Today was not a normal day to begin with, and my attention– admittedly– wasn’t on the birds. We had a crew of volunteers in from another centre for training, which was going to take up most of the day. I did a restraint demonstration, and we did health checks on all the birds in the outdoor pens.
Unfortunately I only had about three hours of sleep last night, and I hadn’t eaten. I was fumbly and muzzy-headed, and manipulating raptor beaks and talons when you’re not feeling well is about as smart as juggling knives when drunk. I have a modest number of punctures and bruises to serve as an abject lesson to myself in the future. That said, I am happy to report that everyone out in the pens is fat and happy, despite the snow and cold.
Due to the heavy workload and the extra bodies, training was hit or miss today. Still good for the most part, though!
We definitely crossed a line overnight. The cold weather may have done it– she went from keen to aggressive, and was snappy this morning when I went to weigh her. She did step up nicely, and was good to weigh. I figured the aggression was due to her weight dropping a bit too much overnight, and did a session with her right there on the scale to get some food in her. She was great. No hesitation! But as I knew I’d be busy and wouldn’t be able to get to her again until late in the afternoon, and the food I’d given her wouldn’t last her through the day, I took her for a short walk and then– once she was back in her mew– I wrapped up a food reward in a tube of newspaper and tied it into a knot.
Big Girl is a bird that needs a lot of environmental enrichment in general, but this ‘toy’ was new to her and sometimes she ignores food rewards even when they’re hidden, so I wasn’t sure if she’d go for it. I should probably trust the eagle: when I checked on her a few moments later, a snowstorm of finely shredded newspaper had exploded all over her mew, and the food reward (judging by the content squint she gave me) was eaten.
Unfortunately, by the time I got to her in the afternoon, her patience was long gone. She was far too keen for food, and she met me at the very end of her tether, lunging when she saw the food bag. Although I did get in some hand feeding, it was pretty obvious that she was too irritable and hungry to be in the game. I left her with a large hunk of rat and some chicken, and we’ll see what she’s like tomorrow morning. There’s a pretty narrow line for her between “I will flick this to the ground, because it doesn’t interest me and neither do you” and “GIVE ME THE FOOD I WILL DIE I AM DYING RIGHT NOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU GET OVER HERE IMMEDIATELY!” Obviously, neither of these extremes is conducive to learning.
Tomorrow is a new day, and hopefully the larger meal will take the edge off and we’ll be ready to try again.
The champion of today! Twitch was great. She sat on the perch and took food rewards very nicely. I had to do a few at chest height, but mostly she ate them from foot-level. She took quite a few on presentation after hiding (the movement of the glove on reveal scared her yesterday, so I was very slow today and she managed much better). Better, the two step-ups I got yesterday were leveled-up to ten nice step-ups and one good hop.
She did get ‘stuck’ staring twice– I don’t know what else to call her strange shell-shocked behaviour– but she seemed to snap out of it a bit faster than before. I saved some food to reinforce on the way back to her mew (through the scary hallway), which worked well enough that I will continue to do it in future sessions. My food held out all the way through the scary hallway, and she was calm on glove the whole way… but I ran out of food rewards just as I got to her mew, and the anticipation of being free and away from me was too much for her to sit quietly. Ah well, live and learn– I’ll work on that tomorrow.
For a few seconds today, when she had stepped up nicely and settled on glove, I got a glimpse of the bird I hope she’ll soon be– the one behind all this blank staring and wariness of everything and everyone. Maybe I imagined it, but she seemed entirely different for just that moment in time. I am eager to see that again.
I was a complete jerk to One-eye today. I used him as an ‘example’ training lesson for the visiting volunteers. He was a trooper, targeting very nicely considering there were 16 extra bodies crammed into the room to watch him work. Obviously the extra distraction made things take a little longer, but he was pretty good at ignoring everyone. We did work a bit on trying to get him to come only when cued, and I think I saw some improvement, but it’s hard to tell with all of the other factors in play.
He was being so good and the volunteers were so interested in the training that I let a few other people try to give him his cue to come to glove. This went surprisingly well, but you could almost see the Metal Gear-style “?” pop up over his head when the first volunteer called him to glove. By the end of it, he was distracted and a little frazzled by all the new people, so I ended the session with some short basic hops. Tomorrow, it’s back to just him and I, and I’m looking forward to it.
With all the hustle and bustle, Wee One got the day off. I’ll try to double up tomorrow to make up for it. We’re off to meet a new RTHA that may be coming home with us, so it’ll all depend on timing.