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
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!
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!
A pair of rescued baby Gray Squirrels were recently brought into the nature center after the tree holding their nest was felled. These two were the only survivors and made it up to our local rehabber, who has an outdoor squirrel learning cage for just such critters.
It’s really a good thing that rodents tend to be bitey and spicey-tempered, and that they poop everywhere, because otherwise these two would have come home with me in an instant.