Saturday, June 25, 2016

Fuglebloggen Fra Follebu-Toppengård (Week 5)

It's almost the end of the field season for the summer and I can't help but feel a little sad that I won't be seeing these little birds every day. In about two weeks we will see the last of the European Pied Flycatchers fledge and that will be the end of it. I know I have said it many times before but I really can't believe that in just 18 days the chicks go from little, featherless blobs, to full on birds. It is a little bittersweet watching them grow and then saying goodbye since you know it will be the last time you get to measure them. On Friday, for instance, we measured a nest of Blue Tits that had ten chicks from start to finish, and when we got there on Friday one of the chicks had already left the nest, so we measured the nine others for the last time. It was really amazing to be able to see them change their colors from the juvenile brown/gray to a more blue tinted gray with the distinct white markings around their eyes. Hopefully all the chicks that have fledge and will fledge soon come back next year so their rings can be monitored and even more growth data be recorded. 

Most of the Flycatcher nests have between five and six chicks, but some have up to seven and others only four. We found a nest of seven arranged in a pretty organized fashion so that all of them had a chance to get food from their parents. These birds have a more speckled coloration when they are younger. The adult birds can be distinguished by their plumage. Males are black while females are a light brown. Both the male and female feed the chicks, although male Flycatchers are known to be polygamous, they will abandon the second female to help the first with their chicks. 

This post will be short as most of the work is winding down. There will be another short study done however which will be covered in the coming weeks. It's hard to believe that the internship is almost over! 

A Great Tit chick that was all grown and ready to Fledg

juvenile Great Tit wing, colors and patterns.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Unity College Heritage Barn : Week 5 : June 20th-24th

And the Countdown Begins... 

At the end of this week I will have completed 144 hours of my 180 hour internship! That means I will only have 36 hours left to work, only 2 weeks of work at the Barn left. I will be living on campus for the rest of the summer however so that barn has not seen the last of me!

This week we said goodbye to a bucket of chicks that we had grown very fond off but they are happy with their new homes so we wish them the best of luck.

Our bunnies officially turned 2 weeks old this week and their eyes opened on Monday morning! One small black bunny keeps escaping the nest box to try to hang out with his mama; we are quick to catch his escape and return him to the rest of the litter.

One of our male goats Waldo was starting to challenge us more and more when we were transitioning him out to the pasture in the mornings to we started a new technique involving a spray bottle filled with water; reminiscent of how people deter cats. So far it works very well and is less traumatic for him then yelling at him or chasing him around. He is a big boy with big horns so its nice to be able to work with a well behaved goat then one who trys to use his horns on you! Other than the transfer times Waldo is a very sweet boy who just wants a lot of attention and snacks!

Our female herds of sheep and goats both have young lambs and kids that need more time socializing with humans so we have started sitting in the pens with them and letting them get more comfortable with us. At the beginning they stayed far away but now they are beginning to approach us but they are still a bit shy.

I am going to try to absorb everything I can from the barn before my time is up I will hate to leave this awesome job; there are only a few things in life that I want to wake up early for and the Unity College Barn has definitely made that list! I am even guilty of habitually arriving at work 30 or so minutes early because I am too excited for the day to start.

Unity College Heritage Barn : week 1

I began my Unity College Captive Wildlife Care and Education Internship right here at the Unity College Livestock Barn.
I began work on Tuesday May 24th 2016 and finished my work week on Friday. My daily schedule looks like this;

  • 8:00am: Report for Duty at the Barn
  • 11:00am: Lunch Break
  • 1:00pm: Report for Duty at the Barn
  • 4:00pm: Done for the day

The am barn shift entails opening the barn and checking on all the animals (Katadin Sheep, San Clemente Goats, Silver Fox Rabbits, American Guniea Hogs, Golden Wyandotte Chickens) health and safety. Then the daily work chart is checked (see image) here is the code;

  • FC- Full Clean
  • SC- Spot Clean
This white board has the weekly work schedule for each animal herd
Each herd of animals usually is moved out to our different pastures (depending on weather and cleaning schedule). And then the stalls are cleaned and animals are fed. Wherever the animals are moved fresh water is provided. In between cleanings and pasture changing different animals are given enrichment, training, or exposure to socialization experiences. 
During parts of our work day members of the public will stop by to say 'hi' to the animals and usually we give them a short tour of the barn. 
This is the outdoor chicken enclosure 
Here is our indoor rabbit cage for our three silver fox rabbits (Indy is our male and Ziggy and Maizy are our females)
This is our indoor sheep pen (it had just been cleaned usually it has shavings spread on the floor and a few enrichment devices)
This is our indoor female goat pen (this pen was also being cleaned when the photo was taken and usually has shavings on the floor)
This is one of our outdoor pastures; all of the pastures can be used by any of the animal groups this one was being used by our female goat herd. 

Above is our storage shed inside is extra fencing, supplies, and our delivery of shavings
The pm barn shift usually involves moving the animals back into their night holding areas and also usually includes a special project (on the first day we got to groom the sheep, on Wednesday we castrated two lambs, on Thursday we got our bedding shipment which we had to off load into our storage shed, and on Friday we groomed our adolescent female goat Tilly). At the end of each day we complete a daily log to record all the work that was completed. 
This is our daily log binder that Autumn and I fill out at the end of each work day
Here is a close up of the blank log
Above are Meg (Left) and Autumn (right) holding a female sheep to pull her hair as it is time for their winter coats to come off and their short summer hair to be seen. The pulling of the hair is painless and allows the sheep to be much more comfortable out in the hot sun during the day. Its a lot like brushing a dog but instead we use our hands. 
This is Tilly pictured on one of our milking stations she is happily munching away on a bowl of grain; we had just finished grooming her so she was getting a special treat. 
But with any animal work somethings do not abide by our schedule for example on Friday when myself and Autumn (another Unity College Intern) returned from lunch we found out that a chicken had escaped the holding area by a hole in the fence! So we quickly made a plan and captured the hen and returned her to the fenced in area and spot mended the fence. 

Each group of animals at the barn has their pros and cons, but the pigs and I have become fast friends; they love getting back scratches! I am also quite excited because this next week we are expecting one of our female rabbits to have a litter of babies which will be a very cute adventure!
This is our youngest pig; soon he will be old enough to become the mate for our resident Female Penny. He is very sweet and will follow me around his pen as I work asking for back or head scratches and will lie on his side while being pet and snort happily. 
This is me giving Tilly a handful of grain prior to her getting groomed. 
It is only my first week on working at the barn; an I am still learning the work routine and taking my time to get to know the animals I cant wait to learn more. 

Unity College Heritage Barn : Week 4 (Georgia M.) June 13-17th

Growth and Learning !
This internship has been a truly amazing experience, I get to be very hands on and apply a wealth of knowledge that I have picked up through my time at Unity College. 

So far through this internship I have learned about containment strategies, pest control, animal transfers, maintaining health and safety records and so much more!And its all on the job learning so I always feel invigorated and challenged.

One special project this week was helping to shave the hair from some Angora rabbits! After we were done the rabbits were a bit cooler in the summer heat!

We also got to participate in a walk through with our schools IACUC committee (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) to make sure that the barn is doing everything possible to ensure animal welfare practicalities. We went through it all; from where we store chemicals, to hole in our fences. One of our committee members is head of the Captive Department Cheryl (pictured below)

This week the baby bunnies are a week old and growing fast! They are just adorable and really fun to watch squirm around. We have two Blue (a grey recessive coloration) and the other 6 are black (the dominant coloration). Our eggs are still incubating but they should be hatching in about 3 weeks and then we will have even more animals to take care of (I cant wait!). 

Until they arrive we will be helping to care for some chicks that will be going to the local food pantry as layer chicks. These little girls will only be with us for a few days then they will be off to forever homes! 

Unity College Heritage Barn : Week 3 (Georgia M.) June 6- 10th

What about new generations?

A big part of having a working barn is making sure that we always have a fresh supply of animals. Our heritage barn not only raises animals for education but also raises them for fur, meat, eggs, and pets.

Our chickens are used as egg layers (farm fresh indeed!), our pigs are raised for meat, our rabbits are raised for pets, meat, and fur, our sheep for show, and meat, and our goats can be raised as dairy goats or pets but mainly we just have them to keep the San Clemente Goat population strong.

This week at the barn we started to incubate just over 20 eggs we had collected from our chickens over the weekend! We learned how to operate an incubator; sadly our egg turner broke so we have to turn our eggs by hand every day.

We also candle the eggs periodically to ensure that they are developing throughout the growing period. Any eggs are have stopped developing will be discarded. Egg candling, is a process that involves holding a light under each egg to illuminate the air sac and growing embryo inside the shell. 

Ziggy one of our female rabbits recently gave birth to a litter! the baby bunnies are still very small and staying in the nest but all were born healthy and safe!

We will have to make sure that all the needs of the rabbits and chicks are met (food, water, heat, etc). Additionally we will be helping to get them used to human contact by handling them regularly. This can help make their lives much more relaxed later as both chickens and rabbits are usually approached by humans regularly it will be important that they are comfortable with human contact. 

Lars our youngest pig is growing and next year will hopefully be ready to mate with our resident female Penny. That means next years barn interns might get to help with some baby piglets! But for now I just get to give lots of belly rubs to Lars.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Fuglebloggen Fra Follebu-Toppengård (Week 4)

I was out sick for quite a while this week, but I still have news and pictures to post!

Tuesday we measured quite a few nests. It really is incredible how fast these little birds grow up. They start as tiny hairless things and a week or two later and they are full on feathered birds. I also realized I never really explained in full what it is we are doing, where we go, what it looks like and all that. So seeing as I was sick for most of the week I think this post would probably be the one where I describe some of that!

I know I have explained before we have multiple routes, they are named Our Beite, Peter's Beite, Torstein's Pasture, Peters Pasture, Along the Road, Forest 1, and Forest 2. There are a total of around 120 or so Nest Boxes along these paths, some are high up that require a small ladder to reach, some you can stand on nearby rocks, fences, or stumps to look in, others are in boggy areas where you have to hop on grassy patches so you don't sink into the deep mud. We climb up and down the mountain through stinging nettles, rocks, branches and more. There are giant ant hills here that if you take the time to stop and watch you can see the hill practically moving with activity. The ants can be aggressive too, some tuck their abdomen under themselves and charge towards you, and they will bite! They often build their hills at the bases of trees, a few are near trees that have boxes on them.

The purpose of this field research is to gather growth data of three Tit species (Great Tits, Blue Tits, and Coal Tits) as well as European Pied Flycatchers. The data is being recorded by Kathy and her husband Even and sent to their colleagues to be analyzed. We use Calipers to measure the chicks bill (Culmen is another name for it), head, and tarsus. Then we use a wing rule to measure their foot and wing lengths. We make regular nest checks to see how close the eggs are to hatching so that we can get our first measurement when the chicks are a day old and all hatched from their eggs. After that we go back every third or second day to measure again. We keep track of which chick is which by coloring their toes with nail varnish. The Blue Tits can have up to ten chicks in a nest so making sure the colors are redone each time is important so we don't mix up data on the chicks.

There have been a few times where the same color combination has been used on the chicks, there is one nest that had two chicks that were Red and Blue. And another nest wound up with three Blue and Yellow chicks. This can often be because the colors fade off of their toes by the time we go back to the nest so we have to compare the last measurements to the new ones to find which chick matches with the previous and new growth data.

I start my mornings by waking up around 5am to get ready for the day. I take the bus at 7am from Oyer to Follebu where Kathy meets me and we drive over to the field site. We usually have a cup of tea or coffee and discuss which routes we need to check and which nests need to be measured. We set off and make our rounds, stopping around noon for lunch, and hen continuing until all the work for the day is done. We then head back to enter the data and look it over before I head back down to the bus and head home.

We are also going to be studying nesting holes in trees around the study site, but that will be happening later. For now thats about it. The Tit species stay in Norway, but the Pied Flycatchers migrate from SubSaharan Africa. They migrate and nest later than the Tits do, so just now their nests have started hatching. There are only a few nests left that we are waiting for to hatch. The Flycatcher chicks definitely look a little different than the Tit chicks! I'll get more pictures to post of them for next weeks post!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fuglebloggen Fra Follebu-Toppengård (Week 3)

This week has been crazy! I have been preparing for a while now to work this week alone. My supervisor had a conference in London she had to fly to in which she was presenting on another research topic and would be gone for a good part of the week. Early in the week we measured the Coal Tits in Nest Box 100 for the last time. They were grown and ready to fly that day so we took our last set of measurements and said goodbye to them. It was incredible to be able to watch them grown from tiny little chicks into small birds ready to fly. New chicks were being hatched constantly which left us with 13 nests to measure chicks in. Some nests have up to ten chicks in them so measuring can take a long time, but as more nests hatch, more begin to fledge, or fly the nest.
The last picture of the Coal Tits in Nest 100 before they fledged!

We sadly discovered that the female Blue Tit who we had caught the previous week to check her band ID seemed to have either been killed or deserted her nest. When we went to check on her box there was a chick that was prematurely out of its egg, and out of the nest cup, or the indentation in the nest where the eggs are laid and the chicks lay in. There were blue feathers and cracked eggs. All signs that something had disturbed the nest and most likely killed the female Blue Tit and the eggs.

This Blue Tit chick weighs less than a gram!
Wednesday was the first day I was completely on my own. I had to come up with the routes before hand so I made sure that everything I needed to do that day got done. I loaded up with the GPS, a list of nests I had to check, a bag of equipment, and a ladder and set out. The first day wasn't bad, there were only three nests that had chicks that needed to be measured, each one was on a different route though. There are about five or six major routes, some include smaller branching routes. Luckily these three nests were somewhat close to one another so I measured the chicks (which were incredibly small, weighing in just barely above 1 gram, one weighed less than that).

It was Thursday that was the extremely busy day. I had to check all the nest boxes that had any signs of nesting in them, AND measure 11 boxes that had chicks in them. In total I worked for about 11 hours on Thursday. I was able to get a video of what a female Great Tit does when she feels her nest is being threatened. They puff up, tiff, and shake their feathers. We don't intend to provoke the parents, usually they fly out of the nest once we open it. Sometimes they stay put and do this kind of display, but after we gently coax them they fly out unharmed and return to their nests once we leave.
Female Great Tit guarding her chicks.

There were five nests that were banded (or ringed) between Thursday and Friday. There are surprisingly more Great Tit nests than both Blue Tit and Coal Tit combined, but the Pied Flycatchers are still laying eggs and building nests. There is one nest that has begun to hatch that belongs to a flycatcher. The Tit species all make their nests out of moss, sheep wool, and other soft materials. While Flycatchers make their nests out of bark and grasses, they also lay light blue colored eggs, which are much different than the white eggs with red spots that the Tits lay.
European Pied Flycatcher eggs beginning to hatch!

Friday I got the chance to measure the Field Farrows for the last time. There were only two in the nest when I measured them which means most likely that the third had already fledged, and left the nest. They were massive compared to the other birds we have been studying.
Field Farrow ready to fly the nest.

It was another fantastic week. The next few weeks there will be increasing amounts of work to do because most the the nests that haven't hatched yet are about to. Since it takes two to three weeks for a nest to fledge there will be a lot of work to keep up with.

This Great Tit nest was hatching when I checked it!

Earlier in the week (Monday) The three Field Farrows in the nest. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Unity College Heritage Barn : Week 2 (Georgia M) May 30th -June 4th

Goat enrichment device: Soccer ball, wooden stand for climbing with secret hay hideaways, and a pvc tube for hiding grain. 

As with all captive animals our domestic species at the barn need lots of attention and daily care to ensure that they have healthy enriching lives. Part of our job as interns as you read from my last post is cleaning up the stalls and pens where the animals live; but that isn't all we do!
Each group of animals has daily enrichment that they are given to stimulate them in different ways (physically, cognitively, sensory etc.) The barn staff, myself included is in charge of creating and maintaining enrichment for the animals on a weekly basis and making sure that it is appropriate for the species but also the individuals (example chickens get mad at the color red, and our goats will try to climb on things so we have to make sure anything we put in with them is sturdy).

Sometimes enrichment can be built into an animals enclosure (for example our pigs have their own wading pool, all of our hoof stock have hay feeders, and the texture of the outdoor pastures can also be enriching to all of our animals).
One of our goats standing near an enrichment device placed out in a pasture. They love to climb on this and the baby goat kids can fit inside the litter door. 

This week we gave our chickens a tube filled with grain that we poked holes in! They all were very interested but they didn't quite figure out how to use it; sadly we left the tube out in the rain and it was less than waterproof!

We also gave our used previously made goat enrichment devices that consist of wooden platforms with PVC pipes, and brushes attached to them. The pipes are filled with grain that the goats have to work to get and the brushes are great for scratching up against. The wooden platforms are awesome for all the goats to climb on!
This is the enrichment device without any food added to it. It provides a great place for the goats to perch and jump from. They can also scratch themselves on the bristles. 

This is the the same enrichment device outfitted with natural edible branches!

Our Pigs can be a bit tricky they are really food motivated but they are also very destructive so if something is between them and food it will most likely be destroyed; the good news is the pigs have a blast tearing things apart!
This is our pig pen inside we have a bunch of things that we rotate in and out. Pictured here are a soccer ball and a plastic tube. 

The barn crew has the most fun figuring out fun enrichment for our rabbits; this week we made some simple enrichment devices out of cardboard tubes and hay string. We hung the tubes and filled them with hay grass, and grain. The rabbits are loving the new cage addition!
This is Ziggy checking out her enrichment ladder (we refill it every day with her usual amount of hay and grass that we used to just leave on the floor of her cage)

This is Ziggy digging in her dirt pan. When Maizey has the dirt pan she likes to use it as a litter box, and when Indy has it he likes to jump in and out of it all day. 

Our sheep are a bit tricky to please they are very wary of new things and so we have to be really thoughtful about what we put in their space. We decided on a paper mache hay ball. The sheep at first were a bit frightened of the new toy but soon one brave sheep investigated and discovered the treats inside in less than a few minutes the ball was torn to bits and the sheep were happy as could be.

Make sure if you have animals in your care that you are meeting their needs not just in terms of food and sanitation but also in terms of enrichment; it only takes a few minutes to really give animals a good time!