Saturday, April 21, 2007

25, 000!

First, I would like to thank all of you who visit my blog. I recently got to 25,000 hits, and that's not counting my visits.

I love my job at RAPTOR. It's weird to even call it a job, it's so fun.
But there are days that I wonder how I am going to get through it all.
Yesterday, I had a day-long presentation at a local private school's Science Day.
I started at 9:30 and ended at 3:15. Every 40 minutes or so, a new class would come in and I would go through the whole spiel again. One thing I have learned is to take some calm birds when I do programs like this.
The school wanted as much hands-on experience as possible, and since I can't have anyone holding the birds except me, I brought along lots of heads, feet, wings, etc. for them to examine.

Before the presentation

Lucy perched
Lucy was a little high-strung, but that's pretty normal for her. Since she is one of the lighter birds, she's easy to manage. And I like to think that she and I have come to an understanding lately. I use her frequently, and we have been learning things from each other.
She knows that when she sees my bright blue glove, nothing bad will happen to her. I know her movements, how she is feeling and when she is about to freak.
I have also begun training her to eat while on my hand. This is a process that will probably take a few months for her to master.
She used to not eat while I watched her outside her mew. Now, she is letting me watch. I have started handing her a rat or quail and letting her take it from me. Eventually, if all goes well, she will eat while I am in the mew with her. Then, we will gradually get to the point when she will eat while I am holding her. Some of the RAPTORites have seen this type of presentation before and they said that it is really impressive to watch...the feathers of the bird being eaten just go everywhere!
While I would probably not do this in front of young kids, I bet some adult crowds would enjoy it.
GHO perched
Every time a new group of kids came in to the classroom, they thought that Big Momma was a stuffed owl. Then she would blink or turn and look at them, and they would shriek. It was hilarious.
SO perched
Our little gray screech owl was perched on a table, and I kept a carrier in front of her until I was ready to talk about her. Lucy was a little too interested in her for my (or the owl's!) comfort.
I am not a happy owl here
Some of our educational visual aids are a little disturbing.
"I was once a barred owl. Now I am The Ghost Of The Head That Sits And Glares At You."

Yes, I am still in here
The Carolina Wren mom is still sitting. I think her guard has been lowered a bit, since she no longer flushes when I walk by. Hey, chicky baby, if you are going to nest on the front of our house, you just have to deal with us being outside sometimes.
Today was a "normal" program at a local library. A good crowd with interested girls (YAY! Girls who want to be smart!) and some adults who asked very good questions.
I like it when someone has thought out a rational, relevant question that can further everyone's knowledge of the subject. Sometimes I get a question like, "Will Lucy's wing grow back?"
From a kid, I can understand it. But I have had a few adults ask me that.
I had a scheduling problem today...I was scheduled to be in two places at once. Don't ask how that happened. Marc was gracious enough to take on one of the programs. He took Isis (the leucistic red-tail), Elvis (the barred owl) and Rufous (the red screech). Before I got there, he was doing some bird handling training, and incorporated tethering up Scarlet (female red-tail) for me. When I got there, she was all boxed up, newly jessed and ready to go. Now, I haven't used her since her recent egg-laying (read hormonal, crazy bird). I didn't really know how she would act during the program, and I told the audience that, too. But after a rocky exit from the carrier, she was WAY better than I expected. Of course, she didn't want to get back in the carrier.
Back at RAPTOR, before getting her back out, I opened the door to her mew, and put on an extra layer of protection on my arm. (she is very, very strong)
I really tried to go slow and keep her from bursting out of the carrier, but she had other plans. Out she flew, taking my arm with her and spinning me around. She ended hanging upside down from my hand, and then I saw that she had snapped one of her anklets (the larger birds have an anklet that is fastened with a grommet that the strap of the jess goes through) and if she broke the other one, I would have a free-flying, pissed off crazy red-tail to tackle. I got a glove on my other hand and guided her back up to my hand and prayed the whole way over to her cage that the other jess would hold. It did, thank my lucky stars.
Yeah, thanks Marc.
But seriously, she is an impressive bird, and other than the carrier episodes and a lot of stepping up and down on my arm, she is a good bird to present with. So anyone from RAPTOR who reads my blog, listen up: Help me bring her around to being a better bird by handling her as much as you can.
You all know who you are. Lurkers!

By the way...anyone else miss Pam? I sure do.
Let us know how you are doing, dear.


LauraHinNJ said...

Hey - can you bring that travelling show to NJ?

You must be awesome!

Lynne said...

I'm so impressed with your knowledge and abilities with your birds. I would give my eye teeth to see one of your programs.
I miss Pam too. I've emailed, but no answer.

Trixie said...

Dang, girl! You are one hot birdie momma. Keep it up!

Jayne said...

I just think what you do is so very fascinating Susan. I am in awe when I read about how you so confidently handle these beautiful creatures and how much joy you get out of educating young people and others about them. What a wonderful gift you have to share!

I miss Pam too and hope she is feeling all our prayers.

NatureWoman said...

Love your entry today Susan! I don't know if I'll ever get caught up with everyone's blogs, I apologize! You're the best, Susan! I would love to see one of your programs.

Liza Lee Miller said...

You rock! Yay Smart Girl! :)

I am in awe of your handling of raptors! Wow!

Mary said...

YAY! Pam is back!

Susan, you are part of the minority, I think, that has a passion for their jobs. I envy you. And congratulations on your 25,000.

Dave said...

You're a bizzy girl!

birdchick said...


You're gonna have so much fun feeding that peregrine on the fist. But you will be very messy--covered with feathers.

Does your peregrine "paddle" a lot? All of our females at TRC are paddling like crazy right now in the middle of programs.

Susan Gets Native said...

Thanks, all. I do love what I do. How could I not?
I seem to have found my groove, huh?
If you mean continually flapping her wings but not bating, then yes, Lucy is "Paddling". I thought it was some sort of stretching, since she seems to do it more when I bring her out of the carrier...and my head is unlucky enough to be on the side that is facing her full wing, instead of the amputated one.
Crowds love it when she flaps away. It makes her look real to them.
I can't wait until I can feed her during a program. Any tips on the training?

mon@rch said...

Congrats on your 25,000 and shouldn't be too long before you have your 50,000!! Just love hearing about the birds and the programs you are doing with them! Keep up the great work!

birdchick said...

That's what I mean by paddling. Those feathers are so stiff, I always joke with the audience that the part of my face that her wings get is the most exfoliated part of my body.