Clean-up.

Saturday was the annual Macbride Raptor Project clean-up day, and for as much as I was dreading it beforehand, I ended up having a very good time.

The day began at 9am. It was sunny and a bit cool but when I started cleaning out Spirit (the bald eagle)’s cage, I got warm real quick. I raked the debris from the gravel, scraped old poop from the walls, and removed mouse/pig/quail/etc. guts, and I swiped a couple of gross little “presents” for my friend Paula, whose birthday was this weekend. When the crew came in with the power washers, I then repeated the process in two or three other cages, none of which were (thankfully) as gross as the eagle’s.

After that I helped clean and spread mulch in the butterfly garden, which was interesting because I hardly ever go over there. Not once in my visits have I ever seen a butterfly in or around the butterfly garden. But now, since I am always one to take pride in my work, I might have to pay that place a visit and admire the finely spread mulch and leaf-less trail.

While in the butterfly garden, I helped some of the environmental education teachers (who were helping us make the MRp sparking clean) re-build the log structure for the butterflies to hide in. We must have disturbed a nest of baby mice, as we found one crawling along one of the logs and one scrambling along the ground. They were incredibly tiny – they were soft gray in color and their eyes weren’t even open yet. When I held the little fella in my hand, he began squeaking teeny tiny little squeaks that broke my heart. We surveyed the area and didn’t see any others, so I picked up the one on the ground and placed him near the other mouse. One of the teachers gathered some pine needles and dry grass and tried to make a little protective nest for the mice inside the log structure. I hope neither of them become dinner for a hungry raptor…but in a place like that, where mice are featured nightly on the menu, it’s hard to be optimistic. At least I had a hand in helping them be safe for the day.

Lunchtime came and went all to quickly, and after that I got back to work mulching, hammering, hanging signs, and replacing the Astroturf on some of the owls’ perches. I learned a valuable lesson about poultry nails, and that lesson is that poulty nails are good for two things: frustration and injuries. I hope to never encounter another poultry nail as long as I live.

I ended up saying long after most of the other volunteers had left and I had one objective: to put Petra back in her cage. I only mentioned it about 10 times during the day to anyone who might have delegation powers when it came to putting all the birds back once the cages were clean, but I hung around by her little box to make sure nobody else jumped at the chance. After putting Otus, the long-eared owl, and the armpit biter great horned owl from the flight cage back to their respective homes, I got Petra leashed up and she rode so sweetly on my hand back to her cage like the wonderful little darling that she is. This year, I had the presence of mind to have someone snap a photo:

 

So much love!: Petra (Northern Saw-whet owl) and me

So much love!: Petra (Northern Saw-whet owl) and me

Thanks again to Steph for agreeing to be my photographer. It was truly the highlight of my day.

I ended up leaving the MRP around 5pm, which means I put in a good solid 8 hours of manual labor. Like I said, though, despite all the hard work I had a really good time. I did a lot more this year than I did last year and talked to a lot of different people who I hadn’t talked to before, including a woman who is writing a book on owl rehabilitators. I gave her my email address and hopefully she will contact me to be part of her project. After pizza and a glass of wine when I got home, I was dead to the world. I fell asleep on the sofa, and dreamed little feathered owl dreams.

 

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