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Thursday, December 23, 2010


           Normally, I take some pride in my animal wrangling ability, but this past week as been an exercise in humility for me. It takes skill to hold a writhing and biting squirrel or bird, and in the past I have done well. I'm not sure if I'm getting worse at my job, or if we just had a run on inordinately wiley critters, but in the course of a week, I have lost my grip on 6 birds, some more than once!

            Small birds are always a challenge. I have rather large hands, so holding a 30 gram house sparrow still enough to medicate it without crushing it is not easy. So usually I err on the side of caution. One house sparrow in particular didn't even give me a chance to get my fingers on it before it was making a monkey out of me.  A birdwatcher brought him in after he bounced off of her window, and even with his balance impaired he was dodging like prize-fighter before I could lay my hands on him. He bolted from the container he was brought in, and tumbled through the air like Woodstock before I could catch him. Laughing, I'm sure, all the way down.

            Sharp Shinned hawks are notoriously insane. So when I saw we had been brought a teenaged Sharpy, I probably should have paid the little ball of spastic psychosis and talons more respect. No sooner had I opened the pen to offer him his daily ration of chopped mice than he was fluttering around my head. He, of course, went right for a window. He bonked into it and started to fight his way up underneath the shade.  The tiny hawk was deeply perturbed at his inability to pass through the invisible barrier. His frantic confusion was evident in his plaintive squawking, as if demanding we dispel the dark sorceries preventing his escapes. I'm able to derive some comfort here from the knowledge that I'm not the only one this sneaky bird has given the slip.   

            I won’t bore you recounting my battles with the "exploding morning dove" or a wheezing woodpecker, but I will definitely be practicing...
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  1. this was quite wonderful to read. Thanks for sharing these crazy anecdotes with the world. Hopeful the bird handling will become a bit easier as time goes on.

  2. Thanks JWells! It seems I'm back to being good at wranglin' now, which is a good thing, but unfortunately doesn't make for nearly as entertaining posts...