I have an itch to work with wildlife. A bad itch. An itch that tugs at the back of my brain all day, every day, day in and day out. No matter what I’m doing, I’d rather be sharing space with an animal. I’m not picky: I’d even take insects and spiders over a desk job if I was in a real bind.
In Oregon, I’d been accepted into a spectacular captive animal management program, but couldn’t procure the funds to attend. Heartbroken, I returned to the East Coast, trying my best to believe that something equally as incredible was in the making. (I’m the kind of person that believes if a thing isn’t in your best interest, you don’t get it, no matter how badly you thought you wanted it; but walking away from zoo school was a doozy.)
Fast forward six months, and a combination of coincidence and free time led me to email a local wildlife rehabilitator to see if she needed volunteers. Wildlife rehab is a world of unpaid, tireless work for creatures that will bite you, shit on you, and most likely hate you with every fiber of their being. But more importantly, it’s a world of creatures whose lives are only a passing whisper to most humans, a glimpse of what is otherwise just mystery. It’s a world of injuries and orphaning, of human-caused suffering, but of healing, resilience, and the return of a living being to its home. It’s a world of hope; fur and scales and teeth and hope. Read the rest of this entry
Working as a naturalist, I’ve received tons of calls about injured animals and thought I’d share some of my knowledge with you about handling situations with baby birds, since it’s the most common one.
Came across some photos this evening that I don’t think I posted of the Brothers Jay back in spring before their release. These images depict some of my favorite things about birds: the tenacity they have in wanting to fly and shit wherever they please, how they must – if they are forced to be in the presence of a two-legged – sit on that two-legged’s head, and how, regardless of their lack of human-esque forms of affection, the site of two birds huddling together as they slept can warm the cockles of my little heart. Thanks for sharing this with me folks. :)
Hipstamatic photo and update quickie of the bad bad blue jay brothers. The Little Shits are huge and nearly ready for release. They molted some of their secondary feathers, which are critical for flying, so I’ve had to hold on to them longer than usual as those feathers grow back. It’s likely that spending several days on the ground without food and water caused malnourishment to the point that the feathers fell out. Fortunately they’re on their way back in!
Tonight will be their first night alone, outside; the nature center has a little wildflower barn covered in fine mesh where they can experience ‘outside’ without actually being outside. Needless to say, I’m nervous, but also excited to get some rest tonight. They’ve learned that squawking and bustling around their cage is a fun activity, especially at night when Momma is trying to sleep. While the secondaries that fell out are important for lengthy flight, the primaries they still have left allow them to experiment with shorter bursts of flight. They each took their first “long”-ish flight the other night, from the top of their cage to the large aloe plant on the other side of my wee apartment, a distance of approximately 15 or 20 feet. Gump went first, several times, egging Bubba on until Bubba went for it too. They were visibly excited, although their collective ability to land is still completely without grace and needs some work. Baby steps.
Trouble in a bird suit.
They got their first meal of mealworms, which Gump dove into right away. Bubba was unimpressed with crawling food but after watching his brother hork down several of the squirmy bugs, he gave it a tentative try. And then they were fighting over them, chasing each other in long hops around the hardwood floors – tap tap tap TAPTAPTAPTAP.. tap tap taptaptaptap TAP TAP SQUAWK tap tap tap.
At that point they were placed lovingly back into their cage because Momma was exhausted from staying up all night watching Pirates of the Caribbean and needed a nap. Today they got to try earthworms and were visibly confused/interested/unsure. To be fair, the worms are night-crawlers used for fishing and they’re huge. Each time the worm moved, the jays hopped and fluttered into the air, landing around the worm but not exactly running from it. Gump stood up straight, stretched his neck and cocked his head to the side. He peered at the worm with first his left eye, then turned his head to peer with his right eye. He tentatively grabbed the worm and then released it, flying up to land on a small ledge to regain some courage.
This went on for some time until I took up the worm and, apologetically, cut it into smaller pieces. This tactic was met with great enthusiasm – Gump immediately grabbed up on wiggling segment and flittered off with it to experience the fine food on his own. Bubba ran after, curious to see what Gump would do with it. Hopefully they’ll learn to take whole worms.
The things we do for those we love! :) Hope you all are having a wonderful Sunday!
I’m not at all much of a techie, but I finally joined the nerd movement and downloaded the Hipstamatic camera app on my little-used iPod. The schtick of this app is that it basically takes photos like an old Holga, messing with depth of field, color saturation, and format, and making all your photos look like they either 1) were taken in the 1960s or 2) went through your washing machine.
I’m a photographer-wannabe so I’ve been playing with the new app this morning. It’s kinda fun, don’t you think? It reminds me of flipping through my mother’s photo albums of when she was my age, traveling through Yosemite National Park with her true love.
They’re not exactly National Geographic quality, but at least you can see the babies getting a little bigger (and the eyebrow! I love the eyebrow!). Happy happy Wednesday!
I’ve spent the last 10 days working on the annual wildflower show that I organize at the nature center each year. We collect and display labeled local flowers, weeds, and other plant species and sell native plants as a fundraiser. It’s a lot of work, but honestly, I love it so much – seeing that room full of beautiful wildflowers in bloom, causing smiles and spreading education, and sending people home with happy, bouncy plants for their gardens. Placing that plant order gives me the same feeling as saving up and buying myself a special birthday present! Here’s a short gallery of my favorite pics below from the event:
Anyway, I’m getting that place of exhaustion where you start feeling a little delirious and maybe you could try sleeping standing up just to take the edge off but you’re not sure where the safest place to stand might be. Paired with that, I had an excellent, invigorating walk with the dogperson today and the combination is making me a little reflective. This quote keeps passing through my mind, the last part in particular:
This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body. — Walt Whitman
What would it be like to live every day with so much integrity, compassion, and truth that your very flesh becomes a lyrical song? I want to live that way.
The babies continue to grow, especially their little tail feathers. Half a week ago, the feathers were incredibly short and essentially useless for flying. Now it’s a different story: the feathers are growing quickly towards their adult length. They’re both molting through some primary wing feathers so their flight efforts are shoddy, but enthusiastic nonetheless. Gump works his tail like a little rudder, trying to gain clearance, catch a little lift, or avoid landing on the bamboo flooring at an angle and speed that propels him into the dark, mysterious underworld beneath the sofa. They take risks, they clamber on window blinds and their mesh enclosure, and, when they’re tuckered out and resting, they make quiet gurgling, chortling noises to each other. And, I’m delighted to see their little white eyebrows are coming in!
June 2nd, 2011
This morning I awoke to the stirrings and twitterings of Bubba and Gump. Boy, were they ready to take on the day. I took Gump, who was being awfully spunky, out of the cage and placed him on top. Last night they both spent some time up there with Bubba throwing down a little dance move that told me he wanted to try flying, but wasn’t quite sure where to go. At some point, they started making a raspy little chirping noise that I hadn’t heard before. It coincided with me sucking air through my teeth at the dog, but I’m not sure if the two are related.
This morning it was Gump’s turn. He crouched, stood up, crouched, fidgeted, and leapt! His first flight!
So a small clutch of baby Scrub Jays came into the nature center several days ago. The deliverer had found momma bird deceased and was clearly distressed to have discovered her babies orphaned. There were three. They were lethargic, quiet, cold, and in shock.
I called my rehabber and explained the situation. Instead of her usual response, “Okay, when can we meet up?” she said, “Okay, here’s what you do.” Rehabbers are typically overwhelmed in the springtime and apparently she thought I could handle baby birds solo.
I was up for the challenge.