Thursday/Friday I drove up to visit friends in Surrey, just across the BC mainland border. The drive includes a ferry crossing, as well as a border crossing. I got to ride on the brand-new Chetzemoka, launched last fall. Quite a different experience, being on a ferry which is crisp and fresh all over, rather than several decades old and lumpy with many layers of maintenance paint.
Back home, on Saturday at the end of the day I went out to the library, and to the supermarket, where I saw on the newspaper that the orcas had stayed around the harbor a second day. So then I went out on the Hook (in the rain) in case they happened to be hunting seals anywhere I could see. (These were mammal-eating transient orcas who passed by, not the fish-eating resident orcas I go watching at Port McNeill.) No orcas. Also no ships.
But there was a lot of bird action. Some brants (a truly beautiful small goose); a couple of flocks of Canada geese honking past; a small mixed group of ducks, one pair each of several species. It was like a children's picture book: "Mr&Mrs Goldeneye, Mr&Mrs Widgeon, Mr&Mrs Bufflehead and Mr&Mrs HarlequinDuck all went paddling in circles together down at the harbor." A young eagle came flapping down out of the sky. A couple of gulls were quite excited when he came in. I thought he was going to attack one of the ducks, but no, he landed on the rocks and tiptoed around quite uncomfortably, then flew off with something small in a talon.
Last month I failed Oiled Birds 101 ("intake and stabilization"). The most important thing to learn is to be calm and move slowly and quietly when handling distressed wildlife. My team's practice duck was very freaked out and it freaked me out. Poor Zipper had to go back into his carryall to calm down, and there was nothing to be done about me.
Longer version of Oiled Wildlife Basic Intake and Stabilization, from a letter to a friend:
We worked with dead birds and live ones. The trainer has ducks, and they are moderately used to being handled at wildlife trainings. We were doing intake and assessment. After we practiced using dead ones, handling birds and finding their various parts and putting in feeding tubes and finding the vent so we can take the temperature and so on, my team had a large male mallard named Zipper to weigh and band and listen to his heart and take his temperature and examine every inch and draw blood (such a long list of invasions), and Zipper did not want to play. He was very mad and very stressed.
Eventually he was returned to his carrier, and a team who had already finished passed on a sweet little duck named Pearl who didn't mind nearly as much, but by then I too was very stressed. Someone pointed out that in real life ALL the birds we worked on at a wildlife rehab center in a spill will likely be at least that upset and difficult to handle, but I said that in real life we'd be helping the bird, not just harassing it for our own purposes.
Though Zipper was difficult, a very important part of what we were supposed to learn was to talk softly and be as calm as possible, which helps the birds. At which I entirely failed. So poor Zipper was also suffering from my being worried and overexcited about him. The teams that designated one person to hold their duck in their lap and transmit quietness to it did much better. Maybe when the oil spill comes I'll not be able to be assigned jobs that involve handling birds and putting tubes down their throats (the first desperately important thing is to hydrate them; even if they are also starving, liquids first...)
I want to say, about the trainer, that she loves her ducks, and remembers as individuals and with attentive love the oiled birds she has rescued, and the swans caught in barbed wire, their physical condition, how they responded. She tells stories about particular rescues and treatments totally from a place of devotion to helping them, and she is teaching people how to volunteer to do it so other future birds can be helped. Bird science, animal rescue of various sorts, and oil spill events all depend on trained volunteers. But I'm not sure it will be me with a distressed sentient being in my hands.
Tuesday morning early I leave for Florida, for family stuff. Don't know that I'll have much to tell, or take pictures of, until I'm home again.