Saturday, December 25, 2010
Pull down the shades!
I was hoping that Iris would settle down in the cage over time, but she still is flying back and forth. So I finally decided it was time for another cage modification: plywood over some of the chain link.
Iris has been hanging on the chain link, but it's always on the top four feet. Owls, like most birds, have a natural tendancy to want to be as high as possible. So if she's going to hang on the wire, she's not going to fly down to do it. I figured if we could cover up the top four feet of chain link in the cage, that should essentially eliminate the hanging opportunities.
I talked to Roger Meyer, cage builder mastermind. I had suggested putting up slats over the chain link, but he recommended thin plywood. This would be easy to do, and there's no way they could hang on it. I agreed.
So Roger came over, took some measurements, got some plywood, cut it to size, and painted it. Then he was over to install it. The whole process only took a few days in typical Roger high-speed style.
We shooed Rusty and Iris into the other cage while the plywood was installed to avoid stressing them more than necessary. All went well with installation, other than needing to cut one additional panel. Piece of cake!
After the guys had cleaned their equipment out of the breeding cage I opened the door between the cages (from the flight cage side.) To get an idea of what the new decor looked like from an owl's point of view I leaned forward through the hatch into the breeding cage. I couldn't see any trees from owl-perch height (just the ground) thanks to the plywood, so I figured all should be well.
But just as I leaned in to start my visual assesment I heard a swoosh of wings and felt something on my shoulder: Rusty! A split second after he landed on my shoulder he left again. I had to smile inside...I know he doesn't see as well as he should, but it made me feel like he wasn't overly scared of me to head straight for me in the first place.
Once I was out of the way it only took a few minutes for Rusty and Iris to move back into their breeding cage, and there was definitely some extra head bobbing going on as they checked out the "screens" that looked like they had been pulled partway down on the walls of their cage.
It seems the screens are diminishing Iris's flying, and she's spending more time at the nest now. Eating and caching there, and occasionally hanging out by Rusty. Hopefully all of these are good signs.
Oh, and for those of you wanting to learn to tell Rusty and Iris apart in black and white, this photo should help a bit. Iris is lighter colored (which mostly helps when they're together until you get used to the difference), but you can see that Iris' bad pupil is smallish and oddly shaped. Rusty's bad pupil is big and round.