Tag Archives: New Bird(s)

Back on Track

I have a habit of going to work even when I’m not working, but I had resolved to actually take the planned-for three days (unheard of!) off, as intended, and not go in. Even when you love your job, sometimes you need to take some ‘you-time’. Well, the ‘me-time’ lasted two out of three days, but today I missed the birds, and I really wanted to do a session with One-eye. So, in I went!

While I was there, we also got Blinky and Kohl up on glove to take stock of them. The bruise Kohl had on her chest when she arrived is almost gone now, and both of them are in excellent shape– and, thankfully, both of them are slimming down. They’re still pretty fat, though.

The new red-tail I mentioned a few entries back, who is not on my training list, hadn’t been worked with today because her trainer (who is worse than I am about coming in on her days off) had been temporarily banned from the building to get some much-needed downtime. I decided to do a session with her as well– in this blog she will be known as ‘Twist’.

Twist:

Twist was hit by a truck on the highway, and lost her left eye as a result. Unfortunately, she also has a blind spot in her good eye, which adds further complication to her training. She’s responsive but nervous, and has a habit of twisting around in a circle to take stock of her surroundings when uncertain of herself. There was a note in her training log that she had been very snappy in a previous session, so we took it slow today. She definitely had trouble seeing the food at first, and ‘stabs’ at it with her beak. This frequently results in the food ending up on the floor, on her, on me… pretty much everywhere except inside her.

Still, for a session of just feeding small pieces and– by the end– asking her to step up calmly, she did very well.

One-eye:

When I stepped One-eye up today, I could tell he was ready to work. I can’t say that he missed me, as most raptors are not social in that way, but he definitely recognized me and seemed eager for our session. I pushed him pretty hard today on the cue/no-cue thing– to the point of visible frustration, twice. He’d bounce away to other perches, stomp a bit, and when he did get rewarded, he’d snap at the food peevishly. His irritation with this particular exercise aside, I can finally say he is starting to get it. It’s not every time, but more than once now I have seen him check himself from flying because he the glove came up but he wasn’t given the cue. He never ignores the cue when it’s given, but he frequently ignores the raised glove otherwise, except when excited. But when he gets excited and comes without the cue– and doesn’t get rewarded– that’s when the temper tantrum starts.

Whenever he got too frustrated, we’d take a break and work on reinforcing things he’s already good at– three long hallway flights and a lot of pointing to perches. He was great! I think I’m going to spread out a bit and fly him in the big front room tomorrow after program, and see if I can get him performing at longer distances. And, of course, keep working on the cue.

Bonus Photo:

Why? Because everyone needs a little owl in their lives.

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Filed under Blinky, Kohl, One-eye, Twist

Two Tiny Owls, and a Red-tail in a Bare Tree

After a very long trip wherein we counted plenty of wild RTHAs hunting from scraggly winter trees along the side of the highway, the long-eared owl and short-eared owl have arrived. They are teeny, gorgeous, and (as expected) terrified of everything in the universe. It will be a long training process. Unfortunately, the short-eared’s life with us did not start out very well. We had to do an emergency band removal due to a too-tight leg band, with very few tools on hand and little time to experiment. Although she’s safe and sound now and the procedure was under control the entire time, using a rotary tool that close to an owl’s leg is something I hope I never have to witness again.

I haven’t gotten a mental ‘grip’ on the new arrivals yet, so nicknames and further details will have to wait until tomorrow. Hopefully, photos will follow.

Due to the long drive there and back, setting up the owls, and the drama surrounding the bands, I only had the chance to train one bird today– it was dark by the time I was ready, and One-eye was definitely ready to work!

One-eye:

Pretty standard session– I’m still trying to get him to ignore the glove unless he’s given the cue, and I’m still not seeing a lot of progress… that said, he was so keen today that I’m not sure it was a fair trial. Today also marked the first time he has flown to a perch before I’ve called him, and I’m wondering if that wasn’t also a function of the late session and him being slightly too responsive because his dinner was overdue. We worked on the cue/no-cue issue for half the session, and then for the other half we went to moving from perch to perch.

On a whim (which is bad, I really need to write out a training plan and stick to it), I decided to see if I could get him to go to a perch when I pointed to it, instead of by tapping on it. He had it after a few repetitions, although was more reluctant to move from the high perch to the low perch without a tap than to move from the low perch to the high perch. Weird! Still, he did it reliably by the time I was finished, and on his last jump I jackpotted him with a whole chick. In typical red-tail form, he ate it so quickly he almost choked.

Among other things (foremost among them targeting to the giant hood), I would like to get him flying long-distance to whatever perch the trainer points at. He is so responsive that I think it’d work if his weight is managed properly. Already, he’s a completely different bird now that he’s working every day than he was when he was freelofted. Calmer, sweeter, and he’s lost the minor neurological behaviours he used to show when left to his own devices for too long.

I really love this bird.

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Filed under One-eye

Restructuring

Today, we went on a road-trip to meet a potential new education bird, and ended up bringing her home with us. Another RTHA– I’m almost regretting One-eye’s nickname now, as the new bird is also missing the same eye! She’s gorgeous, despite her injury, and is lucky to be alive after being hit by a truck on the highway. She’s pale compared to the rest of our red-tails, and built sturdily. She has one behavioural issue we’ll need to work on pretty quickly– spinning on the glove– but I think that will sort itself out as quickly. I think she’ll be very responsive to training, but, alas, we have rearranged who is training who, and she is not on my list! Perhaps down the road I’ll get to write about her in more detail.

Big Girl:

She was great today, and got to go for a big, long walk with a co-worker while we were on our way to pick up the new RTHA. I managed to get a session in before I left, and she was absolutely perfect. By the time we got the new RTHA home, coped, jessed, and settled, it was dark– Big Girl had to be brought inside to do her session, and she was pretty hungry. Much more controlled than yesterday, though, and we got a full session with great responses in.

  • Big Girl is now a jointly-trained bird, so I may not get daily sessions with her, but I will still be taking a lead role in her training and will write about her often.

One-eye:

One-eye did very well today. We worked on targetting, and on reinforcing the cue. He definitely doesn’t ‘get it’, yet– I’m not sure if it’s because he doesn’t understand what the bridge means as well as I thought he does, or whether the lightbulb hasn’t come on yet.

Today’s neat moment was actually a miscommunication–  I cued when he wasn’t looking at me. The cue is a sharp, double-tap. He heard the cue but didn’t see it, so as he took off he started towards my glove. I’d given the cue on a perch to my left, however, and my hand was in the process of retreating from that perch when, in mid-air, he realized his mistake and tried to correct his aim from glove to perch at the last minute. It was too little, too late, and he bumped into the side of the perch and scrabbled on the table before recovering himself.

Obviously he didn’t get a reward, but it was interesting to see the mental “oops!” and his attempt to fix it. Good, if belated, communication!

  • One-eye is still ‘my bird’ after the training reorganization, so I’ll continue to update regularly with his progress!

Twitch:

Twitch got two sessions today, and was good for both — it was busy this morning, though, and she definitely has trouble with outside noise and confusion interrupting the training session. Her progress is slow, but she goes a little further every day. Today, she did quite a few nice step-ups and some hops to the glove, and lots of repetitions. It was bitter-sweet for me, because:

  • Twitch is no longer a bird I will be actively training– I am reluctant in regards to this, but the staff member who is taking over for me is extremely patient and sensitive, and will be perfect for Twitch’s issues. I will still handle Twitch and keep an eye on her progress, but won’t be doing regular daily sessions with her.

Wee One:

Great, but adorably clueless! Two sessions today, and she’s taking the rewards reliably. I’m worried we’re developing a superstitious behaviour, as she always lifts one of her tiny feet and places it on the glove when she takes the food– it’s cute, but I don’t want it interfering with anything later. We’ll have to monitor it. She definitely doesn’t associate the bridge with the reward yet.

  • Wee One is also off my training list for active duty. That leaves me with only One-eye as a solo bird and Big Girl as a shared priority.

Why?

Because tomorrow, we’re road-tripping up north to pick up two new, untrained owls– a long-eared and a short-eared. I don’t know what state they’re going to be in, but the restructuring of the training birds will leave me with the time I need to devote myself to the two new arrivals.

Wish us luck!

 

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Filed under Big Girl, One-eye, Twitch, Wee One