Keep Your Shirt On

So a few weeks ago a finder called about a small owl that he had seen get hit by a car.

“Okay, I will see you at Earth Fare in an hour.” I hung up the phone just in time to see my kid (she’s a kid I home school) skidding across the hardwood floor and pounding up the stairs to her mother.

“Mommy, mommy!” She gasped out of breath from the exertion and excitement. “We’re going to Earth Fare to get an EASO (pronounced e-so)!”

Wait, I never invited her to come pick up an owl from a finder in a town thirty minutes away on snow-covered roads. I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with the kind of responsibility that came with someone else’s child in your backseat.

I heard her mom calling down, “Okay guys, just be safe when you go.”

Well, it’s settled, and shortly after that, we headed out to pick up an owl. It’s January and that means that it is EASO season. In wildlife rehabilitation, we abbreviate species by their names. Reptiles and mammals are abbreviated by their scientific name. EASO is an Eastern Screech-owl. When the finder said he had a midsize owl, I assumed that in all likely hood it was going to be a screech-owl.

After a long forty minute drive of being asked about shock collars, we blessedly arrived. I claimed the owl from the finders and hurriedly answered all of their questions, eager to get in the car to open the box. Like a kid on Christmas, I just wanted to open the box and see what kind of owl it was.

When I got back to my car with the box my kid excitedly began to pepper me with questions, “Is it an EASO? Is it okay? How hurt is it?”

So we slowly picked up the lid and peeked into the box, it wasn’t an EASO. It was a Barred Owl, a very small barred owl.In the raptor world, the females are larger and the males are smaller. Looking at my kid, “It’s a barred owl, a BDOW. Congrats it’s a boy!”

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“He is sooooo cute!” She exclaimed in a teary voice.

“Alright, we have to run by Walmart real quick and then we’ll head back and check him in,” I told her since I was already in town might as well pick up supplies I can’t get where I live.

She nodded seriously, “Sounds like a plan.”

Never take a six-year-old to Walmart. Every single item that had Frozen on it we had to stop and look at it. Though the experience took a strange turn when I finally got annoyed and firmly said, “We have to hurry we have an owl in the car.”

“Oh yeah!” She remembered. “And he is soooo cute!”

The man standing next to us looked over curious. Guess, he doesn’t hear that excuse too often.

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We finish our shopping and start to head back to the wildlife center. About five minutes into the drive she leaned up to the passenger seat where the box was. Noticing the black shirt on top of the box for the first time she asked, “That’s his shirt, right?”

Nodding, “Right, he didn’t have anything to catch the owl with at the time he found the owl. So he used his shirt to catch the owl, and now the shirt is keeping the box closed.”

She paused, thinking for a moment, I could tell we were in for another long drive. “Well, I guess it’s a good thing he took off his shirt! Right?”

Nodding again, “Right, it’s a good thing.”

“It’s a good thing his wife didn’t take her shirt off, right?”

Nodding, “Right.”

The gears in her head were slowly turning and then she had vomit of the mouth and spit out everything in a string of rapid thoughts and questions. “Because girls can’t take off their shirts in public because they have private parts on their chest, but boys can because they don’t have private parts on their chest, but they do have nipples, just no private parts, but boys should still keep their shirts on even though they don’t have private parts.”

Struggling not to fall apart laughing and  trying to stay focused on the icy road in front of me, I simply said, “Right, everyone should just keep their shirts on.”

Nodding, she matter of factly agreed with me, “Right, keep your shirt on.”

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We’re giving the owl fluids in this picture because he was dehydrated. 

Arriving at the center we didn’t find any major injuries but he did appear slightly neurologic. Which is common for owls hit by a car. To keep my kid entertained throughout the boring process of paperwork for a new patient and the exam I handed her my phone. Big mistake! When I finally got it back I had almost fifty photos of me and my co-worker checking in the owl.

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So yesterday I remembered this when I was down at the center yesterday and I took some photos and a video of the owl for my kid. When I showed the video of the owl flying she got excited because the owl couldn’t fly when we first got the owl.

“He’s just soooo cute! And look he’s flying!” She took off skidding across the floor with my phone. Cringing I hoped she didn’t drop my already cracked phone. “Mommy! Mommy! Look my owl is flying now! The BDOW can FLY!”

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My phone still clutched in her hand she began to flap her ‘wings’ emulating an owl.

BDOW Flight

I only wish that I could bottle up her enthusiasm and passion for saving the world one owl at a time and dose all of the people I encounter who lack sympathy for the world.

Daily Word Prompt: Yellow

Yellow

Yellow Yellow Yellow

“Yellow shines with optimism, enlightenment, and happiness. Shades of golden yellow carry the promise of a positive future. Yellow will advance from surrounding colors and instill optimism and energy, as well as spark creative thoughts.”

-From sensationalcolor.com

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Just a yellow fuzzy caterpillar that happened to be chilling on the sidewalk last spring. 

In Jamaica A/C is a luxury so many buildings like this school, as sections of walls that allows for ventilation. These ornate designs were on many of the buildings, and I wish we had them in America.

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I love the colors of the Goldenrods against the blue backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

via Daily Prompt: Yellow

Running With Scissors

 

Literally, Nelson took off with a pair of scissors and went running with them. The gal I am teaching on how to train Nelson had a pair of scissors fall out of her pocket while in the room with him, and of course Nelson noticed it and probably thought, “Oh, SHINY! MINE! MINE!”

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Image from comandress.com. This a lovely photo I found on Google. I think it captures the inquisitive nature of crows beautifully.

At one point the gal with me in the room attempted to regain possession of the scissors but he wasn’t going to give them back without a fight. So we let him run to see what he would do with them, and of course, like any good corvid, he cached them under the newspapers. Below is a link to the video, and no crows were harmed in the making of that video!

Crow Antics

Interesting, fun fact is that the notion that corvids are attracted to shiny objects and caching them is more folklore than science. Most corvids do not have an affinity for shiny objects. Research has been conducted on this matter and it found that the majority of corvids in both in captivity and in the wild did not show an affinity for shiny objects. In fact, many were more hesitant of shiny objects. For example, corvids fed with shiny bowls were less likely to take the food. Now Nelson is imprinted, meaning he thinks people are his family. I have found through three years of observation that Nelson most definitely has an attraction to shiny things. But most of all Nelson has an attraction to anything that you want. For example, he knew the scissors belonged to the gal and when she attempted to reclaim them, it made the steal that much more fun because she was “playing back.” The scissors were both shiny and something we wanted so it made for a delightful steal. Hey, he’s like a child, sometimes your just glad that for one minute their entertained and not destroying the house! Corvids are like children or dementia patients they all have their favorite obsession. I’ve heard of a crow once in Florida that loved stealing golf balls, which doesn’t enhance the survival chances of that crow any. Unless that crow found some use that we don’t know yet for golf balls.

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We put some night crawlers in a bowl of water as enrichment. Nothing says fun like bobbing for worms or taking a bath in water that just had worms floating in it! One of Nelson’s favorite activities is bathing in water and because of the temperature, we took away his giant bowl of water outside. He is supposed to be one of the smartest bird’s in the world and yet he hasn’t figured out that when it’s cold you shouldn’t take a bath. I have walked out to him once and he had taken a bath and his feathers had frozen to his body. Let’s just say he was not a happy camper.

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The center I work at is a part of my minor for college and currently, I now have four students who are learning how to train ambassadors working under me. It was fitting that Nelson went running with scissors today because I feel like I am running with scissors when I train with the students. I have trained animals ranging from dogs to opossums to hawks, but I have never taught someone how to train an animal. I can only hope that I don’t tell them the wrong thing!

Right now I am focusing on teaching them the correct diet for crows. Since crows are omnivores and opportunistic they will eat almost anything. It is critical in captivity that crows receive variety, so often I have seen handlers fall into the routine of feeding the same thing every day because it is easy, it doesn’t require thought. To train Nelson I use all the good food like crickets, mice, fish, and egg as rewards for doing desired behaviors. At least Nelson provided great entertainment to my weekend. He is a joy to work with if you can keep up with his antics!

 

Backup Backup Plan

Owls are a master of defense when danger occurs. It is almost comical watching a small owl trying to appear bigger and intimidating.  Screech-owls are so good at defense that they have a backup for their backup backup plan.

Here’s how to defend yourself from an attacker like a screech-owl:

Plan A: First when a predator or attacker first spots you, stick up your ear tufts and suck in your body to appear really skinny. Then simply lean into the tree… there’s nothing here but a tree! If said tree is unavailable simply skinny yourself and sit completely still. Oh and don’t forgot to squint your eyes! Eyes that big will give you away but you don’t want to close your eyes and become blind to the oncoming attack.

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Image from http://travel.nationalgeographic.com

Plan B: Darnnit Plan A wasn’t enough to deter the attacker time to pull out the bigger than life trick. This involves puffing yourself up twice as big and swaying back and forth. While you slay you must clack your beak and hiss loudly. Though some shy owls skip this step and jump straight to Plan C.

Bean and Oz, two of our Eastern Screech Owl ambassadors. See how big Bean is puffed up? Oz is only slightly puffed up. Bean is new and still learning that we aren’t going to hurt him.

Plan C: The attacker is still heading straight for you! Quick utter the terrifying screech that you are so famous for! Many have compared this sound to the scream of a mountain lion or a baby crying in terrible distress.

red-easo-peeking_zps8qupfaoi Red Eastern Screech Owl, who has thankfully completed his parasite treatment and is preparing for release!

Plan D: Some attackers are not frightened by their dinner screaming at them, now’s the time to perform your most important acting role of your life. Drop dead! Well, pretend you are dead. This trick always works, who wants dinner that has disappeared, grew bigger, screeched, and then died?

Brown Eastern Screech-owl is very unhappy to be in rehabilitation. If only we could tell him that we aren’t the bad guys!

Now if you follow all of these steps you will ensure your survival as a very small owl in a very big world. Remember you must go through all of these steps in less than a minute for it to have optimal results.

Eastern Screech Owl

Photo Challenge: Repurpose

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Wildlife rehabilitators appear to be hoarders since we will accept almost anything as a donation and we hold onto EVERYTHING because you never know when it might be repurposed for something we need.

Here are hummingbird feeders made out of disposable syringes. The syringes are single use, but we go through as many as 10 in one day, what a waste! So we paint the tip red and call it a nectar feeder.

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As you can see in this Eastern Box Turtles cage, there are several repurposed items. We cut old pots in half and then use them as a shelter for the turtles since they hold moisture really well. We also get a lot of donated baby food and jar lids, which make a great plate!

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We had one donator who had started knitting as a hobby, except all of the hats she had made were too small to gift to anyone, so she gave them to use. Nothing like a knitted hat fitted into a strawberry basket to make a nest!

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My favorite repurpose of all is one of our long-term patients, “Duck Duck.” To make a beak splint for her we use old rubber gloves. Some of them came with holes in them or were donated by hospitals or medical companies that they could no longer use for various reasons.

via Photo Challenge: Repurpose

Daily Word Prompt: Filter

“Oh my God,” I muttered, the words slipping out of my mouth before I could consciously register the impact of those three words.

The small groupomg of third graders I was tutoring at the moment became utterly silent. Ironically it was the first time I got them to actually be quiet and pay attention. Then they gasped in horror gaping at me. Low murmurs arose, “You just said the Lord’s name in vain!”

Backpedaling, I struggled to amend what I had said and regain my place of authority as a teacher. After receiving an admonishing lecture from my students and they had received my promise to respect the Lord’s name, the tutoring blessedly continued.

The words had slipped out in response to a student who had said something inappropriate and in return, I had said something that crossed the line of appropriateness. In fact, my words had broken one of the Ten Commendments. The same Ten Commandments that have absolute rule over the rural Southern Appalachian town I live in. A town where the locals are loyal, kind, and above all God fearing folk.filter

I knew that learning to be a teacher also meant learning how to filter my words but the filter is not the same in every town, in every school. It was a harsh lesson to
learn but one that I will never forget. That was over one year ago, and I am proud to say that my filter has been refined and that phrase has not been uttered again in the presence of my students.

Image from http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3oc1a3 and http://nancybethguptill.blogspot.com/2015/06/choose-your-words-wisely.html.

via Daily Prompt: Filter

The Joy of a Dog

 

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Picture from http://messages.365greetings.com

When my parents begin thinking about having a child, their first thought was to get a dog and if they successfully raised the dog without killing it than they would have a kid. I’m not sure if kids and dogs equate as the same thing when it comes to parenting but I sure am glad they didn’t kill the dog! That dog was Loki, named after the god of mischief. And mischief she was, she was part chow and part lab, in other words, part aggressive and full of disdain for people and part playful and loving. My parents brought me home from the hospital to a jealous fur child. Loki finding herself “replaced,” growled at me all night. My father, who never really has been a dog lover, immediately threatened to get rid of the dog. Mind you as a puppy the dog had eaten all of his shoes and was now growling at his new child. My mother insisted it would work out. My mother was right, Loki begrudgingly became my best friend as I wormed my way into her heart.

 

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It was the Christmas of 2004 when I was only eight, that I first learned what heartbreak was. We had traveled to Missouri for Christmas, and two days before Christmas sitting in a hotel in St. Louis, my neighbor called my mother. The news wasn’t good, a tumor we didn’t know about had ruptured in her stomach. It was then hundreds of miles from home we said goodbye.

Pulling into the driveway a week later, the house looked different. And as we walked up to the door, the house sounded different. I had never come home to a silent door, there was always ferocious growls and throaty barks. A terrifying sound to strangers, but a comforting sound of home to me. The worst part was walking into the house and no one greeted us.

Three months later I looked at my mother, “I can’t stand this empty house! Let’s get a dog right now!”

I guess my mother couldn’t stand an empty house either or she didn’t feel like fighting me that day, or it could have been both of those reasons. She drove me to the Humane Society, “just to look.”2007-march-27

I found a puppy that day, she was one of the ugliest mutts I have ever seen and she was perfect. My mother half willing and half unwilling filled out the paperwork figuring that it would take weeks before we would find out. That night at dinner the Humane Society called us, we had a dog. The look on my father’s and sister’s faces showed mixed emotions considering they were unaware we had started looking for a new dog and my father was opposed to a new terror in the house.

She came home the next day and was instantly nicknamed, “Muttface,” by my father. For two weeks, Muttface learned to use the stairs and adapt to family life. Right off the bat, we realized that the puppy was more like a cat… she didn’t do anything but sleep!

Then by the third week, she was officially named Dingo because she didn’t bark just like wild dingoes. And Dingo became our newest family member. We still debate her genetic makeup but one breed is obvious and that is the medium sized greyhound known as a whippet. We also agree that she has some German Shepherd, but it’s all in the looks because Dingo is the laziest guard dog who sleeps on the job. Like a typical greyhound/whippet, Dingo became a one person dog, my dog.

One of my favorite memories of her was about a month after getting her. We had gone out for dinner that night and we arrived home to an overly excited puppy with a two-inch butcher knife clutched in her mouth. She was coming straight for us with the sharp end facing us. Oh great, our new dog is about to accidently kill us all!

Now she is almost twelve years old and I fear that the time of heartbreak is near and I wonder why we bother falling in love with such short-lived animals. Then I remember all of the joy I receive every time I think about all of the adventures we have been on, all of the trips I dragged her on despite Dingo being a homebody who never wants to go anywhere, the lazy tail wags when you walk in the door as she lays in her bed watching you, and the rare nights when we cuddle and fall asleep together. I have had three dogs in my life, and life without dogs is unfathomable. Life without dogs is bleak and gray. Dogs are the one individual you can turn to and always find a great listener, loyal best friend, and someone who is always happy to see you. Sharing your life with a dog is one of the greatest joys in life.

 

Daily Word Prompt: Devastation

What Was

A rhino lays slain
Its horn hacked to a bloody stump
Driven by ancient Asian myths

Skies empty of large winged beauties
Pinned to a board for greedy collectors
Who claim to love butterflies

Sharks swimming without fins
Hopelessly drowning
All for a delicate soup

Buffalo slaughtered into oblivion
To cloth the latest trend
Survivors are shaggy ghost of what remains

Prized snakes snatched
Breed to rare exotic specifications
Sold to a collection

Elephants fall to their knees
As bullets rain down
Their magnificent ivory  stolen from them

Grizzlies murdered are left rotten
Their stomachs are torn open
Once a gall bladder, now an empty hole

It’s the biggest mass murder in the world
Magnificent African savannas and Asian rainforests empty of horns
Skies no longer dotted with tiny rainbows
The bloddy ocean is missing a few fins
The legendary buffalo is all tales of the days
Grounds empty of slithering hisses
An African bush feels lonely without giants
Toy shelves filled with bears serves as a reminder of what was

People will take notice one day
When the lands are depleted
When the skies are emptied
When the ocean is drained
When the planet bleeds the blood of the voiceless

 

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Image from https://www.pachamama.org/effects-of-deforestation

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Devastation

The Thankful Heron

Last year, I worked at the center during Thanksgiving, it was supposed to be the usual boring holiday shifts. And it was late afternoon the day before Thanksgiving when we received a phone call from a finder who had found a Great Blue Heron. Immediately we perked up 20161128_153818because we don’t get very many Great Blue’s into the center and unfortunately they have a low success rate because of their fragility.

“Currently we are understaffed and unable to come pick up the bird from you. Do you think that you could drive the bird to us? From your location, you’re only an hour away.” We urged the finder, time was not on our side. The longer it took to get the heron to us, the chances of the bird dying grew higher.

“I can try, it’s just that I don’t drive well at night.” She paused, “If you don’t see me in the next hours then I couldn’t make it and I’ll try again tomorrow.”

The next hour and a half anxiously went by, with frequent glances at the passing time and the empty doorway. The moment the finder stepped through the door we breathed breaths we weren’t aware that we were holding in relief.

Expecting the worst once we found out that the heron had been the victim of being hit by a car, we started looking for the usual main injury: a broken pelvis. A broken pelvis only has one outcome, and it’s not a pleasant one but a humane choice of euthanasia. Remarkably, the heron only had a left wing ulna fracture.

For comparison purposes, I added a picture of a human arm for perspective, of where the ulna is located. Surprisingly, the anatomy on a bird is nearly identical to that of a human.

Challenge can you spot the small fracture? Hint it’s at the top of the ulna near the wrist. Scroll to the bottom for the answer!

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The finder once hearing the good news, told us her story of finding the heron, “I was near the fire station and me and this firefighter saw this guy taking selfies with a Great Blue Heron. So we walked over to the guy to see what was going on. The guy said he had hit the heron with his car and was excited to see one up close. The firefighter and I agreed that the bird needed to be rescued so we took the bird from the guy. But my car was so full of stuff that I didn’t have room for such a large bird. And can you believe it, the firefighters let me empty my car and store my stuff at the station so that I could take the bird to you guys! So now I have to go back to the station and get my stuff.”

The finder has been calling almost every week since then to find out how “her heron” was doing. Last time she called she was pleased to find out that the heron had been moved to a flight cage and is preparing for release, which she is of course invited to!

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Did anybody locate the fracture? It’s can be tricky reading a radiograph and finding small fractures, like this one above. Any size fracture in a wing can be significant and many birds never fully recover the ability to fly. The worst fractures are those near the wrist because of the critical role the wrist play in flight and bending the wing. The heron was one of those rare cases that healed smoothly with very little complications and regained full flight ability.

Here is a link to a short video of the heron eating trout. I wish I had a better video but it was super difficult taking a video through the bars without her seeing me, and she eats so fast that it’s easy to miss the moment. In the three years, I have been working at the center, she is the first heron to survive and will be the first one I get to release. For that, I am thankful since they are such majestic birds!

Great Blue Heron Eating