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.

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