Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I Saw Him Take His Last Breath

It was a baby mocking bird. Just the tips of feathers protruding from the tubes on his wings, maybe about 2 inches tall. I knew he wasn't well during the first feeding. It's always a bad sign when they don't move when you open their bin. His eyes were only half-open. I asked a staff member to do the feeding because I worry about stressing them out even more when they look that bad off. She recommended I keep him with me on the feeding table so I could monitor him. Following the feeding, he opened his eyes so I had some hope. Eventhough his breathing was labored. I would periodically watch him while I continued my feeding rounds. Then once I looked at him and saw a large inhale, then a large exhale. And I knew it. I just saw him take his last breath. I watched and watched hoping I was wrong, but that was it. Nothing is so sad as to witness a passing.

It's impossible to know for sure why some don't make it. Sometimes it's the stress. Sometimes it's an injury which brought them to the Wildlife Center. Sometimes they're just called OFARs - orphaned for a reason. Meaning that the momma bird knew something wasn't right.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Tri #2

On May 20th we did our second Tri of the season. This one was a 1/4 mile swim, 10 mile bike, and 2.6 mile run. It was held in Deerfield. Here are some of the photographer's photos of the event. It'll give you a good perspective of how much fun these event's are!

General Swim Photos
General Bike Photos
Melissa on Bike
Diane on Bike
General Run Photos
Andy Sprinting Out at the End
Andy Crossing Finish Line
Melissa Races Across the Finish, Blister and All

I'm in a couple of the swim photos, but I'm not going to tell you which ones! Ha! They're not too flattering...hee hee.

Well, I hate to say it, but Andy beat me again! Andy came in at 1:01:18 and I was 1:03:16, and our friend Melissa crossed at 1:05:14. He even beat me in the swim...and this from a guy who always whines that he's going to drown in the race. So much for my not-training-for-the-race strategy. It doesn't seem to be working too well for me!

The race was a lot of fun (besides having to get up at 4:30am). It was a wonderful wind, calm ocean, and a sunrise that was absolutely breath-taking. I forgot how a sunrise over the ocean makes the orange sun appear liquid or molten as it rises above the watery horizon.

Air & Sea Show

The Ft Lauderdale Air & Sea Show is a huge local event. It's put on the first weekend in May every year and draws a tremendous crowd. This year we had some of our family join us for the event.

** Just click on a picture to enlarge**

Seating is tough and brings the crowd right to the water's edge. No shade. Chris and Chris took advantage of the only relief from heat available - the ocean.

What is so great about this show, versus the other Air Shows around the country, is that they do it over the ocean and they incorporate the water into the acts. Search & Rescue divers jump from helicopters into the ocean and then climb back up on ladders. The "Runway" is close-in to the beach. Pleasure boats and military ships are positioned on the east-side of the runway.

For some good pictures, & perspective, of the Air & Sea show from a boat, see our friends Chris & Jim's blog.

Many planes appear so close that you think they touch one another.

There's such a variety of planes and power on display, too.

Oh, don't let those sunglasses fool you...Joe is fast asleep here after eeking out a couple of inches of space on the sand.

Chris and Lisa and Lil' Chris were with us for a week. One night we took the Water Taxi to the beach for dinner.

Here's a normal morning in our home. Someone had to help Chris read the Sports Page. He knows his teams - all of them! So Here's Andy and Chris on our porch.

And who would've known it was this easy to get a kid these days? Here's Nick with Lil' Chris in a grocery cart...

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Baby Birds

As I mentioned before, I've started volunteering at Wildlife Care Center. One of the Center's responsibilities is to rescue orphaned or injured animals, rehabilitate them, and release them back into the wild. When I first started there I was doing general animal care, administrative work, and pick-ups. Animal care includes preparing food and cleaning cages. Pick-ups include picking up injured animals when the rescuer is unable to drive them to the Center for treatment.

But for the last four weeks I've been helping in the nursery. It's baby season. And it is amazing how many babies are brought in to our Center for care. Song birds, shore birds, oppossums, raccoons, you name it.

So far, I've been helping with the baby songbirds. We have a lot of European Starlings (probably the messiest - but considering how much they can eat, it's no wonder they poop so much); Grackles, both Common and Boat-tailed (these guys are very sensitive and seem to be the most likely to die - which surprises me a little since they're so brazen at the outdoor cafes); Blue Jays (gorgeous, puffy, and they make this heart-warming trilling sound when being fed); and Mocking Birds (they have attitudes even as babies which makes them so endearing). We have an occassional Oriole, House Sparrows, and just the other day a Woodpecker.

These are the ones that are to be hand-fed using a hemostat (elongated tweezer-type things). Oh, we feed them fruit, crickets, mealy worms, and even dog food. The first day, I was so nervous my hands shook continuously, making it even harder to get the food on the tip of the hemostat down the throat of a baby bird the size of your thumb. It's a good thing their beaks are the biggest thing on them at this age.

Here's the daily routine: the babies are supposed to be fed every hour. But here's the problem - sometimes it takes longer than an hour to get through the first round! I'm getting faster, but I think my first day it took an hour and a half. Then when you have to clean their bins, it takes even longer. So, by the time you start over, they're all peeping and squawking and jumping up and down for more food again. I'm not sure exactly how many birds we have on any given day because the number keeps growing right now. The goal is to feed the little guys until they stop opening their mouths or fall asleep, then you move on to the next group. It depends on their size and which type of bird as to how long that may take. The thumb-sized birds usually only take a bite or two before being satiated. Fist-sized Starlings are bottomless and greedy. They'll step on eachother and do anything to get more food. Blue Jays and Mockingbirds seem to prefer being out of their container before taking food. That means that when you open their bin, they all try to fly out - straight at you. I might have one or two on my leg (when I'm kneeling on the floor), one on my hand, and one on the edge of the bin while I'm trying to feed them. The key is to read their body language so they don't fly away when they've had enough to eat and before you return them to their container.

We have "flyers" everyday. One day I think we had five birds flying around the room at one time. The bird-nursery isn't very large (it's in one-third of a mobile trailer), so 5 birds and 4 people running around in the chase is quite amusing.

Well, ok for now. I'll share more stories in the future.