Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Day in the Life

Good morning everyone!  Oh, but it's evening for you, isn't it?  I just wanted to share my observations from today, all the ins-and-outs of what went on at the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program today.  I kept this blog entry going all day long, so it should be accurate.  Today was a normal, average "day in the life", but not many of you know what a "day in the life" entails, so here we go!


6:45 am  The first Human arrives at the RMRP.  I've been awake all night, so I'm ready to head to bed, but the diurnal Humans are just getting started.  Technically, the morning shift (called "AM treatments") doesn't start until 7:00 am, but there's almost always a dedicated and hard-working staff member who wants to check on all of us while it's still quiet and calm at the Center.  Right now the field outside my cage is still, occasionally shifting in the morning breeze, and the robins and chickadees are just starting to call out with their calls of  "cheerio!", "chik-a-dee-dee-dee", and "cheeseburger!"

7:00 am  Everyone else arrives, by which I mean a few volunteers (between two and five of them, some old hands, some trainees), and a few summer interns.  The first time I see a Human today is about 7:05 am with Morning Bird Check.  Every time a new treatment (shift) begins, someone visits every single cage and makes sure the birds are okay.  The same thing happens at the end of the treatment.

7:15 am  Humans begin cleaning cages.  Right now there are two or three Humans in various cages, cleaning the walls, perches and gravel with hoses or buckets of water and disinfectant.  Then the Humans leave food in the cages for the birds, and leave them in peace for the rest of the day....

8:00 am  ...except when the bird needs medical care!  Birds in the outside cages are on weigh schedules to make sure they get a good, thorough going-over periodically.  This way the Humans can catch any problems before they become big issues, and they can better track the progress of birds who are in the healing process.  Around this time in the morning I can hear Humans going into the rehab cages to catch and examine the birds who are due for examination.  I often hear exclamations of "Wow, you're feeling better!" and mutterings of "One left wing primary blood quill number four...keel is a solid three...no foot wounds..." etc as they complete their examinations.  But for the most part it is quiet...the Humans don't want the wild birds to become accustomed the Human presence.

7:00-10:00 am   Meanwhile, inside the building... I can't see what's going on in there, but I know the gist after many years here.  There are Humans preparing food for the rest of the birds, busy in the kitchen with knives and scissors and thawed chickens and rabbits and mice.  There are Humans taking care of the Critical Care birds, the ones requiring close attention and daily care in the early stages of healing.  The staff members are filtering in to take care of all manner of administrative tasks--fundraising, accounting, medical records, scheduling, etc--, and volunteers are manning the phones to field calls from other Humans with information on injured Raptors all over the state.  It's a busy time of day.

10:00 am   Now that morning treatments are winding up (final bird check!), I can hear the sounds of other treatment crews arriving.  The sun is now out in full and the sky is clear.  Robins are busy eating bugs and worms in the field, and the resident Red-Tailed Hawks are screaming overhead.  One of them above me right now is a kid we released this year!  He was found in the adjacent neighborhood, cowering under a car and unable to fly well enough to survive.  He's now cruising above, screaming louder than the rest of his family combined.  The other treatment crews that are arriving right around now: Eagle Crew (to take care of the educational eagles at our secondary facility, the Environmental Learning Center); ELC crew (taking care of the hawks and vultures at the same facility); E1 crew to take care of the educational birds here at this facility; and individual Special Handlers to take care of the new and/or Special Needs birds here at the RMRP.  There are Humans moving around everywhere now, but all quietly and happily.  I hear Human laughter in a nearby cage as an Educational Ambassador does something unexpected, and the sounds of a Human coaxing a bird onto a scale.

11:15 am  This morning's E1 Crew is ready to take care of me!  For the third time today, a Human slides open the window to my cage and peeks in.  I see her eyes locate me, then search the rest of the cage for anything of concern:  where's my food?  Are there any hazards?  Did I do something unexpected last night, like break a blood quill?  She looks satisfied, and closes the window.  A few minutes later she comes in with a rake, bottle of disinfectant, a wad of paper towels, and a hose.  Within a few minutes my cage is spick-and-span, and I'm waiting for one of two things:  is today a weigh-day, or just a food-drop day?

11:30 am  Another Human looks in my window.  I recognize this one as a Human who as worked with me many times before.  His voice is familiar, as are his movements and even his footfalls in the hallway.  Despite feeling comfortable, I hiss and clack my beak at him when he comes in--after all, he can never forget I'm a wild animal!  But the process is familiar: he jesses me, weighs me, makes sure I'm healthy and happy, then brings me outside for awhile to enjoy the sunshine.  Even as a nocturnal bird, I can't refuse a beautiful day.  The chickadees are still ordering cheeseburgers, and the leaves in the cottonwoods are shifting in mesmerizing patterns.  Other Humans walk by us, and I hiss and clack at each accordingly.

12:00 noon:  Back in my cage!  I settle in for a lazy afternoon, but the world around me never rests.  Wild birds, captive birds, Humans and even insects keep my world alive and interesting.  I eavesdrop on birds in other cages, and the occasional Humans that walk by talking about the injured and rehabilitating birds--that's where I learn the bulk of the information I put on this blog.

2:30 pm   It's all pretty quiet around here.  All of the crews are done and gone home, and the final treatment of the day has yet to come.  The sun is easing westward over the foothills, and clouds are building nearby.  Will there be a storm?

3:00 pm   Yes, there will be!  The sky turns grey, the wind picks up and whips around the field, shoving waves of grass before it and throwing leaves against the cage walls.  Rain begins the pelt down, and even though I have two sheltered places in my cage where I could retreat, I stay on my more exposed perch and enjoy the chill of the summer storm.  In other cages I can hear birds either taking shelter in their A-frames, or settling in on their perches to bear the weather like me.

3:45 pm   All over!  Storms don't often last long here, but the ground is dotted with rain puddles, and the light outside is golden and soft.

4:05 pm   Final treatment begins!  Another Human comes around to check on me, making sure I'm still doing fine.  I'm wet but content, and I clack at the Human in the window.  I can hear other Humans cleaning cages next door, and a small group of Humans mobilizing to catch a cage full of immature Great Horned Owls in one of the large flight cages. The birds are due for a check-up to make sure they're healthy and progressing normally.  Inside the building, more critical care birds are being treated for their injuries.

4:50 pm   Hooray! Someone came in and left half a rat and a chunk of rabbit on my feeding perch!  Even though I'm hungry, I don't show the Human that I'm excited.  I merely hiss and clack in the usual way, and glare at the Human until he leaves. I'll eat in just a little bit...

5:10 pm   Nom nom nom nom nom!!!

6:02 pm  Final bird check!  The Humans have officially cleaned every single occupied cage at the RMRP (and there are a lot right now!), and cared for every single bird--educational, rehab, diurnal, nocturnal...everybird.  The hose is coiled and put away, every cage is locked and secured, and live mice are scampering around inside one of the rehab cages next door--someone is training to catch their own dinner tonight.  I hear the back door to the Center click shut, and the sounds of Human voices in the parking lot out front.  Everyone is gone.

9:00 pm   All is quiet here, now.  The sun is setting to the west, and a full moon is rising to the east.  Wide awake now, I hoot at the moon and the rustling leaves.  It's good to be alive.




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