So I started work on Friday. I wasn't looking forward to it at all. My anxiety has been so bad recently that I'm hardly ever at college, though my tutor is so nice he's actually explained to my lecturers what is happening and that they should back off and that I will hand my work in when I can (printing off all my assignment 1's this weekend). Anyways, I was on my way and I could hardly breathe. I already knew the staff but working in a public place can be really daunting. It's not like I was hidden away or anything. I mean my job was just to clean the aviaries and mews so that wouldn't be too stressful.
I got there anyways, and I wasn't too bad at all. It was weird being there at 9am because it doesn't open until 10am, and there was only me and another member of staff there! The staff have known me for some time and already knew that I kept my own birds of prey. I sat down with the guy I work for and he had a cup of tea while I just had some water. He told me where everything was that I had to use and where to put stuff afterwards. I was set the job of cleaning the mews. This is a huge room, full of screen perches where the flying birds go at night. There was a lot of poop in there. I had to scrub the walls, and floors after I'd picked up about 10 newspapers worth of paper, and lay all new stuff down. That took me just over 45 minutes, I think. The aviaries had all been cleaned the day before I had gotten there, so there was no need to do it today. Instead I had to clean the eagle sheds out. So I cleaned about 10 of those, more newspaper! And more scrubbing. It was really hard work but I didn't mind doing it nor did I complain. There was a lot of waiting around envolved after that though, because on my first day nobody really knew what to do with me. In winter I work from 9-4 and summer 9-5. A lot of hours to kill! Volunteers usually aren't allowed to handle any of the birds, unless told to, and that usually means moving them from A to B. Other than that, the people who work there just clean aviaries and make tea etc. The guy told me to go and get a glove on, and pick up a very young Harris' hawk who needed to be manned. I sat with her for just over an hour. She did bate a few times, but she wasn't too bad. Got a lovely wing to the face though, which isn't fun when they are that big!
I was then given just over 300 day old chicks to feed the birds with. It took me a long time! I had to go to every aviary and make sure they were all fed. I started off feeding the Steppe eagles in heir aviary which was a little daunting because they were clucking at me and kept coming over to get their food! Not fun! Most of the birds were trying to get to me though. The most challenging was probably Daisy (white-headed vulture), Nip (Ruppell's griffon vulture) and Oscar (Cape vulture). They're all housed together and I was told that they wont fly down to me, because they're really nervous of people. Next thing I know I had three birds, all with wingspans larger than my self sat around my feet attempting to get the food from me! I was a bit nervous mainly for the fact they were huge but they were super friendly.
It took me about an hour to feed all the enclosures (a long time considering I just have to throw food in them!). I went and washed my hands and sat back down in the office. Andy got two falcons out and flew them for some of the visitors who were wandering around. He then shouted to me, told me to get a glove and a bag and cut up some legs to put in the bag. I thought he meant for himself but no. He said "keep an eye out for Donald cause he's going to fly onto the roof" I thought, uhm okay. So I stepped back and walked into the arena. Donald flew straight up to the roof and then up again into the tree which overlooks some houses. I got a leg out and placed it between my fingers. I gave Donald a quick yell and he came straight down from such a far distance. He flew great. Andy joined me again in the arena and we flew Donald between the two of us back and forth.
Andy went and got another falcon (Saker) out called Socks, who he just let go and for about 15 minutes we couldn't see him. Eventually we saw a tiny little spec in the distance and Andy called him in. He stopped right into the enclosure and flew beautifully, considering the weather too. Andy let me pick up Socks and
I was told that next Imp, another Harris' hawk was going to come out and I was also going to be flying him. I did the same thing with Imp, flew him to the ground and back to me and Andy. He was brilliant.
I then got to fly Moss on the creance (training line) and I can honestly say I've never handled a snowy owl. Axel (my old Indian eagle owl) I thought was heavy at about 2.6lbs but Moss was over 3 and a male! Really heavy for such a normal sized fluffy bird. I never thought he would fly that well, being as he hadn't been flown for a while but he was wonderful. He flew to me a few times, then I flew him to and from the floor, then to posts etc etc and then he waddled back into his aviary.
Andy then let Basil (Indian eagle owl) out and he flew to me twice, the rest of the time he walked to me
he's really lazy! He wasn't too bad though. It took longer to fly him, but he was great.
I went back into the office after that and watched Andy get out one of four of the new falcons, for a sort of 'test' run on the creance, to see what its temperament would be like and how nervous it would be. He flew 3 of them and they were all great. I got out my lunch and ate about half of it because I needed to get back out there. I did bits and bobs around the centre just helping out but it was coming up to 4 and there wasn't much to do, so I sat and played Plants vs Zombies
As I left, I picked up my bits and bobs and John (the owner who Andy works for) came over to me and said that I should write down some aims as to what I would like to gain out of working at the centre, I said that was fine, so I carried on walking. He then said "me and Andy have had some words about you, and we've decided to let you train the Harris' and the new falcons" I was over the moon. I used to work with a friends falcon but I only really used to watch and sort the telemetary out for when he decided to do a runner. So I am going to be learning through these few birds. It made me SO happy!
THEN, even more GREAT news. Because I was doing so well in the displays and stuff, Andy has given me permission to fly Socks, the Saker falcon because he's already trained well and worked great with me. I'm his new handler
I couldn't believe it.
Bascially, I have 4 birds to train to fly free for public displays (Harris' hawk and some hybrid falcons) AND I have a bird who I can fly in displays myself for when Andy and John want me too
I can fly eagles, vultures, hawks, owls etc etc but never falcons. They don't even let the volunteers handle the other birds and especially not the falcons because it can be so hard but they're letting ME because of how good I am
. I'm more than happy. I can't wait to be in next. Everybody made me feel very welcome. Andy also LOVES parrots and actually went to Maritius to help breed some species of parrot (which is only found on the island, and its name escapes me) which had only 8 left in the wild for 3 years! He managed to raise 150 + birds to release! Conversations with him are fun