Friday, June 25, 2010

Battle wounds and crazyness!

Hello there,

This week was a crazzzyyyy one. Monday was probably the easiest of the whole week. It started off with me doing presentations in order to be signed off on the animals. I was able to get the box turtle, corn snake, and barred owl out of the way. The Barred owl was pretty well behaved, she just stares at whoever is handling her. Then we had to go over Zoo camp, which felt like it took forever, but had to be done. Zoo camp is when people bring their children to the zoo for a few hours and we teach them about whatever topic they signed up for. I ended up picking out 5 activities to do the second week of camp. One of them is doing an animal presentation of 4 animals, and another is creating an owl out of paper plates. It shouldn't be tooo bad.

After a nice day break I came in and started the day round one handling. H andling doesn't take anytime at all. I did get my first battle wound though. We have some very temperamental Chinchillas at the Salisbury Zoo, they don't really like the whole "it time for me to take you out of your cage time". Stormy, the fatter of the two, is usually pretty good about the whole thing. She'll stand up on her back legs and occasionally spray and bark, but nothing more than that. This time I reached my hand in and she lunged at me, biting my finger. No warning or anything. It didn't hurt, just startled me because she usually isn't like that.

Handling took just enough time that when I went back to the Visitors Center to return gloves, it was time for me to observe Brandon's education talk. The Spectacled Owl decided to chew on his hand the whole time. She is the Diva of all of the birds. Then Nadia and I were supposed to stand watch in the Visitors Center, well rather keep it open. But sense there were already two docents there we decided to take out the Screech Owls for a walk. That plan didn't work very well, due to the constant Robins and Grackles dive bombing us. We ended up having to take the Owls back, they were getting way to stressed out. So after what seemed like forever in the Visitor Center, it was time for my Education talk. I took the Barred Owl out to what looked like 20 people. I think I did alright, but I still forgot a lot of things I was going to say. Brandon said I did fine so I guess that’s all that matters.

Thursday started off in a bit of confusion. Leonora redid the schedule and forgot to finish typing everything out. This resulted in both me and Noelle thinking we had to do the 11 am Education talk. Come to find out I was suppose to observe her do it. Instead Noelle did the talk and I started my roving early. I decided that the Corn Snake needed to go out for a walk and get some sun. Most people were fine about the snake being out. There was one woman that stayed like 3 exhibits away from me. Afterwards it was handling again, same old same old, except for having to take Crick out, our 23 pound Boa Constrictor. Lucky for me, no one came into the Visitors Center so I didn't have to take her into the back of the building.

Then came my second battle wound of the week. I went to go handle the level 1-3 birds in the aviary and went to do the Great Horn Owl first. In order to handle him we have to wear a welding glove, not just for the talons but the beak too. But this time it didn't seem to help any. I grabbed him by his jesses and went to go gently push him off balance so he would step up. He of course wanted nothing to do with it so he went to chew on the glove, finding a soft spot. Needless to say I have a bruise on my hand. Shortly after I had to do the 2 pm Education talk, in which I took the Ball Python out so he could get some sun. I waited for a bit and no one showed up, but as soon as I went to put him away a group of three showed up. I ended up just talking to them about the snake for a short time. It was way too hot to be outside.

Today was the craziest of days...It started off with Andre not being anywhere to be found. So I had to go off and find one of the keepers to make sure the alarms in the buildings were shut off. The keeper checked the Visitor center and said that the Education building was off. So I went to go open the door and low and behold the alarm was still on. Luckily one of the other keepers came over and turned it off. After that I did enrichment for the lizards, which didn't take long. All I did was rearrange the Alligators furniture and soak the Bearded Dragon. I spent some in the Visitor Center doing announcements before my talk, but that was a mistake. One of the older docents had me rearranging everything so that visitors could see the animals. The counter in the center had also flooded due to the storm we had last night, so she was complaining about that and questioning where all the water was coming from. Then I did my 11 am ed talk on the Ball Python. No one showed up until I was about to leave again.

By that time I though Andre would show up, but he was still a no show. So I started working on his list, that meant handling. After handling I found Leonora and tried to figure out what was going on with no one being in. Come to find out Andre called out at like 7pm and Leonora didn't hear about it until this afternoon. So that meant I also had to do aviary care, and being Joy was also off I had to do half of the Visitor Center care. I really didn't mind, it was just so hot outside. Turkey bird and Peregrine took a mouse from me, and Red tailed tried playing catch but missed. Docent training was also going on so there was 18 or so odd people in the aviary the same time I was. I was able to take the Alligator out and show everyone the little guy.

Lastly I went and did Visitor Center care before I left. We ran out of Crickets and Mealworms again so I didn't have to do much but scrub out water dishes. Right before I left I noticed one of the windows had cracked, but it was only one part of a two piece window, so it was fine.

This week was a little crazy but I was able to handle it. If anything it was really only today that bugged me. It was just one of those days. But it's just part of learning that nothing at a zoo really goes on as scheduled. It's just one more thing you have to adapt to. I also learned that just because an animal acts one way one day doesn't mean it'll act the same the next. At least I pretty much have everything I need to do on daily basis down pat. No if only it would get cooler.

Now it's time for me to get some much needed rest!

Monday, June 21, 2010

not busy but at least its fun

This season hasn't been overly busy when it comes to forestry stuff, but we have received some interesting calls for downed trees or in the case of this afternoon a shelter fire.
At lunch the phone rang in the shop, my boss picked up then motioned to me not to leave yet for the afternoon, all i could think was what customer i talked to and may have upset or did i cut someone off and not realize it. She got off the phone and told me to grab a bladder bag and Pulaski then head over to naugatuck state forest to check on a report that a shelter was smoldering and possibly spread to the forest around it. When i entered the forest along a logging road i opened my window to better see and smell for the fire wherever it was in the forest, i found it very quickly from the large amount of smoke and wilted leaves around the location. As soon as i got to the spot and took a look at what was going on i realized my one tool and 5 gallons of water wouldn't cut it for this job reinforcements and 20 more gallons of water were brought over to assist. the more we dug the more we realized how deep into the ground this fire had gone and how far out along the ground it had gone as well. after 3 hours of digging and dumping on water the fire was proclaimed out. while digging the tops to fuel cans and a potential fuel can were found in the fire making this a case of arson, thankfully for this area today was not a high fire danger day. If the fire had spread in the direction it had been headed some large slash piles and a creek would have been effected, this plot of land has been managed under a selective cut policy leaving some slash for the benefit of wildlife and firewood cutters. if this had gone up this fire could have reached several hundred acre very quickly. Prior to getting this fire call i had been removing some dead white pine and spruce trees behind the shop at wharton brook making the workplace just a little bit safer. The bucket truck should be coming to the unit in about 2 weeks so i should be picking up the posts and piling up the hours!!

untill then be safe and "get your smokey on"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Things are moving along nicely...

A few days back I got off my second shift in the field with Second Nature. My last shift was just as challanging as the one before that but in diffenert ways. This last shift O was working with G6, it is made up entirely of male teenagers ages fourteen to seventeen, its a rather intense demographic if i do say so my self. Every one of these kids is struggling with some very real issues, and even though I am no longer new to this program, it never ceases to amaze me how them being out here in the wilderness really is the only thing that will get through to these kids.

This last shift was fairly easy and this was in large part due to the fact that G6 was supposed to be on solo for a good chunk of the week. Now Solo for our program is a little different then others on the account that a lot of the clients of Second Nature are here as Minors, and thus they are not here on their own accord. this means that some of them are a flight risk, so much so that they have to call their names while going to the bathroom, so a Solo is not the right choice for all clients.
This decision falls in the end to the therapist that is in charge of each group. He/she gets to choose who will be on solo and who will be staying in the camp. They also decide what want the clients to while on this solo time. Then it is up to the staff to run everything.
solos can be anywhere from two to four days. I can be a very interesting and time consuming experience for these boys.
This week half the group was out for two days and three nights. Staff did rounds every two hours and ran groups with the other half that was still left. It was a good experience for all that were involved including staff. Solos are normally a very stressful time on the account of the amount of work that staff has to do. On the account that there was still half of the group in camp we were able to delegate the days normal chores back on to them. These boys learned the good feeling one can get when doing acts of service. They took care of all the cooking and camp chores between he four of them.
When the rest of the group came off solo it was time to spend some time debriefing all of the assignments that they had been given, then it was time to move for only the second time of the week.
Lucky for us the rain that we had gotten while on solo cooled the entire high desert down so it was down right pleasant hiking weather
the rest of the shift finished out nicely and I have to say that I am looking forward to seeing what my next shift will bring.
In till next week
cheers all

Friday, June 18, 2010

Flying solo

Good afternoon,
This week started off quite interesting...Sunday was suppose to be an easy day for me, or so I thought...My task was to observe both of the ed talks and help out with the first Wild party that were taking place that day. Well the person in charge for the day interpreted the schedule as me doing the first ed talk sense she had to supervise the party. Mind you I have not done an Ed talk yet and I have only observed one. So I packed up the broad winged hawk and made my walk to the back of the visitor center after my announcements. The talk went well I thought, lucky for me I only had four adults and three kids that showed up.

The talk was only 10 minutes long, and after returning the hawk to the aviary I went back to the party. Wild parties aren't really that bad either, just supervising the party in the building and giving a Wildlife Encounter to the guest. The first party was a very small one, 6 kids and 12 adults, barely half showing up. We ended up getting some pizza and cupcakes out of the whole thing which was nice.

Monday was a really busy day, with my first job being handling. All went well being I didn't have to handle ALL of the animals. The way handling works is certain animals are scheduled for certain days. For example the 8ft long female boa is only handled on Wednesdays, where as the guinea pigs and ferret are handled every day. This way all of the animals are on a regular schedule of some sort.

After handling came my solo animal care run in the visitor center, which ended up taking me the rest of the time I was there. A lot of time was cut down from the fact we had still not received any crickets, so that meant no feeding. Most of my time consisted of scrubbing water dishes and misting the tanks. I left the mammals for last on my list of animal care, and that was due to them still being in the break room. That meant I had to prep all of the diets, which included catching fish for the mudpuppies and mealworms for the hedgehog, and carrying it all from the visitors center to the breakroom. Hedgehog was placed in a separate carrier first and given his mealworms so he could do his business while I worked on the rest of the animals. Other than that the only other special thing that was done was the Chinchillas were given their dust baths. Animal care was almost miserable that day, not because all of the work but the broke A/C which left the building so hot....

I had a day off and then came back on Wednesday for a few things. First thing we were briefed on all of the different education programs we might have to help with, most of them one we had already seen. After that I had round one handling again of the lower levels. I actually held the Hedgehog without gloves this day, and boy did he decide to be a mover. This was also the female boas handing day...She's a big girl, not so heavy when you first take her out but gets heavy after every minute out. I mean she only weights about 25 pounds...

The A/C was working this day too, which meant me and Kyle got the fun job of moving all of the mammals and their cages back. No problem went you have cart to wheel them on. We got the occasional kid peeking in wondering if the Hedgehog was a Porcupine. Those kids always make me laugh. We kept the Visitor Center open for an hour, watching the random people walking in and freaking out about the snakes. Also the few people who couldn't find the frogs in the tanks or think the pine snake is a rattlesnake. It's interesting on how creative people can be. My last task was my solo run of the education building animal care. We obtained some crickets so I was able to give the Bearded dragon some. Leonora also had the ferret out running while I was cleaning, so I got to hear her tell the ferret to get out of the fridge or to stop knocking things over.

My easy day was my solo run of aviary care on Thursday. I wondered why they scheduled me for two hours to do the aviary until I looked at the animal cards and realized it was perch scrubbing day too. So before I went off to the building I prepped the diets. It had also happened to be bird of prey diets, and for those who don't know bird of prey diet consist of any kind of ground anything the factor could find. It comes packages like a fresh sausage kind of...It wasn't that disgusting at first, but the longer I made the balls the worse it got to where I was starting to feel a little sick.

I walked over to the aviary and started to rake and scrub perches. The owls cages were fairly clean, it was the hawks that were the worst. It was almost like they were trying to aim for the walls...Lucky for me Lara and Nadia were doing handling so I didn't have to contend with the Red Tailed Hawk trying to fly all over the place. I did have to deal with the Spectacled owl, but I think her problem was more so the noise then me being there. Turkey bird was well behaved for me, I think he's still afraid of me which I didn't mind. Next was to scrub and replace water dishes, and then distribute food. In the end I was done 15 minutes early, so I took the one eyed Screech owl out for a walk.
So far with my internship I have learned one major thing...I want to work with birds, more specifically birds of prey. Coming into the Care and Ed. program and my internship I wanted to work with large cats and canines. Though after about a month of being around all of the birds I would much rather work at a bird of prey rehabilitation center that does programs. I have come to have a great appreciation for these animals that I have never had before. So everything I am learning in regards to the birds is helpping me towards my next possible career.

Next week they're sticking us with Ed talks and more solo runs, so I'm sure I'll have much more to talk about.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Programs, programs, programs...

Heather here again,

This week was a short week, but A LOT of new things were done! I didn't start working this week until Wednesday, so I was able to enjoy a nice 3 day break. My first day back started with assisting one of my supervisors Brandon at a Zoo2U program. Zoo2U programs can be either a table with animals or a Wildlife Encounter, like the one we did. We brought along the Ball Python, Guinea Pig, and Screech Owl to Beaver Run Elementary School for 4 classes of 1st graders. The first two presentations Brandon did the presentation by himself and I observed, except when he needed the Guinea Pig. Brandon is sadly allergic to the piggies so he had me hold them while he did the talk. After those two presentations he let me do all of the handling, which I was wicked excited about. The kids were all good and well behaved, but we did have to compete with the gym classes walking back and forth behind us, and we all know how distracted young kids can get.

After I got back and helped get all of the animals and carriers squared away I was suppose to observe animal care in the Visitors center with Nadia. Half way through Brandon came in to get Nadia to do handling and realized that we really need to get started on our animal presentations. So he gave us 10 minutes to study and bring two animals up to the Education Building. I chose the Guinea Pig and the Ball Python and Nadia chose the Ferret and the Screech Owl. We both gave our ten minute talks on our animals to Brandon and Leonora who in turn gave us feed back on what we needed to work on. Needless to say we are signed off on two more animals.

Then when Nadia and Brandon went in to the aviary to return the Screech Owl and do handling I decided to tag along. I'm glad I did because I got to hold Clack Clack, our Barred Owl. It was awesome because the first time handling her I didn't have to deal with her "forgetfulness" of not having two wings, I had a very well behaved bird. Did you know that Barred Owls are all fluff? It's crazy how fluffy all of the feathers are on their head!

Thursday was pretty fun with my day starting off in the Visitor Center. Me, Kyle, and Bridget, one of the docents, had the task of providing enrichment for the mammals, snakes, and birds of prey. For the snakes we collected various herbs out of the garden. Apparently the snakes seem to like them, so I just went with it. The mammals were given some much needed play time, the Chinchillas in their balls and the piggies in their playpen. The two chillas investigated each other and the Guinea Pig through their plastic walls. When the Guinea Pigs got fed up they just pushed the ball out of the way. While Kyle and I watched over the animals in the main room, Bridget gave the Hedgehog a bath. Lastly the birds of prey were entertained with sounds of frogs and songbirds. Some showed interest, others carried on with their slumber.

Brandon came in to do handling of the lower level birds, so I took advantage to handle Clack Clack again and the Great Horned Owl. This time Clack Clack managed to hop down to the ground, but I easily got her back onto my glove. Great Horned Owl was also fairly easy, but he is HUGE, HEAVY, and has the grip of death! Also he has a bad habit of leaning every which way, making you want to lean your hand the other way to counter him but you cannot do that. For the rest of my shift I decided to walk around with the Broad Winged Hawk. It was pretty fun talking to little kids about the hawk and seeing the look on their face when they realized I had the bird on my glove. The Broad Winged was very good about the whole ordeal, even ignoring the grackles and mockingbirds that were following us. I was able to get all the way to the other end of the Zoo where I was going to turn around and then it happen....around 150-200 middle school student came in a swarm to the Zoo. I was afraid that someone was going to try and grab at the hawk, but surprisingly no one did. I was so glad no one did either, because that's just one of those situations that I don't know how to handle.

Saturday was the big day of Zoobalation, where the zoo raises money through silent auctions, restaurants serving food amongst the exhibits, and other entertainment. This also means that no one really came in until 1-2 in the afternoon, leaving animal care to Noelle and I. All animal care included everything in the aviary, visitor center, education building, and at the moment break room. It was all mostly cleaning and feeding, well feeding the ones we could. Unfortunately we have run out of crickets at the Zoo, and they are on a ordering cycle, so they just kind of come in when they do. It ended up taking us 3 hours to get everything done that needed to be done. It was good training for me being my task for Monday is to do the visitor center care on my own. Then it was Zoobalation prep......As Lara put it when she came in, "Crazy Lady" was giving everyone orders, even people who didn't work for her. Everyone that was trying to leave work had to sneak out before one of the guest notice you.
This week was a bit crazy for three days, but I was busy and it was fun. I was able to take in everything that was thrown at me. The only thing I did not feel to great about was my presentations, but that is something I just have to work on. Getting over my fear of presentations is probably my biggest challenge of my internship. But hopefully after giving more presentations I will feel comfortable about the whole situation. Over coming this will also help me in what ever path I end up taking after college.

And the other challenge begins....Solo runs through animal care and presentations.
Wish me luck!!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Life At Second Nature

Hi all,
As i sit typing this am am trying my very best to prolong some of the other tasks that I have for the day, Things like Doing laundry, going food shopping, and packing my gear. Any thing at this moment that can keep me out of the sun and doing anything related to work in the sun is a good thing. Hence I am sitting in a blissfully cool spot hacking free WI FI from the town of St George.

With that digression out of the way I guess i should get on with posting about my internship. I am spending the summer working for a Wilderness therapy company called Second Nature Entrada. One of the premier wilderness programs in the country Second Nature works with teenagers and adults using the wilderness of Utah to strip away all expectations and distractions. what is left is a Intense 8-12 week long therapy session in the desert where the clients from all over the world learn to heal.
Where do i fit into all of this you may ask?
well I am a backpacking instructor for second nature. It is my job, along with the rest of the staff to manage safety and learning while assuring that the clients are progression in their therapy.
this ends up looking like me working eight days in a row and then having six off to do what ever I please in this lovely ( very hot) epicenter of adventure that Utah is.
My days start at seven in the morning and more often then not do not end in till well into the late evening. a midnight bed time is not unusual. It is the goal of the program to have their groups move each day, most of the time this happens, even if a move is only two miles down a dirt road its a move, and for some of these clients who have never in their life had to do anything for them selves, that can be a very major thing.
Backpacking, that in its self is a core part of the work that this program does students do not leave the field for anything short of a medical emergency, thus they have everything they need on their backs for the entire length of their stay, for soem of them that can be as much as fifteen weeks.
The concept that my company works with is one that the average outdoors type and typical unity college student would not find harsh, in fact some of us at Unity would even consider a program like this a vacation. months at a time backpacking in the high desert, where do i sign up?
For the clients of my program the simple concept of relying on one's self is something that is so completely foreign, it put them outside of the comfront zone, and that is where the real healing and work starts.

I go back to work in the morning and i have to say that I am looking forward to it. My first shift was one of the most intense, tiering, and rewarding things that i have done in a very long time. Its a lot of work, but so far I am enjoying it.
Cheers all

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Busy week #3

Hello all,

So the weeks are consistently getting busier and busier as summer goes into full swing. I would have thought it would start to slow down with school getting out, but boy was I wrong. Now were to start....

Tuesday my task was to help with aviary care and round one handling with Lara. I was able to meet another one of the new interns, Kyle. So we are now up to me, Kyle, Noelle, Nadia (the other new intern), Mary, and our Americore member Brandon. Me and Kyle went on the rounds of handling, Kyle doing most of it being he had to be caught up to speed. I was able to finish off all of my handling sessions for level ones and twos, now all I have to do to be completely signed off is to do a short presentation of information for each animal to my supervisors. I was able to prep. the bird diets before we went to the aviary. I believe the only got chicks on Tuesday. Before we fed we had to scrub out and refill their water dishes, and then rake out all the poop and food debris. Then after all of that was done we could distribute the food. It was exciting when some of the birds would actually take the food out of your hands. I tried to toss the Red Tailed Hawks chicks to her, but she didn't quite know what to think about me feeding her.

Cleaning out the Fowler's toad tank was my first task on Thursday, fairly simple and straight forward. You just take out the animals, all of the substrate, and furniture which needs to be scrubbed. Then the tank needs to be scrubbed out with bleach outside and thoroughly rinsed. Then you just place new bark in, replace the furniture, and give the toads a new water disk. Viola, you have a happy toad tank! After that short task I bounced between watching presentations and discovery carts, same things I've been doing.

Wednesday was another short day, shadowing our education animal keeper Joy. I watched the basics of what this task would entail. That was everything from filling up water bottles, cleaning out watch dishes, cleaning out poop, and prepping diets for the various animals. I didn't do too much myself, just watched.

And then there was today...truly the more interesting of the week. It started off with CAT training with Lara, CAT being Certified Animal Team. There were only two people who actually had to go through the training, Kyle and I were just along for the ride. The two docents were briefed on animal care, handling, and presentations, stuff interns are just kind of shoved into the first day. After a short presentation we went into the Visitors Center and came into our first snag...the A/C decided to crap out on us, leaving the center around 80-85, which is not good in the least big for chinchillas or any of the mammals. Lara turned the A/C off and then back on in hopes that it would kick back into its cycle.

While we waited for the A/C, the new CAT members worked on handling of the level one animals in both the aviary and visitor center. After handling Lara gave us each two care cards which we had to complete. Care cards are just laminated cards of the fridge that say what needs to be done for the day for that specific animal. I had to work on the White's Tree Frog and the Guinea Pigs. For the frog all I had to do was turn the mulch, change out her water dish, and mist her tank. I was able to give back her favorite dish, which is more of a bowl with the lip curved in. She likes to climb inside and hide under the lip.

Guinea Pigs took a bit more work than the frog. I had to pull out all of the soiled bedding and replace it wish fresh bedding. Then I had to refill their water bottle and refill their food bowl with pellets and a tablespoon of fruits and vegis. They were crying soooooo loud for their food, it was adorable.

The end of the day consisted of me giving my presentation of the Broad winged hawk, which I am now signed off to handle without supervision. Also the heat never went down in the visitor center so we had to move all of the mammals into the break room with the alligator tub. They all look super happy after we got them out of the muggy visitor’s center. Hopefully it will be working by Monday so we can put the mammals back in their normal spots.

My main challenge was memorizing the information for my presentations. Yeah, it's only a short 6-10 minute talk, but I still have about 10-15 more animals to go for levels one and two. That's a lot of stuff to remember!!! But I am learning so many new things about all of the animals it's so worth it. As the days go on I am feeling more comfortable with my tasks and falling into my ruts.
Now it's time for relaxation before a VERY crazy week.