Guest Author: Bev Paulan, Wisconsin DNR pilot and former OM Field Supervisor.
As many long term readers of this Field Journal may know, I make my annual migration to Florida every winter to help Brooke out with the birds. I look forward to this for many reasons, the first of which is to help Brooke, the second to be back at St. Mark’s and not the least but to be with the chicks.
The best part of this year’s visit is that I get to spend 5 weeks away from the Wisconsin winter. The worst part is because of a broken wing. Which bird, you are probably screaming. Which precious chick has broken its wing? Not a chick—Brooke! And it’s not really broken, but he did have rotator cuff surgery last week and needs a little extra help at the pen. Disney has been providing staff, as they do every winter, but the duties are best handled by two ‘tumes, so here I am.
While Scott Tidmus was here from Disney, he took me out for my first visit with the chicks since I assisted with the short migration hop in Columbia County, WI. I reacquainted myself with the young of the year, stood up to 4-13 and 4-12 and quickly resumed the all so familiar care-taking duties. There has been a lot of rain in this area, so all duties are squishy and slow due to the copious amount of mud. I just keep my fingers crossed that I don’t face plant like I did last year.
The chicks are all healthy and active, flying their circuits in the morning and actively foraging all day. They get along quite famously with the two adults that are currently in the pen and are tolerant of 5-12 when he sneaks back in for a try at the feeder. They have even been treating me with respect (at least as long as I have grapes) and have been roosting in the pen at night with no last minute excursions (I am probably cursing myself with this one).
The previous weekend, before I came down, the famous “cow pond” pair showed up at the pen. This is the pair that resides in the far eastern side of Tallahassee and are watched diligently by Karen Willes and a cadre of craniacs. The pair tried hard to usurp dominance of the pen, but were thwarted by the ‘tumes. After witnessing 15-09 chase every chick from the pen, Scott and I decided on a plan of attack.
We have “been there, done that” in regards to chasing off unwanted adults, so the plan was put into effect quickly. The variable we didn’t take into account was the mud, so the birds probably got a good laugh as they were flying out of the pen. We were successful in chasing them off and we have not seen hide nor feather since last Friday.
So for now, peace reigns at the pen with relaxed behaviors with not only the chicks and white birds, but the costumed handlers as well. It is raining again, so the mud is not going away any time soon but it is still way better than snow.
And now a photo round-up. All images captured by Bev Paulan in the past week.