Monday, November 24, 2008

Taking Classes

So what's happened in the last four months since I've last written? Hmmmmm......

The most notable thing is that Alice got left home alone again quite a bit in October. I received a Leadership Fellowship from the Bush Foundation (the 3M Bush family, not G.W.). The fellowship consists of taking three months off from work (fall 08, spring 09, and fall 09) to pursue training to help me create a North American or International owl center in Houston, MN.

All of the courses I wanted to take fit neatly into my month this fall. That's pretty amazing in and of itself, since each course was 3-5 days long and they were only offered once or twice a year.

My first two classes were on festival and event management, to help me with the International Festival of Owls. Each course was three days long and in St. Paul. And Alice was good for Bridget while I was gone.

The next course was a week long course on raptor field techniques, offered by Gene Jacobs at Linwood Springs Research Center outside of Stevens Point. That class was both FABULOUS and GRUELING!! We did everything from climbing trees with tree climbing spikes to banding Saw-whet Owls every night to running a hawk banding station, doing roadside trapping, building traps, drawing blood from pigeons, checking out Gene's totally cool mechanical owl, rappelling, etc., etc., etc.

We stayed up until 1-3 AM banding Saw-whets, then started class again between noon and 1 PM. But the day we ran the hawk banding station we left town at 6:45 AM, after having gotten to bed at 2 AM. Then when we got back from banding hawks, we banded Saw-whets until 3 AM. Can you say UFF DA???!??? Absolutely totally awesome, though. And Alice was a good girl.

The last class was a four day long workshop on Care and Management of Captive Raptors at The Raptor Center in St. Paul. We learned to cope beaks, give fluids under the skin, learned training techniques, made equipment, handled a variety of birds, learned about housing and diet and more.

I came back from this class with a long list of "to-do's." I got a clicker and am using it when Alice eats so she starts to associate it with food, which will help with later training. I'm checking into other food sources, since it's important that Alice get a variety in her diet, which is not something she's been gung ho on in the past.

I also was ready to cope (trim) her beak myself for the very first time. I had a bit of confidence since I worked on first dead owls then a partially anesthetized owl at The Raptor Center (that's what the photo's from).

Since I didn't have my own dremmel, an Alice News subscriber had sent me a pet nail trimmer that's kind of like a big dremmel. I decided that it was too big in diameter to grind the upper surface of the lower mandible, and since I couldn't replace the head with a smaller one, I loaned it to my ex-husband (who needed one for his dog) in exchange for him buying a special head for his dremmel to cope Alice, and helping me do it.

Coping Alice has always been a three person job. Me on the feet, Ken holding the wings, and the other person holding Alice's head and running the files or dremmel. But it was just Ken and me this time. So Ken grabbed Alice with a towel from the back, pinning her wings to her body, I got the towel wrapped around her, Ken held her feet while cradling her in the towel, and I held her head and ground.

It actually went fairly well! Slow, because I didn't want to go too deep and hit blood, but still pretty good. I could have used to take some more off the tip of her upper mandible, but I figure I can do that another time, now that we know how to do this.

It's a good thing Ken is still up for stuff like this. It's not like there's an abundance of people who know how to handle a Great Horned Owl while she gets her bill trimmed around here....

I was really hoping the Great Horned Owl breeding cages would get built this fall yet, but my builder all of the sudden got a bunch of good paying jobs. Not like I can fault him for wanting to earn a living and put food on the table! So hopefully in the spring.

And I promise I won't wait another four months to send out the next Alice News. Alice is starting to get clucky and nesty again....