Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Swan song ...

Swan song ...

The Baton Rouge Zoo looks like the perfect place ... everything you could imagine a super zoo would have.

Once the export permit arrived, it was just a matter of a few days.  Executive Director Heather would make his flight reservations, and it looked like he’d be on his way the middle of the week.  Yay, you’re almost on your way, Will O.  Happy dance/sad dance.

Just a few second of movement from the most handsome swan in the world, although I don't know how to make it stop moving.  Oh well.  Another learning experience, cept I didn't learn it yet, and the constant movement is quite annoying.
But again, yet another problem.  This bird’s second name should be “Trouble.”  The cost to ship was exorbitant, more than $1,300 to get him to New Orleans (about 80 miles from Baton Rouge) where someone from the zoo could come and pick him up.  That was terrible … the weight of Will O. and his shipping kennel is about 50 pounds.  Plus, the flight would arrive too late for someone to pick him up and he’d have to overnight at the airport.
I talked to Heather and thought perhaps we had a Plan B.  Maybe I could fly on air miles and take him as excess baggage.  It was worth a shot.
The airlines discussions made my head spin.  I spent hours on the phone … to eventually find out that American Airlines (the connecting airlines I was planning to use) couldn’t accommodate an XL 500 series kennel, Delta Airlines didn’t fly animals until March 2, and I could not take him as excess baggage since he’s a wild animal.  Will O. is cargo, although he'd fly in the same compartment as dogs and cats.

A few seconds of Will O. eating the swan slurry I've prepared for him .  Maybe it's called slurry because he slurps it? 

It appeared a Plan C was necessary.  The latest plan would be to fly him to Houston, about 230 miles from Baton Rouge and maybe the zoo could pick him up since the flight arrived about 4:30 p.m.  Nope, too far and too late to send zoo personnel.
Plan D … how far do we go with this?  All the way.  I’m in it to win it, keep my eye on the prize … Will O. in a happy place.  I’ll fly on air miles with him to Houston.  Then I’ll get a vehicle, pick him up from air cargo and haul his swan butt to the zoo.  That plan was mostly the easiest to try to make work.  The flight plans were easy, and … the cost was about $786 … much more palatable.  At least for the zoo that's paying for his flight.

But other TLC work continues even while I continue caretaking Will O. most of the time.  One of my Wednesday co-workers, Tara, with Girdy (now named), a crow found in Girdwood, thus the name.  Girdy is apparently going to become an education bird, yay.  He/she is quite the character with a number of sounds that aren't your ordinary crow sounds. 
Other birds at Bird TLC need mani/pedis, and on occasion, are even willing to mostly sit still for some of it ... and sometimes ... not!  It's just very cool to see these birds ... just sitting on glove, or in their mews, knowing that otherwise there would not have been any positive outcome for them.
Mew building was hot on the list of things to accomplish, particularly for Hal, the bald eagle, who is not accustomed to being indoors, or being in a much smaller area.  He protested loudly and often and was off his feed as he suffered the indignities of being treated as an ordinary bird.  Hal is now out in his mew and in a much happier place.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

I'd better love you

Single, male swan, looking for home 

Finding a home was not easy. It seemed as though every phone call made did not make a difference, except to give me another number or two to call. A couple of folks I volunteer with at Bird TLC gave me names and numbers. I called them, as well as others I found on the Internet. Cold calls. Hey, do you want a swan?
Swam, young, needs home.  Any takers?
One place said they'd take the bird, but they didn't have the proper permits (various ones depending on the facility). Another said they had the permits but one had expired and they had to get it renewed. We still have not heard back although I'd made a follow up call. Another said they'd send it to a list they had. It was frustrating and then became critical. I was told we needed to find a home VERY soon. I kept trying.

Voila!!! The list turned up the swan stud keeper. You'd think it was a joke, but there is a person who keeps track of birds who have been on the protected or endangered species list.  That person has places where swans can be sent depending on whether it's a male or a female. 

The volunteer Veterinarian, Karen, pulled blood work that would be sent off to determine the sex, but it would take time to get the results back.

And the bad news … Bird TLC received notice in early-December 2013 that it had to move by the end of the month. I got so scared thinking that after all the time invested that maybe it wouldn't be time enough for the swan to go to a new home. I'd taken care of it, begged for its life, made calls using names and numbers I'd found as well as names and numbers others had given me. What more could I do? My Jacuzzi was beckoning although it sure wouldn't be practical. (Joke …)
Volunteers turned out en masse to help get the clinic, and everything that goes with it, moved ... furniture, supplies, mews, kennels, food, tables, birds ... everything.  What a superb group of people are involved with this organization.
Moving birds comes down to putting some of the large ones in kennels and transporting them in personal vehicles.
This was the temporary holding tank for the swan during part of the move.  The sheets and towels were to help insulate him from some of the noise and motion around him, and during the day we'd move him to another mew to keep him from getting cold as this pond was near the large overhead door being used to move things out of the space.
I was heartbroken thinking I'd not done enough, quick enough, and the end result was one that I couldn't think of without shedding tears. But Guy, the Volunteer Coordinator, assured me we'd find a way to take care of it until it got to its new home. But still, I was afraid for it. After all, I'd been telling it that it was the most beautiful swan in the whole world and I wanted nothing to change that.

All the time I'd cared for the swan, I'd called it a her, Willow, for where she'd been found. A few months later? It's a boy!!! New name … Will O. Swan. And the studkeeper has a home for him … at the Baton Rouge Zoo (Louisiana). Best of all, there's a lady friend waiting for him. Yahoo! I hope it works out even if Will O. has a very cozy relationship with a mirror at TLC. But the zoo curator is on vacation until the first of the year, 2014.
And then it was time to take the temporary swan pond out ... and the swan moved into a mew until his final move to the new location on King Street. 
The swan settled into the mew but it was not ideal.  As you can see, the swan is not a clean bird.  Maybe there isn't any such thing.  But no matter ... the volunteers are here to be the bird servants, to clean, to feed, to provide medical attention as necessary.  And we all love doing it. 

One of the volunteers has vehicles he let us use to move large items.  The swan pond was unwieldy, but finally loaded and on its way to the new place.
Volunteers cleaned, moved and did whatever needed to be done.  These folks give unselfishly of their time to do any type of job that needs to be done, and I cannot say enough about how wonderful each and every one of them is.
Last day at the old location ... a little horseplay, a photo bomb, a little levity.  It's always a fun time ... which is one of the reasons we all volunteer ... plus we do make a difference.  And yep, we know it!!

And then it was time to move the last few birds from the old to the new.  Hal, one of the resident education bald eagles , was one of the last three to be moved to the new location.  Channel 2 covered the move.  It's great to get lots of coverage from the media since it may help generate either donations or volunteers.  Thank you, Channel 2.
Channel 2 provided a couple of photos to me.  I moved Will O. from his mew at the old building.

Will O. went into the dog kennel fairly easy, with a little help from Vet Karen and me.  Photo is compliments of Channel 2.
The next problem is where to put the swan until the paperwork is complete and we can ship him out … with the move, space has become limited. He's in a mew, not ideal and not real roomy. Every day new things happen, some quite wonderful. I've prepared his food, and then when walking away heard a different sound, a kind of slurping. I've turned and gone back to see him eating, slurping up his swan slurry, a watered mix of rolled oats, alfalfa pellets, duck and goose maintenance, cracked corn, trout chow, grit, and greens. That is pure joy for me to know he's eating. It's been a very stressful time for the birds, with moving, pounding of nails and things being torn apart, moved, re-assembled in a new location. They all appear to have transitioned pretty well.

The new clinic area was also cleaning up real well, things getting put into place.  It seems that it will be better than what we had at the old clinic, more private for evaluating and caring for the injured ones as they come in, and everyone coming into where the birds are located no longer have to go through the clinic to get to them. 
There is a plastic pond at the new location that we may be able to set up once we have room, drainage and a way to get water in and out of it, although it may not be ideal. It matters not … Will O. Swan will have a spot. While he’s not had a pond since the move from the old building, we have been checking those big old webbed feet of his, but they continue to look good.  And at some point soon, he'll be flying off (not under his own steam) courtesy of some airlines and probably some coin, heading for the warmth of the sun and a beautiful new home complete with a lovely live lady of his own (not the relationship with a mirror that he’s had).

While the mew may not be ideal Will O. settled in quite nicely.  The blue food bowl is set inside of a larger one with some water in it as he usually slurps his food then some water.  He also has a tendency to overturn the blue bowl so the larger container helps keep it from being such a mess.  But the other day when I tried to clean he walked into the blue bowl, sat down in it, then tipped it over into the white container.  What ya gonna do?

The mirror that usually faces toward Will and his mew has a sign on it ... no smoking.  He is a juvenile, so you have to make sure he knows all the rules!!!  Haha!!
On January 8, we had not yet been able to put up a pond, so Will O. was still in a mew. There was so much construction and moving about still happening.  I’d gone in early since I had to leave early.  Wednesday is my regular day at the clinic.

BUT …the early morning brought wonderful news.  Guy, the Volunteer Coordinator received a call that the Baton Rouge Zoo was ready for Will O.  OMG!!!  I was so excited I just started to bawl.  We danced around hugging and laughing and crying.  I’m sad to see him go, but glad to see him go because it’s the best for him, out of a small enclosure, able to move around and be with another of his own kind.  Living happily ever after.  That’s how I see it.

Guy asked if I wanted to take Will O. to the airport when it’s time.  You bet, no other but me.  And now we wait to get the export permit. 

In the meantime, a large kennel needed to be prepared for Will O. to travel in, not too big, not too small.  Terri (one of my co-shift folks), brought a proper size one back from the flight center at JBER. 

I cleaned it, bolted it together (although I had to redo it since the wing nuts have to be on the upper side, not the bottom), cut and taped pieces of a sheet over the openings so he couldn’t see out, put webbing inside along with some towels for stability, and put stickers and notes all over it for his safety. 

The webbing and towels are in place inside to try to keep from having any damage to Will's feet during transport

The wing nut on the right is the proper way to put the kennel together.  The one on the left is not.  I had to redo them as I had them installed incorrectly the first time.
A sheet covers the openings so Will O. hopefully will not be spooked by anything outside of the kennel.
Pink tape was all I could find.  But I certainly could find a black marker pen so I could make notes to those who will be handling him during his flights to Louisiana.

I'm hoping the airlines take excellent care of this handsome swan boy.

I reinforced everything with pink duck tape.  After all, Will needs to get in touch with his feminine side since he'll be meeting his lady and he's been used to the mirror relationship with himself.  We’re ready for the shipping date at a moment's notice. 
Thursday came and went; Friday came and went … no word.  But the rumor is that Will O. will be flying on Monday … waiting.  And then, no.  Not Monday.  We’re still waiting for the export permit from the state.   Finally ... the export permit.



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Swanee, how I love ya ...

Swanee, how I love ya …

After returning from my Michigan trip in October I kept up with my weekly commitment at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center.

I had done a little presentation training with Kodi, the Northwestern Crow, but had not progressed in preparing my presentation yet.  It will come.  But progress stopped due to other commitments.
On October 26, a Trumpeter swan showed up. The story I heard was that the swan was left behind in Willow when others flew off to whatever swan resort and spa they go in the fall. But this swan could not fly.

A man who was watching these goings on knew the swan would not survive on its own and researched what they eat. He prepared food, making it up like waffles, and finally got it to come eat, then to come near him, then near enough to him to be caught. And the bird arrived at Bird TLC.

The swan received an exam and usually we all like to learn about a new bird coming into Bird TLC, condition, treatment, prognosis, etc. 

 The swan had had one of its wings partly amputated, near its wrist, or what I'd call my elbow. The wound was basically clean, but this bird would not be flying again … ever. The swan was being kept in a large pen at TLC, but there were issues. It needed to be in water as much as possible as swans spend most of their lives in the water. Problems could soon develop as it could become less waterproof for various reasons, and get sores on its feet due to its weight and being out of the water. The swan wasn't able to be rehabilitated, and it appeared it would have to be put down unless we could find a home for it.
The swan is a wild bird, but as soon as one would corner it, it would settle down pretty well.  Look at those feet.

I begged the Executive Director for its life. After all, while the swan would never fly, it was healthy otherwise. I was told that there had been no responses in trying to find a home, but that if I wanted to try to do that, I could. YES, I DID!!!

Swan face ... beautiful.

In addition, I said I'd take care of it as often as I could, pay for its food (not necessary although I did buy some duck and goose maintenance down the road when we ran out one day and some greens and spinach here and there). Some of us said we'd even pitch in with the costs to ship it to a new home if we needed to.

The swan became a huge part of my life as I went to the clinic many days over the months it was our guest, picking it up (sometimes not so gracefully, sometimes with it slipping from my grasp and being lowered gently to the floor only to have me pick it up again), taking it to a large plastic enclosure filled with water so it could swim, cleaning its enclosure by swapping out the sheets laying over mats and wooden frames with netting, cleaning up the old food, preparing new food, putting new containers with water inside. It was labor-intensive, but I was okay with it. The swan was beautiful, a young one with still-grey feathers, with some white beginning to show. I talked to it constantly, allowable because this swan while wild, would never be released.

Catching a swan is not the easiest of tasks, even in a pen.  We'd surround, then cover with a blanket and move it to a pond to swim.  Getting the swan out of the pen was even trickier, and usually one didn't win the battle without getting soaked.

A successful capture in the pen, and the swan was on its way to the pond to swim around for a bit.
The swan won this round.  I was wetter than it was.

Once we were able to use a pond we'd take the swan out and put it in a mew while we drained, cleaned and refilled it.  Time-intensive, but hey, a swan needs a clean pond.
Each time I visited I put the swan into the pond to swim for a while, then after cleaning, would pick it up and return it to the enclosure. Multiple times I would sit in the enclosure with it, with a towel partially covering it, blowing its unwaterproofed feathers dry with a hair dryer. It was a thrill to see the down fluff up, so soft, so white. What a way to spend quality time with a swan. That's not to say it wouldn't get stupid and hiss at me and run when I tried to catch it. It did. After all, it's a wild bird; however, you'd think it would get used to me after a while. But it never tried to bite me although I've heard swans can be rather cantankerous sometimes.

A swan always wants to look its best, but in this case it was a matter of the swan's feathers not being waterproofed.  Blow drying them would help keep it from getting cold.

Those big old feet had to be checked to make sure they weren't developing sores, which can be a disaster for a big bird like this that is usually spending most of its time in the water. 

The day came when the swan had to start spending all of its time in the swan pond. It had to be waterproofed, and the small sore that had developed on its foot could not be allowed to grow larger. This arrangement started a new method of cleaning. The bird had to be moved to another enclosure, many times flapping its wings and getting me quite wet. Sometimes it won; sometimes I won – considered when I wasn't the wettest of the two of us. The pond had to be drained, with me crawling into it to clean, refilled, and the filter and pump cleaned. I finally got the timing down to about an hour and a half. And yet, it was a labor of love for me. Who cares if I sprayed myself with water that has swan stuff (poop) in it, who cares that the swan scratched me (it's not as though it was on purpose and it does have rather large feet), who cares that it took time. It was time well-spent, time I have so enjoyed spending. And I've finally gotten the hang of picking up a swan … which to me is quite encouraging.

The swan was in the pond, with haul outs on both sides, and a mirror in the middle.  The swan really liked his mirror, and it worked in the middle as it kept in in the water most of the time.
When the swan would be sitting in an enclosure while the pond was draining, I'd talk to it, making pumping motions with my arm to mimic what it was doing with its head and neck, and I'd go in the enclosure and sit next to it. A gentle hand on its back would cause it to hunker down. I'd talk to it, and even take selfies, although in looking at them while the swan and I are sitting together, its head would look as though pulling away.

Maybe a selfie wasn't the best type of photo, but I couldn't help myself and have photographed the swan time after time.