Here’s a Little Barn Owl

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On the glove, to brighten your day! If you ever get a chance to hold one, they weigh next to nothing. I think he weighs about 250 grams if I remember right. I love being able to have him up close so I can admire his intricate feather patterns.

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Barn owls are definitely one of the strangest birds I’ve ever met. They can seem a bit deranged, especially when they’re well-fed and display this very menacing behavior where they hold out their wings and rock back and forth, clicking their beaks at you. It’s pretty demonic.

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I still quite like them though!

Two Male Peregrine Falcons, a Juvenile and an Adult

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Just wanted to share some shots of two birds I worked with today. Above you can see a superb little male peregrine falcon, who is still young and sporting his rusty brown juvenile plumage.

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Compare him to this adult male peregrine, with his much different creamy beige and pale blue plumage. Stunning, isn’t he?

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Two undeniably gorgeous boys.

Rat’s Nest and Cooper’s Hawk

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Yesterday while I was working outside, my dog was also hard at work. We have a couple of rats that have dug some burrows near the chicken coop, and she has been diligently trying to excavate them. She was extra intense about her task yesterday and it wasn’t long before I heard the telltale squeaks of baby rats. I went over to see that she had uncovered a rat’s nest containing seven baby rats, about a week or two old.

She pulled them out one by one, dispatched them each with a quick bite, and continued her search for the adults. I am very pleased that there are now seven less potential rats living here and I hope mom and dad rat have been reminded yet again that this is not a safe place to set up house.

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The baby rats were tossed onto the compost pile, and the next morning I awoke to see what I think is a large female Cooper’s hawk perched on the edge of the bin. She is a young (passage) bird as you can tell by her juvenile plumage. This is the first time I’ve seen a hawk of any kind in my yard and I quickly grabbed my camera and got the best shots I could, which are unfortunately not very good. I’ve definitely been spoiled by being able to photograph raptors up close at the Raptor Centre. Anyway, at least I have some evidence of her visit!

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When I went outside a little bit later I noticed that all seven baby rats were gone from the pile and I assume she ate them. I’m glad she was able to get such a good meal here and I’m once again happy I do not use poison as rodent control.

If you’d like a more up-close shot of a passage female Cooper’s hawk, I just happen to have one here for you:

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Peregrine Falcon on the Glove

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I wanted to share some shots of one of our female peregrine falcons being manned while hooded. The hood works because in most birds, their instinct when it gets dark is to become quiet and still. This is also where the term “hoodwinked” comes from. This little girl is so serious, she’ll sometimes try to fly while hooded! Not good.

She may be naughty sometimes but she sure is pretty.

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Bantam Turkey Vulture

DSC_0006In honor of the Vulture Awareness Day Celebration that will be occurring next weekend, September 5th and 6th at the Raptor Centre in Duncan, BC; I have procured a tiny but fierce bantam Turkey Vulture! No glove required.

Vultures are actually the most threatened bird group in the world right now, despite once being considered one of the most abundant large birds of prey.

In southern Asia they are functionally extinct, as there are not enough members left to sustain the population. This is primarily due to the use of the cattle anti-inflammatory medication called diclofenac. Dead cattle with this product in their bodies are eaten by vultures who later experience kidney failure and death.

In Africa, population decline is due mostly to poisoning of nuisance animals such as jackals and wild dogs, which subsequently poisons the vultures who clean up their carcasses. Another reason for low populations is that many vultures take up to 5 years to reach breeding age and most will only lay one egg per year.

The Latin name for turkey vultures translates to Golden Purifier, as their super acidic stomach acids can destroy pathogens and parasites such as rabies, botulism and anthrax. This stops the life cycle of disease unlike with many other scavengers such as feral dogs who carry and spread them.

The Centre will be fundraising in order to support vulture research and conservation, so come one come all! You can get your picture taken with a vulture, have some tasty BBQ, and bid on a great selection of donated items in the silent auction. I’ll be there volunteering for both days.

(Full disclosure: The bird above is not actually a bantam Turkey Vulture, although I think she looks like one. She’s a 4 month Old English Game Hen that I received a couple of weeks ago. My intentions were to use her to hatch out pheasant eggs for me when I finally have some. Plus she’s just the cutest little thing. Loves to chat and hang out with me and instantly the queen of the coop. Nobody messes with her. For such a tiny chicken, she has a very big attitude!)

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Hanging out in the kitchen

In case you’re curious, here’s what a black OEG roo looks like, although he’s supposed to be all black without the red hackles. If you want a pet chicken, these guys are the best.

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Raptor Centre Volunteering

Today was my first day volunteering at the Raptor Centre. I scrubbed out quite a few aviaries, helped in the flying demos a little bit and assisted in flight training some young Red Tails and Harris Hawks.

One young Harris Hawk decided to land on my shoulder twice instead of my glove. Lucky for me he didn’t bear down with his talons and was easily tempted back to the glove for his piece of meat. A little scary, but I’ve been torn up so badly by rabbits at this point that the raptors don’t worry me. They don’t want to hurt me, they just want their tidbit. Rabbits are the ones with the real killer instinct!

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I’m glad Gaston vacated this pen before I was sent in to clean!

During our last demo of the day, I was asked to clean out the Marabou Stork enclosure while he was performing for the demonstration. He had shed some massive flight feathers (he has a ten foot wingspan), which I was very impressed with. Cleaning aviaries may not be the most fun thing in the world, but it’s a great way to get an up close look at a lot of very cool feathers as well as get to know the personalities of some of the birds. It’s also a great feeling knowing you’re helping to make the birds more comfortable.

I also had an exercise in taking a flying lure away from a Saker Falcon that had just finished catching it for the demo. I had to wait a while for her to calm down and then distract her while I quickly hid it behind my back. I was able to do this when I popped her back on her weathering perch. Once birds of prey have something they think is food in their talons, it’s an interesting task to try to get them to give it back to you!

The Fair

DSC_0010I spent last weekend at VIEX, our local fair. I had six young quail on display in the poultry barn and the rest of the time I was assisting with the raptor flying demonstrations.

I was primarily the sound tech, but was also lucky enough to be able to man some birds and talk about them with the public. We had a Swainson’s Hawk, a Harris Hawk, a Spectacled Owl, an American Kestrel and a Turkey Vulture. It was hot out and there were a few technical difficulties, but the birds all did a marvelous job as usual and I think everyone had a great time, I know I did.

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Harry, the Swainson’s Hawk, one of the birds who flew at VIEX

I really enjoyed dropping off my quail early and getting a chance to view all the animals while everything was still clean and quiet. Once the crowds arrive and everyone begins poking at and commenting on the livestock, the charm kind of wears off for me.

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My little quail display

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I really liked these Speckled Sussex hens. They won some very fancy ribbons

DSC_0002DSC_0015DSC_0019DSC_0014I got to talk to some knowledgeable rabbit and poultry breeders, and I may have a gorgeous Champagne d’Argent doe lined up in a few months from Victoria. I also got a great deal on a new two hole rabbit carrier and picked up two very nice handmade wrought iron hooks for $30 from the Blacksmith Association.

It was funny to see these signs posted all over the rabbit barn, I suppose some people think the rabbits live out their lives in the tiny carrier cages. A bit silly.

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