I went easy on the birds yesterday during our rehab session.  Why?  Because it was about 95 degrees here in Iowa.  Doesn’t that happen later in the summer, like late July or August?  Summer certainly isn’t wasting any time this year.  The day after the solstice and it’s already so hot that even going outside to fill the bird feeder is like spending a moment in hell, if hell was incredibly sunny.

Anyway.  It was so hot yesterday that all I wanted a smooth, easy rehab session that would begin with the birds jumping willingly into my arms, then doing their respective 5 perch-to-perch (P-Ps) flights, and once again flying straight to me so I could put them back in their cages.   If you bet $1 million that none of that happened, then congratulations – you won.  You will receive your check 10 days from…never.

The Cooper’s hawk was immediately stubborn about being caught.  He flew up into the higher parts of his cage – the parts I can’t reach – and stayed there.  I sighed very loudly at him to let him know just how exasperated I was, as the sweat began to cascade down my cleavage.  I left his cage in hopes that my not being there would prompt him to fly to a more reachable spot, but he stayed put.  After what seemed like an hour, but was probably more like 2.5 minutes, he decided to come down.  I snatched him off his perch and he put up more of a fight than usual.  Thankfully he’s a little guy, so keeping a handle on him wasn’t hard.  We started out on several successful P-P flights, but once he missed his perch he had difficulties getting enough elevation to land there again.  He ran-flapped down the length of the flight cage a few times, with me following behind him going, “Pfff…sigh…” and such.  Finally he decided to shape up and he resumed his P-Ps.  

He was panting heavier than I’ve ever seen him pant before – his tongue was hanging about an inch out of his mouth.  Here he is, panting his little bird-heart out:

Gosh its hot!  Why dont you leave me alone, lady?

"Gosh it's hot! Why don't you leave me alone, lady?"

I made sure to give him sufficient rest time between flights since it was offensively hot and he seemed to not respond well to the heat.  I know I don’t.  The moment the temperature rises above about 87 degrees, I am rather unpleasant to be around.  The moment the COHA completed his 5 P-P flights, I scooped him back up and put him back in his cage so  I could move on to the red-tailed hawk with the air-sac injury.  Normally we would want to keep the bird flying to see how long he can go before getting tired, but it was so hot that I know neither he nor I were interested in doing more than necessary.

The red-tailed hawk (RTHA) is one wild bird.  Of course all the birds I rehabilitate are wild, but this RTHA doesn’t let you forget it for a moment.  She won’t let me get close enough to get a decent photo, but that’s a good thing – that’s what we want.  The moment I come near her, she flies off.  But like I said, this is what wildlife rehabilitation is about.  She, too, was very stubborn about being caught (but she always is).  When I was finally able to reach up and grab her leg as she sat on her perch, she immediately used her other foot to grab my right wrist and did not let go.  Though it was 95 degrees, I added a sweatshirt layer over my tank top before catching her because her feet tend to go every which way and I can’t really see where they’re going because I’m trying to keep from getting flapped in the face by her almost 5 foot wingspan.  Even with the added protection of the sweatshirt and the leather falconer gloves that come almost halfway to my elbows, her grip was impressive and painful.  I’m actually surprised she didn’t break the skin through two layers.  When I moved my right arm/wrist/hand in the slightest, she tightened her grip and I winced each time…but I did not let go.  I pity any small critter who finds himself there.  It’s not a comfortable place to be.

She performed beautifully, as usual.  Since it was so hot, I kept a close eye on her breathing and gave her long rest periods between flights.  Just as I did with the COHA, I did not press for more than 5 P-P flights due to the weather.  I could tell she was tired at the end because she let me approach her and I was able to easily catch her off the perch.  I’d like to think she was thankful for a short session, but I know she was just mad at me for having the audacity to come near her in the first place.  

She tilted her head back and gave me the stink eye as I carried her back to her cage.  I wish I could explain to the birds what I’m doing and why.  Actually, I do – so I guess I wish they could understand me.  Maybe on the day they’re released, they understand.  If I ever meet a bird I’ve released, I’ll ask him and let you all know.


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