Saturday, May 26, 2012

The National Aviary - Week One

This was a very busy week indeed! My schedule was Monday through Friday 8am - 5pm, just like it will be for the rest of the summer. When I first arrived I will be honest when I say it was a very large and unfamiliar environment for me, which left me feeling quite reserved and nervous about what was to come. I was dressed according to dress code and ready to start working. Little did I know, there would be no formal training. I shadowed one of the trainers named Diane for my first day, and the next morning was thrown "into the fire" so to speak. It has been a very fast moving introduction into the everyday routines and scheduled events. I now am under the supervision of David Miller, the animal programs trainer staff member. I have shadowed his training sessions, exhibit chores, and even paid encounters with the public. Dave is a good guy who truly wants his interns to take a lot away from the internship. According to him, interns at the National Aviary do not receive any type of money, however if they work hard enough and put in their full effort, they will receive experience far more valuable than any piece of paper.

As an intern, we all receive an area where we will work along side the trainers, and one area we are responsible for on our own. My area is the breeding center just up the stairs from the animal hospital. Here are where animals that have been taken off of exhibit go to when they basically have no where else to put them. Also, those birds which have become to aggressive to be on free range display are held here as well. Still haven't figured out why they call it a "breeding center" though. Along with that, I am on duty within the grassland and marshland sections of the aviary. I have already mastered feedings, and even helped with cleaning the marshland pond out. I would like to mention that scraping algae, and whatever else that was (which I do not want to know) off the bottom of the drained pond. I smelled awful, it was like hair, and I fell into it. It was so much fun!!!
Just the other day I have received my first intern personal project to work on from Dave. He wants me to use positive reinforcement training to get Winnie, our crested orependola, to jump up onto a scale for weigh-ins. Not only could it be used as a nice addition to a show or for the visitors, it would also help the veterinary staff record her weight since she will become a mother very soon, with a few more eggs on the way. I have direct contact with all of the birds in my exhibits however, that does not mean that they all like me. I have been literally chased out of a room by Joni, the feisty wattled currasow, who apparently does not like new interns anywhere in the marsh lands, thus pecks at your shins until you are gone. It sheds blood, and is not pleasant at all. The flamingos are also going through their breeding season which has proven to be quite the battle for territory when going into the exhibit for feeding and upkeep. However Dave has taught me some of the hand signals they are trained to respond to, and I have been using them to avoid being preened or bitten. In the future when I become acceptable to the flamingos, I will be in charge of running my own private showings with the guests. 
A lot is still coming together though and with Memorial Day approaching this weekend, it is looking like a busy week again next week. Some key things I have managed to get down are the cleaning and feeding in the breeding center birds. I have also learned methods of adding medications and supplements to different foods, and their preparations. I have began positive reinforcement training with Winnie, and have been required to know all of the birds in my sections by heart. My favorite part of this week has been seeing the kids during our live feeding show in the marshlands where the Inca terns fly down and swoop fish out of their hands! Totally looking forward to even more to come! 

This is an Edward's Lorikeet of whom I watch over up in the breeding center while their new section is being remodeled. Trouble makers!!! 

1 comment:

sara said...

Sound like interesting, fast-moving work so far, Alex! Hey- are you sure those flamingos are real? They do look an awful lot like lawn ornaments...