Feaking

After eating a meal in the sun, Carson the Red-tailed Hawk demonstrated “feaking.” A strange but traditional falconry word, feaking simply describes a hawk rubbing her beak on a perch to clean it.  This behavior is most often seen after eating to scrape off any bits of food stuck to the beak, and is also a sign of comfort.

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Theo Looking Out

Ever since windows were installed in the mews last fall, it always makes me smile to see the birds enjoying the view. Carson basks in the early morning sun and Aldo flies to his window perch whenever someone walks by. But I hadn’t had the opportunity to witness Theo the Great Horned Owl taking advantage of his new feature. I knew he used it; he left evidence of mutes (the technical term for bird waste) and pellets under the window, but he always returned to the back of his mew to sleep by the time I arrived at the Museum. I even peeked into his mew once before sunrise, hoping to catch him looking out, but still found him on his favorite perch in back.

(He reminded me of a favorite childhood movie, The Little Princess, when the father tells his daughter that dolls come to life when we leave them alone in our room. “But before we walk in and catch them,” he explains, “they return to their place as quick as lightning!” Theo also seemed to return to his place as if by magic, quick as lightning.)

I got a surprise this week when, as I turned into my office, I glanced out the back door. Theo was staring back at me, sunning himself at his window.  He stayed for a few more minutes, then settled back into his daytime roost. It really must be spring if an owl is willing to stay up late to soak in a few warm rays.

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Carson the Red-tailed Hawk (left) and Theo the Great Horned Owl (right) enjoy the warm morning sun.

April Blizzard

A blanket of snow covered the mews after last weekend’s hefty snowstorm. Even Aldo’s mew, where the skylight is covered for the winter, had a dusting thanks to the strong winds carrying a taste of the blizzard inside. Carson and Theo got the full force of the storm through their open skylights. I saw footprints on the ground and ramp in Theo’s mew; in typical owl fashion, he didn’t seem to mind. Carson the Red-tailed Hawk chose to stay elevated on perches. Her snow piles remained untouched until I swept the ramp clear with my mitten. I wondered what she was thinking as I took this photo.

She might share the same attitude as most people that spent the April weekend shoveling. “Are you kidding me?”

Or does she appreciate the snowfall as a magnificent form of enrichment? “Isn’t this interesting!”

Or, perhaps more likely, she thought of more pressing matters. “So, when will my food be delivered?”

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Digger’s new view

The snakes and salamander returned to the Curiosity Center yesterday after weeks of construction. While a new wall went up, they were tucked away in the classroom, safe from all of the sawing, sanding, and painting. Plenty of work remains for the main exhibit, but they returned home once the Curiosity Center was put back together. For them, the move was easy. Digger, Emory, and Scuba got to rest in their travel crates while volunteers hefted glass terrariums from the classroom to the exhibit hall. Then heating pads had to be plugged in, light timers reset, rocks and branches rearranged, and water bowls filled. After all of that, I hope Digger enjoys her new view of the cheery orange wall and entryway!Diggers new view.JPG

Signs of Spring

Despite the chilling temperatures this week, spring is in the air. I was glad to hear the chickadees singing their “Spring’s Coming!” song as a reminder while I shoveled an inch of fresh snow off the sidewalk.

Some migrating birds are returning, including my first-of-year (or “FOY” to serious birders) red-winged blackbird singing last week. I also saw my FOY American Kestrel as Aldo and I drove to Ashland for a program on Monday. That kestrel looked like a fluffy cotton ball as he balanced on a powerline, feathers puffed out to stay warm. I wondered if he regretted coming back so early!

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Peregrine Falcons in southern Wisconsin are well into their nesting season with many pairs already sitting on eggs. I caught a quick glimpse of an egg on this camera in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin and have been checking back regularly to try spotting it again. While we don’t know how long our snow will last, birds farther south and optimistic migrators like the kestrel remind us that “Spring’s Coming!”

 

 

Preening in the Sun

Sometimes I use the birds as an excuse to get out of my office, stretch my legs, and bask in the sun. I figured Aldo would be a willing accomplice as he joined me this week in a sunny spot. If Museum Director Deb had walked by, I might have justified this basking as necessary enrichment for Aldo, but I think those springtime rays were just as enriching for me. It also gave Aldo the perfect opportunity to preen those hard-to-reach areas under his wings!

Aldo and Mollie

Over the past few weeks, Aldo has quickly made friends with the Museum’s Curator Naturalist, Mollie Kreb. We had a bit of a time-crunch when she started in February since I planned to leave two weeks later for a conference in California.

She worked with the birds daily, quickly learning how to prep food, use raptor equipment, and weigh Aldo. Luckily Aldo seemed quite happy to hop on Mollie’s glove and I didn’t doubt that the birds – and Mollie – would be just fine when I was traveling. She will continue working with the birds so they know another familiar face when I’m out of town.

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