Wednesday, March 27, 2013

 Ducks r me

Another Wednesday, another day volunteering at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center. I'm becoming more familiar with what we need to do, but still need to be told.

Today I was charged with taking care of the Golden Eye duck. That meant getting him out of the cage, getting his keel and feet medicated with ointment, cleaning the cage and returning him to it, and making sure he had his food.

The duck was making his move, keeping a golden eye on me while heading to the edge of the netting before hopping into the water left after draining the tank.
It's always a contest trying to get a water bird out of a cage that has water so they can swim around. Who would win today?

First I needed to turn off the heater for the water and open the valve to let the tank drain. Then I removed the food and weighed it so we'd know if he was eating, and how much, and removed all the crates and netting that's set up for him to sit on.

The challenge was catching the Golden Eye … putting a towel over him so I'd not hurt him, making sure to keep his wings close to his body so he couldn't harm himself. And I needed to keep the towel over his head so he'd remain calm, mostly. Easier said than done. He's getting pretty wiley as he's been here a few months.

The evil Golden Eye ... giving me the eye as he moved to the far side of the tank.
As I moved in on him, he moved away from me, to the bottom of the tank and to the far wall. It's a good thing since you don't want the birds to be friendly, but then the only way to catch him is to get into the cage and tank with him. I was up for it; it was my job, and in I went. I came out with the duck, but quite a bit wetter than when I went in. So, who won that contest? Guess I'd call it a draw. We both took some hits … him caught, me wet.

I asked for some help to get his keel and feet medicated, and while I was waiting for help and to get it done, he bit me. On the hand, on the webbing between my thumb and finger. It's not as though he has shark teeth, but he was sure nipping away, and I could feel it. Interesting feeling, duck bites. They sure weren't love bites but no broken skin, not even a hole in my thin exam glove.

Back home to a clean cage and tank ... and dinner is served.
After all of this, my next chore was helping clean a couple of eagle mews. This is physical, hard work, and I was sweating. Scrub the walls and floor with a soapy type of cleaner, then rinse. Cleaning and scrubbing off bird poo can be difficult. The dark stuff (I learned today) is the actual poo and the white stuff is used to help keep their nests glued together, so the white stuff sets up like concrete. Time for a break … and to get my head undizzified (yep, no real word).

Bird poo, eagle mew.  How do they get it halfway up the wall?
Another duck, a Mallard drake, also needed to be moved so I got to pick him up, too. He really didn't like me, backing away, ducking (haha) and weaving, crouching down and hissing at me. I was just holding on to him while he had a quick cage-cleaning, then back in so he could give me a “look.”

His head got out from under the towel, but the Mallard didn't bite me.
Two of the volunteers got the call to go pick up a downed raven on the other side of town. These folks drive in from Soldotna to volunteer, and that is pure dedication.

Back to the eagle mew to finish cleaning. There are a few open ones for a change. Usually the birds are kept indoors til we know they are ready to start exercising their wings, then are moved to outside mews while they build up their wing muscles. This prepares them to be taken to the flight line where they will be flight tested and to get used to flying around prior to being released.

Salmon for the eagles, mice for the owl and berries for the Waxwings.
We were all working very efficiently today, and within two hours were nearly finished. There was some laundry to fold and a couple of birds to feed, but pretty much everything was done.

This eagle was doused in linseed oil and while he's had multiple baths, he's still oily.  Another bath today and a dryer ... it's almost like being at the beach with a warm breeze blowing.  He'll have to wait it out at the Center until he molts and his feathers grow again.  Then he should be releasable. 
Then the raven arrived, big, beautiful, shiny, black. And beady bird eyes that could drill a hole through you. He was sitting in a dog kennel, and just watched us, never missing a thing. This raven might have some issue as he was on the ground and not flying, but there didn't appear to be anything wrong with his mental attitude.

I don't believe there's anything common about this Common Raven at all.
Sharon, Terry and I did an initial intake exam. We got out the tape, as once he was removed from the kennel we needed to apply the tape around his beak so he couldn't rip us to shreds with his beak. Sharon got the blanket over him and got him out. She and Terry got the blanket from over his head and I taped his beak. One danger down.

Tape.  Check.  Beak out of commission.
The next danger was the talons … grab the feet, hold firmly. I got to do that, too.

Talons and feet must be held firmly so you don't get grabbed. 
Sharon checked his wings, moving them out to see if they appeared to have any problems, or anything broken. While it wasn't 100 percent, it appeared the right wing had some issues. I felt one wing to get an idea of what a healthy wing feels like, straight, no knobs or apparent breaks.

Wing exam.  Check.
We weighed him, then determined the amount of meds to give him, based on his weight. I was allowed to give it to him. Load the syringe, try to get it under the tongue, not straight on, but to the side of the beak. It was kind of how I used to give wormer to my horses years ago. Yahoo. Success. Or at least we didn't see any of it spit out.

A pencil in the beak allowed us to get the syringe in and medication given. 
The last task for the day was to get him to a clean cage and provide water and food … a veritable birdie buffet … apple, salmon, birdie cornbread, red meat, hamburger, broccoli, hard-boiled egg. I'm sure he doesn't realize how good we were to him.

He only had beady birdie eyes for us.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Birds and the Bee

I showed up at Bird TLC on Wednesday, March 6, 13 and 20. On the 6th I graduated from cutting up fish, meat and chicken for the birds, although I'll be back at it at some point.

One of the eagles needed some ointment put on its feet.  Lifting one of these mightly birds can be difficult, but this one was not fighting with the handler.
Anyone handling the birds must be very careful to hold the feet and legs, and to not approach from the front of the bird.  These talons can be deadly.
It's just that there's a lot to do to keep the birds fed, watered, healthy and clean. Feeding alone, medicating and doing all the prep work is quite time-consuming. But sad news … one of the bald eagles did not make it. I know it happens, and many that come here do not, but an eagle is so much more than just a bird. It's a large, bird that is spectacular to see in flight. And I see many of them as I ride Turnagain Arm each summer on my motorcycle. When I see an eagle, it's been a great day.

The first eagle mew I've cleaned.
There's always laundry to be done ... towels, blankets, volunteer smocks.  Kodi is always available to oversee the process.
Blankets, large, medium and small towels, sheets.  All are used in caring for the birds at the Center.
The first item on the agenda for me that day was to help get the Golden Eye duck out of its pen so we could clean its space. A towel, a lunge and a gentle hold on the wings so they couldn't flap. While I held it, another helper applied ointment as the bird has an abrasion on its breast, and no feathers. Therefore, it's not waterproof and cannot be released. Then I deposited it into a dog kennel.

The Golden Eye is the only bird I've handled so far.  But what a thrill to touch, even through a towel to help keep it from struggling and injuring itself further.
Cleaning of mats, perches, dog kennels and everything to keep birds clean and healthy requires a lot of elbow grease, and the volunteers provide it ... all without complaints.  These teams are the best.
I folded laundry, cleaned surfaces, helped organize supplies on shelves, and tried to learn as I went, following others around as they did various tasks. It was a great day. Worked a lot, learned a lot, felt like a contributor.

On occasion, a bird can't or won't eat.  Sometimes meds are contained in the food.  It can then be necessary to "tong" the bird.  The meds are put into the food and one of the assistants will put the food on tongs and get the food to the bird's beak.  Much of the time if you make it easy enough and simple enough, the bird will take the food from the tongs, as well as the meds. 
On the 13th I showed up again and shadowed another worker. Or maybe I'm stalking them. I helped clean the Golden Eye's pen, cleaning it, helping put the mesh back in for it to stand and eat on, putting water back in and plugging in the heater. Then we put the Golden Eye back in his pen.

Maybe this is where the term "eagle-eye" is coined.
There are a lot of eagles … seems like there are more every week I show up … and they are being hit by cars. They like to be in the roadways chumming down on roadkill (the easy way to get food), and being big birds, they can't just up and fly to get away from a vehicle traveling who knows how fast down the road. They're like a big plane needing some runway to get off the ground before being airborne. It's sad to see that these beautiful, majestic birds, the symbol of America, taking such a beating.

Another eagle injured by vehicle.  A bad wing and other injuries.  The place for them to be is at Bird TLC where they will be cared for and nursed back to health if at all possible.
But I do know that when they arrive at the Bird TLC they get the best care they can because the volunteers and the folks that work there are more than dedicated. They truly love what they are doing no matter how dirty the job, how time-consuming, how manual the labor.

Checking out the raven's wing.
The same day a raven was brought in … with a possible problem with a wing and foot. Time will tell. Meds are given to many of the incoming to make them comfortable, to deal with pain, and to help them until the vet comes to do a complete exam.

The raven was still able to grip.
I helped move an owl, and just pitched in where I could. The group I was working with that day was large, so while we were kind of tripping over each other, it worked and worked well. We got the work done, and there's always some time to chat with each other, to learn about each other and find out what brought some folks to volunteering here at the center.

How to catch a Bohemian waxwing?  Very stealthily, and carefully.
Probably the most fun of the day was helping to flight test a Bohemian waxwing. There were three of us who teamed up to catch it in a large stand-up cage containing three waxwings. It was finally corraled and put into a small container.

All kinds of containers can hold a little bird, complete with a little blanket.
Then we took it to an office and turned it loose … after shutting the door, of course. It flew, although it needed a little prompting. Determined to be successfully flight tested and ready for release one of the ladies took it home to release near her place with other waxwings. It was fun and exciting to see a bird who has been deemed healthy enough to release. Many birds who come to the center do not make it … a sorry fact of life.

Oh yeah, this baby can fly.  Usually it's the owl chasing after the waxwing.  There's a little role reversal here with the stuffed owl.  Maybe the waxwing is just showing off, knowing he won't be lunch for the owl.
Other exciting news was that two of the eagles would be packaged up and taken to the flight center out at JBER. This is where they are tested for flight and hopefully released back into the wild soon thereafter.

It's never exactly the same at the bird center, and that is what's appealing. And where else could you get a close up view of bald eagles, which are among my top three bird favorites, and so many others.

Kodi, the cash crow, is always willing to put a little cash in a container for a mealy worm.

Yum.  Mealy worms. 

Look at those boots with a ruffle.  Charlotte is stylin' as she works on cleaning one of the eagle mews.  You never know what you're going to see ... which is what makes it so interesting to be a volunteer at the Bird TLC.

How do you go about feeding a Mallard?

Very carefully.  He was an excellent patient and shortly after returned to his cage.
I showed up at the center March 20, and there were a number of us again. The Golden Eye had been moved, I cleaned his pen, and I made Kodi, the cash crow, earn a few mealy worms. Sharon was going to give a presentation at one of the elementary schools to a group of pre-schoolers. As we had so many folks there, I asked if I could tag along to learn and see how presentations are made.

With the look in Kodi's eyes and the way he's standing, I think he's hanging out with eagles too much.  He appears to have the eagle stance down pat.
Sharon was showing a Northern sawwhet owl, named because it makes a sound like someone sharpening a saw. They also make sounds like a truck backing up … beep, beep, beep. It's called Totoba, Menominee Indian for the sawwhet. Toto for short.

Miss Sharon conveys her joy at showing Toto to the youngsters, which made for a fun time for everyone ... adults, youngsters and presenters.  Even Toto behaved admirably for being around pre-schoolers.
These owls were first discovered on the east coast of Canada. It's the smallest resident owl in Alaska. It probably stood about 8-9 inches tall, and weighs about as much as a McDonald's quarter-pounder. It's mostly feathers.

Toto is an education bird because he is basically blind in one eye ... you can see the difference in his eyes. 
The bright yellow one is a typical good eye.
Toto is what is called an educational bird. He was injured and cannot see out of one eye, so he's not  releasable. He was quite calm around the youngsters, who were excited to learn about him and the songbirds that were also on display.

This photo shows the beak on Toto.  He may be a small bird, but he is mighty, and a creature of beauty.
Miss Jo presented with five songbirds, called passerines. She had two robins in one cage; a crossbill, a hermit thrush and a Bohemian waxwing in a second cage. The three sometimes had a bit of a squabble and would open their beaks and make some wild sounds to let the other know it was not a happy bird. The kids were enthralled watching them.

Miss Jo obviously enjoys educating youngsters about songbirds.

One of the two robins kept an eye on everyone, seemingly as curious about those outside of the cage, as those outside were of the robins inside the cage.
Both Sharon and Jo had visuals, a wing and talon, feathers, two nests with wooden eggs. There was so much for young ones to see so they could learn about the birds, all the while re-emphasizing that the birds are wild, they are not pets, and it is our responsibility to take care of them. Then it was done, and the kids were off to lunch. It was another great day and something different.

I also found out the Bird TLC is having its big fund-raiser at the Egan Center in April, so I'll have to check into what that's all about. More to come.

Princess Bee-a-trix, nearly fully-dressed.  She is a head-turner.
And now a word about the bee.  On another day Hobbs and I drove out to Denali Harley-Davidson in Wasilla. I'd gotten word that Princess Bee-a-trix was nearly finished getting her new clothes … and I certainly was not disappointed. Thank you to DHD, and Dia for her suggestions, Shrek for knowing me too well, and Matt who did the work … for all they've done to get her ready for her debut at the 2013 bike show. She is beyond bee-u-ti-ful … look out, she doesn't sting!!

I have plenty of yellow Harley shirts to match Princess Bee-a-trix. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Let's Rondy

February is Fur Rendezvous, which also means carnival time in Alaska. There are dog mushing races, melodrama's, blanket tosses, outhouse and foot races, carnival rides, displays of a myriad of things, fur auctions and so much more. I even had a cousin who was Miss Fur Rondy in the 40s (Charlotte Manning), before my time. Fur Rondy has been around for 78 years, and there was a time in the not-too-distant past when it seemed like it might disappear. But those in power brought it to a come-back, stronger than ever.

I've not done too much in more recent years associated with Rondy, although last year some of my Harley friends and I did run with the reindeer, a five-year-old event at that time, rather like the running of the bulls in Spain, although not quite as dangerous. This year I elected to do a bit more.

Jaz's first place portrait photo of Jon.  Hard to take a good photo with shrink-wrap and the light from the windows.  But you get the idea.  Congratulations, Jaz.
My friend, Jaz, had a photo in the amateur photo contest and it was being displayed at the Sears Mall. She won first place in the contest for her category. Woo hoo. There were a lot of awesome photos, too, so that's quite an accomplishment.

There was a category of photos for everyone who likes photography.  I do like flowers.
I went to the photo display with friend Flounder and we wandered up and down the rows of photos, on foam backings, most of them shrink-wrapped for protection. There were some pretty incredible shots, with both of us liking many, and in awe of some outstanding work.

A whole wall dedicated to second place ribbons.  It was nice to see so many awards.
A few days later I chose to go down to the railroad area downtown and view the snow sculptures. I had always enjoyed those in the past, but don't really like to go downtown. However, there was a nice parking lot adjacent to the sculptures, and parking was no problem.

The old Fourth Avenue Theater.
As I wandered in and out through maybe 20 or so blocks of snow, some beautifully manipulated into something I could not even begin to create, I was fascinated by the artistry shown by people using mere snow. There was a bull of some strange type, with wristbands and horns that stuck out maybe a few feet. How did they do that without them breaking off?

Look at those horns, and the definition of the leg.
There was a moose with binoculars “scouting” for hunters most likely, a sea otter, a gorilla and other sculptures that were a treat to feast your eyes upon.

Who's the hunted here?
Love the whiskers.
Kong lives!!
At the old Alaska Railroad Depot a model train display had Alaska Railroad models, and many others, most of them running on the tracks around little slices of towns, mountains, or even circus grounds with ice cream and peanut stands. One little engine had a smiley face on it, and it made you smile just to see it. I'd never gone to the train display before, so it was fun, interesting and another free event.

The smiley-faced train was running along a parking lot filled with old cars.  These are great displays.
The model trains ran through mountains, towns and through fairy tale lands.
Then Saturday, March 2, was the 6th annual Running of the Reindeer. This year some of my Hoggie friends and I were dressing as Little Red Riding Hoods and the Big Bad Wolves. Many people dress up for this event. I think Rondy in general is kind of like Mardi Gras where costumes abound everywhere, crazy hats, dogs wearing costumes.

Hoggies disguised as Red Riding Hoods and Big Bad Wolves.
We added a couple more Red Riding Hoods to our Hoggie group.
Our group was in Herd 3. The first two herds are for ladies, then men. Lastly is the group herd. We have to wait as once a herd is sent on down the street in ankle-deep snow, the reindeer are let loose to chase them, and then they have to be brought back down to the beginning by the reindeer handlers.

Our very own Wonder Woman.
The Three Amigos.
It wasn't as cold this year, probably 28 degrees. But standing around for an hour or so makes for some cold feet. One of our other hoggies had given us handwarmers, but it wasn't my hands that were cold, it was my feet. But, if you want to play, you gotta pay. It's still fun to stand around and watch others in costume … there's some of everything that shows up. There were people dressed as deer with actual antlers, mocha coffees, bumble bees, a Green Lantern comic book hero. You name it, you could probably find it there.

A flying squirrel and a giraffe. 
Red solo cup ... I lift you up ... where's the beer?  There were some kegs, but not in this photo.
A herd of two-legged reindeer.
I took photos while we waited to pass the time. Suddenly, it was our turn to move to the starting line. We were ready, it was time for our herd to move forward. As we did, we were asked to part the herd, to let the handlers bring the reindeer to the back of the herd for the start of the run. After they'd passed, we moved together again. There really wasn't any warmth in this group although you'd think there would have been with all the hot air being released. Nah!!!

Taking the reindeer back to the start, ready to chase down the third herd, ours.
Then … five, four, three, two, one. We were off. Ankle-deep snow plagued those who were unaware (last year we had a couple of our group do face-plants). The crowd prohibited moving too quickly.

Red Riding Hood Pam and me, moving along ... slowly.
Where were those reindeer? I keep looking back. I knew our two-legged herd was given a head start, but when people start screaming, you have to wonder if there's one behind you, willing to run you down to get to the carrots or whatever other treat is at the end. Nope, nothing there. I kept moving. The rest of my hoods and wolves moved forward, and I fell behind. But I kept them in sight. Julie is tall so it was easy to track her and use her as a beacon as I moved forward.

The screams suddenly became louder. I looked behind, and there they came, the reindeer, moving quickly amongst the runners. How do they have those antlers and keep them from spearing or snagging someone? They moved quickly, darting left and right, to come through the herd of humans unscathed except for a pet or two from those who put their hands out. Then they were gone.

Here, there, gone.
But wait, there's more. A lone reindeer on a leash with its handler was meandering leisurely through the humans. The crowd stopped. It became a petting zoo as everyone wanted to touch it. The reindeer was quite relaxed and was appearing to enjoy itself. Then they moved on, past me, toward the end of the street for photo ops. Then it was truly over.

A reindeer petting zoo, right in the middle of the street.
Fun to look at, docile -- apparently.  But ... those spikes could hurt you.

There's always something that invites us to bring out our goofy ... Flounder and me.
No hoods or wolves were injured and no oxygen was necessary in the 2013 Running of the Reindeer. Stay tuned as I'm sure we'll be doing this again next year.