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!!!

1 comment:

Diane said...

Hi Alex,

I'm so glad you have the chance to work with tropical birds - I'm a big fan, as you know, especially after spending a bit of time in Monteverde, CR. I had the chance to see most of the species you name here, but not "close up and personal" as your contacts seem to be. Keep up the good work.