Monday, March 21, 2011

Iris Checks Out

Iris gets ready to go to the vet.

Last week one of the cam viewers on the Cornell website made a note that Iris had thrown up two pellets in the morning, and she had burped and there were other loud noises. Red flags went up in my mind and I quickly found the section of video in question.

Iris was at the nest and chowed down on a gopher. But within minutes her head stretched up and her neck looked funny. Then she threw up. Not a good sign. But she ate the gopher again, then threw it up again! Her guts gurgled in protest.

I was concerned and knew I needed to keep an eye on her. It could have been a problem with that piece of gopher, it could be stress, or she could be sick. Later that day I reviewed videos from during the Festival of Owls (I didn't have time to review them during the Festival), and found Iris throwing up on one of those videos also, a week before this vomiting episode. That ruled out the food, and prompted me to call a vet.

I called Alice's former vet. She was willing to see Iris, but she is only in the office one day a week. If it would turn out to be anything serious, she'd send Iris to The Raptor Center in St. Paul. So I decided to make an appointment for Iris at The Raptor Center.

Really the first thing that needed to happen was to catch Iris and feel her keel (breastbone) to see if she was in good condition. But I didn't want to catch her more than necessary, so I decided to wait to catch her and check her out myself until the day of the appointment.

The appointment was scheduled for 10:30 AM, and it's a 2.5 hour drive to St. Paul from here. So we got up early, not knowing how long it would take to catch Iris. It turned out to be a piece of cake...she flew right into the net I held up to catch her!

I got control of her feet and felt her keel...she was in no way thin! I tried to get a weight on her while she was wrapped in a towel, but she and the towel together were too heavy for my triple beam balance. At that point I figured she was probably OK, but for my peace of mind, I wanted to take her in anyway.

The roads were icy that morning, and we passed five cars in the ditch. We even fishtailed ourselves, which did nothing to help my nerves. But we arrived safe and sound, and right on time.

The doctor took a history and then checked Iris out. She weighed a whopping 2080g (4.6 lbs)!!!! She certainly wasn't in poor condition. Her feet were quite dry and showed signs that she had hung on the chain link in November and December, so thankfully that issue is resolved. If let go it could have caused permanent damage to her feet. She had one feather louse, but didn't have any sign of a brood patch or readiness to lay an egg. Bummer.

They also ran blood tests which were all normal. They also did a fecal exam for internal parasites. None there either. So basically, our lady seems fine and dandy. Her feet were salved, she was treated for lice, and she was sent home.

When we got home it was Rusty's turn. If Iris had lice, he likely did too. We caught him with no troubles, gooped his feet (Hein got poked a couple of times), and treated him topically for lice. He did NOT enjoy it one bit.

Before we let the owls go I had Hein take down the far high perch...the one behind the IR illuminator on the ceiling. The poop trajectory from that perch hits the bath pan, which isn't acceptable now that it's warm and they can use it again.

Once that was done we released Rusty and Iris back to their home and they've been perching together on the high perch by the nest most days.

So what was Iris' problem? It may have just been stress from being harassed so much by Scarlett. Will she lay eggs this year? It's not looking promising. But perhaps they'll wind up as foster parents if there's an owlet in need.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cat Fight!

OK, so they aren't cats, but it's the females fighting!

Scarlett (named after Scarlett O'Hara) is a wild, unmated female who showed up about three weeks ago. Apparently she wants Rusty, and she wants him bad. Her level of aggression has escalated from hooting later in the morning than she should and starting earlier in the afternoon than is wise (she gets mobbed by crows a lot), to an all-out fray yesterday.

Starting around 1 PM (yes...early in the afternoon!), Scarlett showed up in the yard hooting. She landed on the cage many times, including on the "rain roof"--an area of slats covered with screen to allow the rain to fall through. Rusty and Iris were beside themselves, hooting like crazy, flying around, and holding their feathers very compressed with ear tufts up.

Eventually Scarlett switched over to squawks and started landing on the ground, trying to find a way into the cage. She landed on the braces of the cage. She was doing anything to get in.

She even flew into and hung on the chain link on the west side of the cage, where she could see inside. Iris was the one who met her challenge by flying at the chain link to attack her. Thankfully there is screen on the outside of the cage and chain link on the inside, so they couldn't get at each other. WOW!!

This disruption sure isn't helping nesting efforts. Despite the daily ruckus, Rusty and Iris keep mating, Rusty feeds Iris, and they dig in the nest. Early this morning it even looked like Iris tried to preen Rusty, even though he wasn't interested.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of "As the Nest Box Turns."

Friday, March 11, 2011

If looks could kill...

Scarlett on the garage roof, glaring at Alice.

At the suggestion of critterwatcher, a Rusty and Iris cam moderator, I've decided to name our new unmated wild female owl "Scarlett". The name is based on the character Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. Their personalities seem similar.

I'm quite certain now that Scarlett wants Rusty. Rusty, however, doesn't seem particularly interested in her. He still keeps mating with Iris, even when Scarlett is hooting nearby. Scarlett lands on the owl cage, hangs out on branches very near by to the cage, and basically seems to stay within about a 5 acre area right around the cage.

Scarlett is a BOLD lady. We SEE her everyday in the yard. She doesn't go to bed early, and she gets up early in the afternoon...sometimes by 3 PM. We've gotten lots of photos and videos of her. We always know where she is because we have a watch owl named Alice. (My human-imprinted education bird.)

Alice and Hein watching Scarlett.

Alice and Scarlett hate each others' guts. At least three times Scarlett has physically slammed into the window Alice was sitting in front of. Alice just sits there. But when Scarlett flies away, Alice jumps at the window, like she wants to go after her. They hoot at each other and hoot and hoot and hoot. Both have their ear tufts up in the fully alert position. They stare daggers at each other.

Throughout it all, Iris says virtually nothing. But she and Rusty carry on with their mating activities, and Iris perches by the nest a lot, so I hope they'll still lay eggs...albeit a very late clutch.

So basically folks, we've got an owl soap opera going on here. It'll be interesting to see what happens next!