Saturday, January 26, 2013


Kaylin had two friends over today and I took the girls and Logan down to Galena Marina and then to Detweiller Park.  The kids had a blast trying to break the ice on the river with large rocks and then throwing lots and lots of sticks out onto the ice.  I have no idea what the thrill was, but it kept them entertained for longer than one would think.  They then wanted to climb on the rope mountain at Detweiller Park, so I grabbed my binoculars to look for birds in the woods while they played.  I heard a major ruckus that could only be a pileated woodpecker.  I hadn't seen one yet this year so I hurried to find it.  The nonstop chatter was an obvious alarm call.  I've never heard a woodpecker freaking out over an owl, but what else could trigger this commotion?  Sure enough, a barred owl flew through the woods and landed in a tree right in front of Logan and me.  We decided right then to go back to Sand Ridge State Forest to try to find more owls.

We were strolling through the woods at Sand Ridge when Logan hooted out a barred owl call just for fun.  A few seconds later, one answered him!  They called back and forth for several minutes before the owl flew off.  We then headed for Lake Chautauqua for a while where we saw a family of trumpeter swans in a field and thousands and thousands of Canada geese on the open areas of the lake.  It was getting dark and we decided to drive through Sand Ridge one last time on our way home.  A third barred owl flew across the road right in front of our car!  Three barred owls in one day!  Plus, I added pileated and hairy woodpeckers and rough-legged hawk to my year list.  A good day of impromptu birding for sure!  Oh, and these were owls 8,9 and 10 for the YEAR.  We've seen 7 barred and 3 great horned owls so far.  We've heard one eastern screech owl, but we just can't SEE one.  Gene just built and hung a screech owl box in the backyard, so hopefully one will move in some day.

The pets have been a constant source of entertainment.  Scout the dog will chase Tiger the cat and then Princess the cat will jump into the game and chase Scout.  Or Tiger will turn around and chase Scout.  It's a big game of tag they all seem to enjoy.  Princess likes to sleep in my arms between my body and my computer keyboard.  Scout gets jealous and crams into the chair with us.  Princess has been wonderful, other than shedding massive quantities of orange hair onto every piece of my clothing.

Being back at work has been amazing.  I'm so happy to be back full-time and finally falling back into my groove.  Wednesday was our zoo keeper group's crock pot cook-off fundraiser.  We had a great  turnout and made far more money than I expected.  I've been having a good time working with the tiger cubs again.  My foot has been feeling pretty good.  I've still been doing lots of stretches and exercises every day.  It sometimes hurts at the end of the day, but the pain is nothing compared to what it was before surgery.  I'm hoping this keeps up to the point where someday it heals completely.  We'll see...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Back to Work for Real

I have now completed a week back at work full time and once again, I can't believe how little pain I'm having!  Wednesday night my foot was tired and achy, but nothing even resembling the pain before surgery.  Work itself has been crazy, trying to catch up on all of the changes while I was away.  An entire new computer animal records system was launched and I missed all of the tutorials and discussion.  It took me several days last week to even get my sign-in and figure out how to log on to the system.  Our computer person ended up emailing me a copy of the reports from the time I was gone and it was over 600 pages long!  I read it all, but I missed a couple of crucial items that were so old-hand to my relief keepers, no one bothered to tell me because they assumed I already knew.  I finally am capable of entering basic notes about my animals and just need to tweak my abilities so I can make notes about groups of animals together.  All of the frustration and confusion has been greatly outweighed by how happy I am just to be back at work!  I'm still extremely doubtful that I will retire from zoo keeping, but I'm becoming more optimistic that I will be able to do it a while longer.

I came home Tuesday night to a sad, wet dog, fresh from a bath (given by Gene).  The kids had been playing outside and Scout was tearing along the muddy fenceline with the neighbor dog.  The kids (along with the neighbor kids) like to go outside and scream and be very loud.  This makes the dogs crazy and they run the fenceline, barking non-stop.  I told them that while it's muddy, they need to lock Scout in the house because he's so low to the ground and has such long fur on his legs, neck and tail, that he is completely matted with mud, rather than just having muddy paws.  They didn't listen...

Wednesday night I came home in pain and wanted to shower and then sit and rest for a few minutes before I had to be somewhere at 6:30pm.  I pulled up to the mailbox and could hear the kids SCREAMING in the back yard.  I barely cracked the door to come inside and Kaylin ran inside and stated "Scout's completely covered with mud again.  I locked him in the garage and I'm going to Kira's."  I was shocked and furious that after my instruction she not only allowed the dog to get muddy again, but COMPLETELY ASSUMED that "I" would take care of the mess while she dashed off to a friend's house.  Not happening, Pumpkin!  I sent Kira home and put Kaylin to work.  I didn't want poor Scout to have another bath- it's not good for his skin, so I tried to have Kaylin brush him out.  His fur is too long and fine.  He HAD to have another bath.  And the kitchen floor needed to be scrubbed of muddy paw prints.  And mud needed to be cleaned from the living room chairs.  And I didn't get my rest time and was very late to my evening obligation.  But...  Guess who was NOT outside and covered with mud when I came home Thursday?  Hopefully, a lesson was learned.

Well, my past two weeks have been mostly about returning to work.  I've been crazy-busy, but don't have a lot to write about.  I think I'll take it easy this weekend and rest my feet and try to figure out the new work computer system.  Logan wants to look for owls tonight, so we'll probably do that.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Back to Work

I've been back at work for two half-days and I can't believe how much pain I'm NOT in!  I'm working half-days all this week to make my transition a little easier.  I "think" that my doctor will release me to work full days next week, but I am not going to make that prediction.  It has been wonderful to be back with my animals.  The biggest tiger cub was (I think) 37 pounds the last day I worked before my surgery.  I don't know his exact weight today, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was around 100 pounds.  The cubs are still super-cute, but they are about half the size of adults.  They all four play together, but it seems like the two boys stick together most of the time.  They like to play rough.  Mama tiger Kyra has a lot more time to herself now- the cubs no longer cling to her every second.  I was also happy to start working with the takin, emus and muntjac again and didn't realize how much I missed them. 

I stretch my feet and legs for 15 minutes before work and 45 minutes after work and before bed.  I still do my ridiculous routine of picking up marbles with my toes, rolling a golf ball under my feet and stretching on the floor with a towel.  I have also added two spiky half balls that massage my feet while stretching my feet and calves.  They can be very painful, but have been working nicely.  They can be used sitting down and I plan to use them at lunch when I start working full time.

Today is the kids' final day of winter vacation.  They both left to go play with neighbor kids pretty much the second I walked through the door.  Gene's schedule changed enough that I will now be taking Logan to "morning latchkey" at his school.  He's a little disappointed, but he understands that it will be very hard for Gene or me to come back home if he misses the bus or the bus doesn't come.  Logan is really responsible and I can't imagine he would EVER miss the bus because he got caught up watching TV or dawdling, but he has substitute bus drivers constantly and the possibility of the bus coming early or very late or skipping him is too great.  I will feel much more comfortable dropping him off at school and it's only for a semester.  Next school year will be a golden year that both kids are at the same school.  Yippee! 

Logan and I had an amazing week of owling last week.  We saw the great horned owl on New Year's Eve and then saw a barred owl and another great horned owl and heard a screech owl on New Year's Day.  We saw another barred owl on Friday.  We also found the goose migration at Lake Chautauqua.  There were thousands (probably tens of thousands) of snow geese, greater white-fronted geese and Canada geese.  The snow geese were doing their thing where they rise up in a giant cloud.  We also found mute, tundra and trumpeter swans and a giant migration of red-winged blackbirds that looked like a river flying over us.  We had  35 species for the first day of the year.  It was a fun trip because every bird was a year bird.  Raptors were everywhere and we counted 32 red-tailed hawks, 6 kestrels, 1 Cooper's hawk, 8 northern harriers and I can't remember how many bald eagles, but they out-numbered the red-tailed hawks.  It was a great day of birding and our best ever week of owling.