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Wildlife care

So, as I mentioned, I'm now volunteering doing wildlife care on Sat. mornings at a local Mass Audubon refuge. They have a facility with a bunch of education animals (that get taken out to schools and programs and stuff), and then they have some residents in the public area that people can see as they walk around. They aren't a rehab place. All of the animals they have (with the probable exception of the mice) are wild animals that have either been injured permanently so that they wouldn't survive in the wild, or else they're imprinted on humans and, same thing (or they'd be dangerous or a nuisance, because of the imprinting).

Mostly so far this consists of scraping up duck-crap and goose-crap, making their indoor enclosures nice and neat and clean for them to return to in the evening. I also got to do mice the other week. Eventually I'll get to do mammals (there are some woodchucks - so cute! - and some rabbits and an opossum). I don't know if/when I'll get to take food out to some of the education raptors. But it's curiously satisfying work.

The reward is that after all the cleaning stuff is done, we head across the road to deal with the public-view animals. There are some mammals (a couple of foxes, a rabbit, I think another woodchuck) in one facility, and then there are a bunch of flight-cages with various birds that, I gather, didn't take well to education-animal training. This part consists of going into the flight cages, refilling water, and scrubbing up "whitewash" and picking up pellets, and then leaving food for them -- which consists of a certain number of mice per bird.

So far, I've done the crow; and the cage with the one-winged turkey-vulture and pheasant (who rooms with the turkey vulture because it's not like the vulture is going to bother it; I was pleased because apparent the vulture is very old, and doesn't always take to everyone, but he didn't seem bothered by me and even spread out to do some sunning while I was in there); the broad-winged hawk; the two red-tailed hawks; the great horned owl; and the barred owls. (The only one I haven't done yet is the kestrel -- who is the most forward of them all, starting whistling as soon as she sees lunch coming, and she comes back to the door of the cage and clings to the mesh, begging to take her daily mouse out of your hand.)

I just wanted to share a few pics I took the other weekend of some of my new charges.


These pics were taken somewhat with the aid of the zoom. The great horned is not really thrilled by someone being in the cage, and s/he tends to fly to whichever end you aren't working on. You can see the clouded eye that is the reason for not being released.


Next door to the great horned live the three barred owls. I have heard that if s/he is in the mood, there's one of them who will fly down close to you to pick up one of the mice you bring, but so far this hasn't happened to me. They all just sit in a row in their shelter and watch me. Every once in a while, one of them will clack its beak very softly and tentatively.



I'm a lot closer in reality to these guys than I was to the great horned. They don't even move when I'm scrubbing up the whitewash underneath this perch (during which I'm always begging them, "please do not poop on me while I'm doing this").

Finally... this is our educational barred owl, whom I have not graduated to taking care of yet. This one is worth clicking through to see the feather detail.


Notably, I think I kind of started doing this at exactly the right time of year... so I'm interested to see what the experience is like [a] when it gets really, really cold (I actually recently bought a down coat partly for this reason), [b] when it's raining, and [c] next summer when it's hot and buggy. Fall is really the perfect time.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 8th, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC)
Wow, what a cool thing to do. These pictures are great. I especially like the second barred owl one. It looks like they're posing for their album cover. Bass player on the left, drummer in the middle, and angsty young lead singer/guitarist on the right.

Specious anthropomorphizing aside, though, they are really beautiful. That experience must fill you up with good energy to take away for the week, I would think, eh?
Dec. 23rd, 2010 03:23 am (UTC)
It does, actually. Even the scrubbing-up-poop parts. It's really just curiously satisfying.

(Shh, don't tell them, but I think the one in the middle is the prettiest.)
Dec. 8th, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
Great photos, and how neat! You get to see OWLS! The barred owls are cute.

please do not poop on me while I'm doing this

My mother said getting pooped on by birds will bring you good luck. :D
Dec. 23rd, 2010 03:26 am (UTC)
I will have to remember that when it inevitably happens. ;-)

It's funny, because -- in fall 09 when I went to the saw-whet owl workshop, I had two takeaways from that. One was that for months afterwards when I would be going around all grumpy thinking "Everything sucks", I would then think to myself, "...but little tiny owls don't suck." And it would make me smile. And the second was this feeling that I needed to have owls in my life, somehow.

And a year later, I managed to make it so that I *do* have owls in my life. I got to work with saw-whets, which is every bit as awesome as it seemed like it would be, and I get to see these bigger owls every weekend. And that really does NOT suck.
Dec. 8th, 2010 10:49 pm (UTC)
Oh, the barred owls were so looking right at you! These are great shots, and I'm so happy you're doing this. I wish I could teleport! *hugs*

PS. You're right about Fall being just right. :)
Dec. 23rd, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
Oh, believe me -- there is no question that they are looking right at me. The great horned is a little abstracted sometimes, staring off elsewhere, like, "maybe if I ignore this thing in my cage it will go away" (s/he really doesn't buy my pointing out that I'm bringing nice yummy mice). But the barred owls never take their eyes off me. They are riveted to what I'm doing. Which is pretty neat.
Dec. 23rd, 2010 10:52 am (UTC)
Very cool indeed, it makes me very happy that you're doing this. *hugs*
Dec. 9th, 2010 12:42 am (UTC)
Hey, welcome to the 'raptor poop club'! Glad to read about your adventures. :)
Dec. 23rd, 2010 03:28 am (UTC)
Hee! Well, I haven't been christened with poop yet, merely scrubbed it. I am sure it is only a matter of time...
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )