Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Hello folks: Yes, I am still alive and well. I am scheduled to work 4 10s a week and my normal schedule is Thursday thru Sunday. Usually by Friday evening I have 30 hours though and so by the time I return home from working, have pringles and a beer for dinner, and walk into my room; I am usually too damn tired to think about writing a story. Or for that matter getting into trouble. I spent the last weekend in the Burbs again. I think I mostly go there for the comfortable beds and nice shower/baths. I'll send out a post about that later this week if you are lucky. There are some photos at Monterey. And now on to this week's story...

(If you are a woman, child, gagger, or puker this section is not pleasant and should not be read further)

Last Thursday it was my turn to assist with a night carcass placement. I am pretty sure I have already gone into detail about how we place calf carcass for the birds to feed on. Well, here is kind of the process. On the night of the placement, we take some frozen ones out to the thaw boxes (freezers not plugged in) and remove the ones that were placed there last time to put out. Now, again the thaw boxes are out in the sun and the calves are sitting there, um, yes, rotting.

So we go to the Comfort Station (used to be a bathroom, but now the place where the frozen calves are kept) and retrieve 2 carcasses. So they are all frozen together and we can't get them out. The one on top must have also killed its mom in the process because it was huge. That's important to remember. Well, we can't get them unfrozen so we wait a little bit with the freezer lid open and they finally loosen up. The calves don't freeze in a normal position that makes it easy to carry them. So we pull out one first and stick it in a rubber maid container. If the company only knew what their products are used for. And then comes the big one. We struggled with it quite a bit because there was nothing to grab onto. The only thing I could grab onto on my end was the frozen ear. And then it slipped and jabbed into my leg. Important to remember for later. I said ouch, wait, I have a calf ear in my leg. And we finally get it in the truck.

We drive out to the thaw boxes and prepare to load up the thawed ones. We take off the rocks from the freezers and the individual I am working with inspects them. We'll call her TD for Terrible Drunk (she called herself this one night while she was drinking at our place. I have 8 other witnesses who were trying to sleep). Now, she inspected them so damn long I almost puked. Plus it is already 9pm so I have already worked 12 hours +. We finally get them loaded into the Polaris and the smell is enough to keep the flies away and the mountain lions searching. So what does TD do? She starts fixing her shoes. Again, near puking. So I suggested we start moving so the wind blows the smell away from me. We arrived at the facility and carry the carcass to the room. We dump the carcass out and the smell just about knocks me off my feet. NOTE: I drank two glasses of OJ before leaving the house. NOTE: Don't do that if you think you might puke. I stepped outside into the fresh air and brought it up to about the esophagus. The burn was unbelievable. I did that about twice. TD was cutting into the calf's heel by the time and discussing that the placenta was still attached and there was cow shit all over it. This of course was helping the gagging quite a bit. Shortly there after I assisted in placing the carcass in the facility and had to lay my body across where we had just pushed the slimy thing. I don't know what my issue was. Oh yea, that it smelled like death. I believe I might be a vegetarian by the end of this stint. Look so forward to doing it on Friday when it has been sitting there since Wednesday night. YIPPIE!!!

I came home and disrobed at the front door and immediately threw my clothes in the washer with about 12 ounces of detergent. I then showered and climbed into bed.

The next day after work I went into the bathroom to shower because I somehow had gotten rather dirty at work somehow and didn't want to go to the BBQ smelling like yuk. I looked down at my leg and noticed a black mark and thought how did I get dirt there. When I went to wipe it away and felt the tinge of pain that went with the touch, I realized it was the mark of the ear poking me. I joked with the Safety Officer that I was going to fill out a CA-1 (worker's comp) form...Nature of Illness? Stabbing of Frozen Calf Ear. That night I discussed with BF the stabbing and had nightmares of calf ears stabbing me everywhere during my wonderful night's sleep. Ah the stress of the job.

Monday, April 04, 2005

A Sad Day in Condor History

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On May 3, 2003, the California Condor Reintroduction Program made a huge milestone when Condor 305 was hatched in the wild to Condor 123 and 127. Although other birds had laid eggs and some have produced offspring, those had never made it past the nest stage. Condor 305 was the first of three to have fledged (flew away from) the nest.
I could only imagine what it would have been like to be the biologist and possibly visitors who watched the first time Condor 305 stepped from the nest cave and dropped 60 feet before realizing those things on its side helped it fly. The bird made a short flight that first time and landed about 60 feet below the nest. The parents returned only to find their child was not at the nest and did a quick search. They landed near the bird, fed it, and continued to help the bird make progress.
Condor 305 was doing well and was making great strides for almost two years. However, sadness has fallen upon the condor community as on March 26, 2005 Condor 305 was found dead. The bird was fully intact so the bird will checked out to see what the cause of death was. The bird only weighed about 10 pounds which is highly underweight as they weigh about 25-30 pounds.
But we are not letting Condor 305 set us back. We are still moving forward. We have two more in Arizona that have fledged and another in California. Here is the information about the Arizona ones...
350 (the 2004 Battleship chick; parents 119 & 122) is flying well and getting around well. Mostly along the rim of the Inner Canyon, but he/she went to the top of the Battleship for a couple days recently. He/she is spending some time at Plateau Point (which is not surprising given his parent's habits), and has let a few people approach it a little too closely. But mostly 350 is doing well, and has also met and interacted with other birds besides his/her parents.
342 (the 2004 Vermilion Cliffs chick; parents 149 & 114) is only being fed by his father 114. Since the chick's release after his surgery, 149 has had almost nothing to do with him. So much of a condor's behavior is hormonally controlled, and it is possible that after 2 weeks of while it was in Phx for treatment, it may have appeared that the nest had failed. So, hormonally, she may have just switched gears. But given the proximity of the chick to the release site, there is plenty of food available to the father to feed the chick by himself. Also, it is thought that the chick could become independent relatively easily with the release site so close, and since the chick has already been to the release site.
And more pairs are starting to breed. In the 80s the last of the wild condors were caught and brought into captivity. There were about 80 left if I remember right. Today, in a combination of wild and captive, the program has over 200. The program is working, but like any progress in life, it takes time.