to us, and we can walk right by it while cleaning and it is not bothered. I am not sure what type it was. I had always thought it was a red tail hawk, but there is a slight possibility it is a swainson’s hawk. When they are young, it is sometimes hard to tell. I will ask someone.

I also raked leaves in the empty owl cage. We had 14 great horned owls in there for awhile, and it was too dangerous to even go in there without a face shield. Walking ot the back of that flight cage with those owls in there.. not a wise idea at all. Raking in there with owls inside? Not a sensible option. The ceiling is lower in that cage than the hawk cage, but even were the ceiling as high, I think the owls would still be meaner – that’s great horned owls for you.

All that animal care and raking took up most of the shift, but I didn’t mind. I also did dishes in the kitchen of the main building where we prepare the food for the animals, and swatted many flies. We keep many animals in the main building, as well as a fridge full of dead critters to feed the animals, so we get flies -another reason for so many flies indoors is that people are almost constantly entering and exiting the building – to get food or to take care of this or that.

Owl updates.. we got a burrowing owl in either Sunday or Saturday. Sadly, this little bird was pretty badly injured, so I don’t know if it will be able to recover. I am surprised it wasn’t euthanized. I am not in charge, and have very little veterinary care experience with these animals, just a bit of assisting with certain treatments, so I don’t know why the bird is being allowed to recover instead of being put down. I hope it will either die soon, or recover soon.

We got in a little screech owl some weeks back, and it is still alive as well. Screech owls and burrowing owls are not brought in nearly as often as are great horned owls and barn owls. I don’t know why. Some birds are more populous around here than others.

I mentioned several significant things happened .. One was not getting attacked by any hawks, another thing that happened was the head boss actually said thank you. She usually doesn’t, which can be a bother. She was away in Europe for awhile, and I don’t think anyone minded. She came back in very good spirits, and I hope her good mood lasts. Sometimes she can be a pleasant person, but she almost never says thank you. This time, she did, and I was glad.

For the remainder of my shift, after everyone else left, I sat in the lobby, typing at the computer. The view out the lobby doors is pretty – the land dips down across the little road, and there are huge trees. I watched the colors change, and the sky slowly get dark.  It was beautiful.

Right before it got completely dark, I left. There are almost no lights at all outside at the center. I went to my car, and as I did, our resident barn owl made a shriek noise that all barn owls make. I’d never heard him make this noise before, even though I’ve worked there til dark on previous evenings. He made the noise twice – it was cool! One of my supervisors had earlier been telling me that she’d heard the noise of the barn owl when she went home after dark. I am glad I got to hear him. That was the third significant thing.

Apart from not feeling well, it was a very good shift. I definitely made a contribution in the lives of the birds I helped take care of, and I made the people in charge happy.

Wednesday will be my next day out there.. I will try not to start worrying about aggressive hawk behaviour, and instead be calm, confident, and optimistic, and look forward to spending more time with the birdies and other critters.

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