Saturday, June 30, 2012

National Aviary - Penguin Point Routine

So the past week I spent my time at the aviary working under Chris in the penguin routine. This section of the area includes not only the African penguins but also the two eagles exhibits, an off site white dove yard, toucans and the various other birds through out our walkways and entrances areas. Unlike all of the other routines, this one involves the most chores/work outdoors. I love working outside and have experienced rain, and recently blistering hot days of pushing way above 100 degrees (which in thick rubber waders/boots or the quarantine jumpsuit, is very uncomfortable). My supervisors keep an eye on me and constantly check on my water intake. Before this week I thought it was wonderful to have a can of soda with me...well that was short lived. It's two Nalgenes of water for me from now on.

Got to run my first few penguin feedings in front of a large public audience, where I shared information, showed them different fish, and also worked in direct hands on contact with each penguin. Every chore done within the exhibit, and all the feedings are streamed live on the aviary website 24/7 as well. They receive daily vitamins, and medications hidden in specific fish during our feedings, and close attention to detail must be made to ensure accurate data is being recorded. Chris also trained me on the proper technique for picking up one of our penguins from the exhibit. The picture to the left is of myself holding one of the "kids" in the exhibit. His name is Kaden, a four month old African penguin. I was surprised at how the feathers on these animals feel so soft, yet very waxy feeling.

Now the eagles exhibits are what I would call, my most hesitant areas. Our bald eagles are unable to fly. Both Liberty and Bell were injured in the wild, thus spend most of their time on the ground in low perches. No netting is actually required above this outdoor exhibit because they wouldn't be able to get out anyways. There is no shift house, so all work, cleaning, feeding, is carried out in direct contact space. Of course there has been a protocol laid down about working with these two large birds of prey. They are capable of charging and clawing so distance is a must. Slow movement and a cautious line of vision is necessary at all times. If I am washing windows or hosing off plants, every minute or so I turn and make sure I am not in between them or cornered. It is better to have them both together and on the other side than split and all around me. They do move into a specific corner during cleaning to get away from the hose, so aggression is usually dispersed that way long as they are let alone. I am in the eagles' territory so I have to respect "their" boundaries not my own. If I cross paths with where they want to be, I move to a different spot, it's that simple. Peace keeping will never be acquired if I purposefully attempt to displace them from their own home.

The stellar's sea eagles are one of the few birds that receive indirect contact under no circumstances otherwise. With talons over three inches long, it's to be expected. They have a shift house where they are transferred for feeding, and closed off so that we may enter the exhibit and carry on our work. They used to get fed via a window slot, but were clever enough to learn they could fit talons out and swipe for it and that ended quickly. Before I arrived they switched to a feeding tube. All it is is a wide pvc pipe inserted through the wall. They can still manage to get their heads far up into it, but most of the danger has been eliminated almost entirely by this new method.

In the mean time between my routines and also during personal project times, I have been a success so far training Joni and Squiggie the wattled currasows to station in a new exhibit. This was good because it is also improving my relationship with them ten fold. Still a work in progress however. Dave has been joining me in making food enrichment as well. He is a huge supporter of making sure the birds are all given enrichment once a day and not just the same old thing everyday. Wednesday we both took the leftover foods from the kitchen for the day and made bird banana splits. Sounds tasty doesn't? Well believe me it looked good enough for even us to eat. He was telling me about how the public will see these things, and it will make a greater impact on their thoughts if it actually looks fun and appealing to all who see it. Inside the banana we inserted nuts, and between the fruit and peel, we stuffed it full of meal worms, topped it off with parrot pellet, and a popcorn seed mix. This was for the Collie's Jay since he loves to poke around and explore new foods.

Looking forward to another week, and also the new mix up my schedule has between the penguins and marsh room routines. Makes it all a little less repetitive that way which is a good thing. Now just have my fingers crossed that this heat will cool down a bit before I melt.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Week 3 and 4 at Harbor Family Services

I seem to have missed a week so I guess I will just talk about 2 weeks in 1 post.  Week 3 was my first week working with some of the female residents who live at another one of the locations the company operates.  This one was in Winterport, and was a very different experience.  Within an hour of arriving there I had to deal with an assault between two residents.  It was hard to deal with since there was only two of us there.  The procedure when dealing with this type of situation is separate the two and than talk to them one at a time, to get both versions of what happened.  This time what happened was one resident was being picked on because her family abandoned her, and she lashed out.  After than when more staff arrived the full time staff do what is called a Life Space Interview to talk about what happened and what would be a better way to handle the situation.  After that the day was pretty quiet, took a few residents to the bangor waterfront and skipped some rocks in the river, and than just played some basketball.  The rest of the week wasn't anymore eventful, it all seemed condensed into that one day.
   Each week seems to bring something unique to the table.  This week there was a trip to funtown/splashtown in saco.  I was a little worried about going to such a crowded place with the boys, but they surprised me with a really fun and uneventful day, trying some new slides, and making some great memories.  It was really nice to see them have a really good day, as opposed to some of the behaviors they had before, such as running away when they got stressed, this time they just worried about having a good time.  There is now one less resident at the Rockport I location, since one has now been released and is back at home.  This does not mean the job of the staff is over yet. When a resident is discharged, there are still required regular visits, to make sure they they stick to the good behaviors they exhibited while they were living at the house.  This is also true for any visit that is longer than one day.  I believe this is a great idea, because the kids need to learn that the same good behavior is expected of them after they leave the care of harbor family services.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What's up at Sparrow Arc

Shipping off to Boston:
The trusty old box truck in front of Crosstrax.
This week I purchased a bike so I don't have to carpool to work anymore. Instead I bike about 10 miles a day to and from the farm. It's a great wake up routine. Our starting times have been subject to change because of the hot weather. Some mornings start at 5am, others at 7am I personally like starting at 5 am to beat the heat and get our greens out of the field before they get wilty.

Greens bins waiting to be brought to washup.
I harvested broccoli leaves for the first time. I didn't know that broccoli leaves are edible, let alone very tasty. I brought a half pound of left over leaves home and cooked them like I would've kale and they turned out delicious. We've also begun harvesting more broccoli, broccoli leaves, squash, frisee, head lettuce, edible flowers, pea tendrils, and haikuri turnips to add to our late spring harvest. The additional crops are an exciting addition to our greens and radish harvests we've had the past few weeks.

Besides harvesting I've spent more time on the tractor harrowing in our leased fields in Burnham to prepare them for more plantings. We've almost filled one field in Burnham with heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, greens plantings, head lettuce, fennel, hot peppers, and a few brassica  successions.

I've also been spending time monitoring the pest situations in a few of our fields that are in production. The biggest problems being flea beetles on the greens, cucumber stripe beetles on the cucurbits, and Colorado potato beetles on our potatoes. We spent time hand picking potato beetles to see the severity of damage to the crops.

Beets and head lettuce ready for the field.
The greenhouse has been shuffling through plantings of head lettuces, brassicas, and our winter squash varieties. It's been a long hot week, but I'm excited for next weeks harvests when we should be getting a better squash crop going out to market!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

National Aviary - Week Three

This post is, well, a little past due I know. I was fortunate enough to be granted a mini vacation...So now that I am back on duty and taking care of my feathered family once again I shall fill you in on the past two weeks!

First things first, our animal programs trailer has been remodeled. There is new paint, carpet, furniture, and more chairs too! Now interns can actually sit and eat at a table...yes it is very exciting to me! We got to stay after work a few days and work on it with the other staff members. Pizza, good humor and some dirty paint covered clothes make a good time.

So I had an off experience the other day which I feel is necessary to share with all of the captive wildlife care and education folk either planning/or currently in an internship...The main point being people and signs. When a sign says that an animal may bite, it usually means, that it will bite you. One of our wattled currasows Joni seems to be a wonderful source of scary moments. She is a very large bird, and on a normal day doesn't mind being the main attraction for our guests. Joni will do things on her terms, so despite appearing completely comfortable around children grabbing at her and trying to chase her, she can have bad days too. Since we are mostly a free roaming facility for birds, the number one rule of the aviary is NEVER touch our birds.

I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated with the fact that no matter how many times I ask people to stop touching a bird, they still will do it. No matter how many warning signs you may put up, there will always be the one person who feels they are an exception. We all know how that ends up though...Well I caught a small child with his mother and her camera, hugging Joni. Little be said I was walking towards her, announcing they should stop what they were doing and let her be. Little child grabs hold of a tail feather and yanks it. Joni gave him the look of sheer retaliation, but I stepped between her and him in time, confronted the woman and asked her to please leave. Of course I got the blunt end of the stick, the woman was disgruntled and Joni was too. Like people, birds will exhibit a form of transferred aggression. For example someone is having a bad day, when their best friend approaches them upbeat and happy with a bright smile and chipper "How's it going?" Well grumpy old you snaps at them, thus leaving them in a bad mood too. Same applies here in this situation. Joni was stressed from being touched and having a delicate feather pulled. She knows better than to attack the public, so she takes it out on me, someone she can release the aggression towards. It hurts to get pecked by a currasow...Sometimes there is no way to make everyone happy.

I've been doing a lot of enrichment recently...Mostly for birds in my breeding center area, including the Rhinoceros hornbill, the golden conure and the magpie jay. During breaks I have been researching food preferences, natural behaviors, and more in order to perfect my most enriching ideas. To the right here, the Magpie Jay has gotten a hanging cardboard tube spinner. There are holes all over where he can pull tissues out to find superworms and his favorite nuts. He loves to pry at things, and to tug and pull so it provided him with a much needed change in the environment he is living in. Sometimes even the most simple of things can be enriching too. A handful of live crickets thrown into and exhibit can provide the birds with hours of stimulation apart from their daily experiences.

My routine changes to penguins and the eagles this week and I am very excited for a change up on my daily duties. Eventually I will be trained on every routine and able to switch regularly between them all when needed. The weather has been excruciatingly hot though, and that new routine includes a lot of outdoor chores which require wearing full jumpsuits and boots. Everything will feel weird after having the Marshland and grasslands routine hammered into my brain though. I love new challenges!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Week Two at Sparrow Arc Farm

The past week has been very busy since one of our workers left to canoe the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. The manager and I were very busy weeding summer carrots, planting a field of head lettuce, and preparing more land to be used in the coming weeks. We experienced a big set back with the amount of rain we've had in the Unity area the past week. When the rain was too heavy for outside work we took the weather as an advantage to do some greenhouse work.

               In the greenhouse we started our fall cabbage and kale crops for planting in our Burnham fields. We also plugged more shishito peppers, heirloom tomatoes, and heirloom Waldoboro turnips. I also worked on our weekly succession of brassicas and head lettuces that we seed throughout the season as well as seeding more baby leeks and scallions.
When the weather started clearing up I used the farm tractors to plow, harrow, and cultivate two fields in Unity and our new field in Burnham. I cultivated our brassica crops and potato fields to control weed pressure. The next day I took the New Holland to our Burnham field were I harrowed, when I had finished in Burnham I headed to Unity to plow and pick out big rocks in one of our fields with my co-worker Jaime. Once the fields were all prepped we  had a chance to put out a crop of popcorn, onions, and bush beans into one Unity field.

This week we harvested more cut lettuce, radishes, pac choi flowers, and chives. We were very excited to find that we had broccoli beginning to sprout!
At the start of this week we welcomed two new farm hands and one returning farm hand to Sparrow Arc. Hopefully we start to see some good weather in the near future.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Week Two - National Aviary

So far so good...two weeks down for my internship at the National Aviary. Got to tackle some new projects, began training, got more involved with the visiting public and have even taken on some new solo responsibilities as an intern. Safe to say the training wheels have been removed and the organization is putting my hours to use all around.

A lot has been shifted this week as far as my routine goes. Several birds have been relocated to different exhibits and the breeding center I overlook has lost & gained some new species. I now have a fire-tufted barbet, fruit doves, a mot-mot, and my buddy Mr. T the rhinoceros horn bill has moved away into his newly renovated home over in tropical forest (his girlfriend too)! The lorikeets also moved to a brand new exhibit all to themselves. It is huge with many perches and enrichment galore. Their previous room had no windows or access to natural light. Now it is equipped with a whole sky light window. Of course there needs to be a long adjustment period for the birds because they have never been able to see rain or clouds, or even planes ect. passing over head. At first, they were incredibly frightened but have loosened up a bit since the beginning of the week. I actually got to conduct my first few lorikeet feeding programs with visitors who get to hold the birds and feed them within some limitations. Definitely the highlight of this whole week for me. I completed training on handling, and protocol Wednesday afternoon and actually did a show immediately afterwards.

Aggression has elevated between me & the flamingos unfortunately. It's the time of the season when they begin to breed/construct nests around the exhibit. This has been making my job much more difficult than it needs to be. Caution has to be used 100% of the time, especially when individuals of the general public may see me within the exhibit doing chores. If I am attacked or accidentally threatened by the birds, a negative perspective could be given to my visitors. They are protecting a nest, so it's not they who are to blame. I have come to see the reality that while in their territory, anything that may result is inevitably my own responsibility.

Also to my dismay, my training with Winnie the crested orependola has also been hindered slightly by the season. She is currently sitting on an egg in her nest hanging within the wetlands exhibit. This means two things: She is absolutely loving the reinforcing worms she is receiving from the training sessions because she needs the extra food while tending to her nest and also that the training sessions are often times cut too short by her flying off, or other birds fussing with the nest. Thus very little progress can be made. My supervisor Dave still wants me to stick with it though but invites me to pick up another possible trainee if I find one I am compatible with. I was thinking about the hooded merganser. He is already very familiar with me and approaches on cue. If I look into it some more I may be able to find a natural behavior of his I could train for and use for the show.

This week I found time to explore other exhibits and sharpen my natural histories for all the birds. I have fallen in love with a breeding pair of white-crested laughing thrush. They are absolutely amazing, smart birds.

Next week Dave will be off for a few days, meaning I will have to tend to the routine all alone. Although it is a wonderful feeling to know I have earned that trust, it all gives me the chills from being nervous. I don't have an answer for all the guest questions, nor do I know everything that could be done or go wrong, or how to fix it. I am still learning and gaining my bearings on this new organization, but trust me when I say that it is things like this that teach me the most...and boy am I excited for Monday!!!