Saturday, June 20, 2009
According to The Modern Apprentice, Frounce is "a highly contagious yeast infection of the digestive tract. Frounce is caused by a protozoan called Trichomonas which is frequently present in the crops of pigeons...The typical signs of frounce are white spots in the mouth or crop, often described as "cheesy" or "white plaques." These alone are not enough to diagnose frounce, but it is one hallmark of the disease. Other signs are head flicking, difficulty breathing, or even regurgitation of food. Green mutes may also appear."
Here's a photograph from The Modern Apprentice (who credits it to Eileen Wicker of Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky). The yucky white stuff on the lower mandible of the great horned owl is characteristic of Frounce. It looks like Thrush, a yeast infection of the mouth that human infants can get.
Think about how quickly young falcons grow. By the time they are roughly 40 days old, they've reached their adult size. They've increased their body weight over 10 times, grown two new coats of feathers (a second down coat by 10 days and flight feathers by 40 days), and gone from mostly huddling under a parent through walking, practice flying, and real flying. Bob believes that this is a very stressful time for them, which makes them more susceptible to Frounce. Furthermore, this accelerated growth rate requires a lot of food. Anything that interferes with a growing falcon's ability to eat will quickly impact it. As PLoS states, The conditions an organism experiences early in life can have critical impacts on its subsequent health and well being, both over the short and long term. Since a falcon's 'early in life' passes pretty fast, events and conditions can very quickly reach the critical point.
At any rate, we drove to Grand Rapids on Wednesday night. Minnesota Power put us up for the night and we banded at the Cohasset plant in the morning. The weather was cloudy and cool - perfect for a stack climb. I discovered this year that rests are better taken on the fall gear and not the ladder enclosure - those harnesses are almost as comfortable as an easy chair when you hang in them. Here's a video of the banding. We were joined by Darryl Councilman, a MN Power employee who got the nestbox installed, and Swede, another MN Power employee who has been a real champion of the Peregrine-utility project. The babies were healthy and both parents were unbanded. I banded them - I've been getting a lot of practice - and drew blood. The trick is to have a nice big vein, someone who can keep the falcon still, and the ability to disconnect the worrying part of your brain from your hands, which need to be worry and shake-free.
We left Minnesota Power, picked up my children in North Branch, and drove to Elk River to treat the rest of the GRE nest. Last year, three of four young falcons in Duluth died after eating a bad pigeon. We didn't want a repeat. We were met by Brenda Hoskyns and another GRE employee. They took us up to the roof, where Bob and the other guy tied off and got the falcons. Brenda and I held them while Bob gave them pills. Brenda had the great idea to bring some water up to help wash the pills down. After Bob got the pills in the back of the falcons' throats, he sprinkled some water from his fingers into their open mouths. This helped lubricate everything, and the pills went right down. One of the falcons had Frounce lesions in its mouth, so this treatment saved at least one more.
We'll banding the King Plant and Highway 95 Ospreys the week of July 6th. I'll provide more info when I have it. I'm hoping to learn pole spiking before then...
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Bob and Jeremy on Maiden Rock. It's nice to get a good ledge! This was Bob's 100th rappel on a river cliff. The rock was somewhat loose here, so the overhang was also welcome. That big rattlesnake? He was maybe 50-75 feet overhead, sunning on the edge of the drop.
Ben on West Bluff. He climbed into the eyrie to get the baby falcons.
The eyrie at West. This is an excellent place for baby falcons - very, very hard to reach! Ben balanced on a ledge, Bob lowered the sky kennel to me, and I swung it over to Ben. He loaded the baby falcons out and very, very gently let the kennel go. Bob raised it and I helped get it past the overhang. This is a three-person site for sure.
Me at West, watching Ben do all the work. It wasn't until after I was hanging in space that Bob told me I was just where Dave had almost severed his rope last year. At least I wasn't trying to swing into the eyrie.
Eyrie at West, outlined in red. Ben rappeled down the crackline to the left and eased over the ledge to get to the eyrie. I was stationed under the overhang at the above right of the eyrie.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
We started at Greysolon Plaza, where Julie O'Conner and Crew from Hawk Ridge had spotted three babies in the box. A crew from Venture North had showed up to film the event, so we decided to band the babies inside the Greysolon Building. Bob, Jeremy, myself, Miriam, and photographer Michael Furtman went up to the roof, while everyone else stayed downstairs. This was a good thing, since Amy the falcon was in fine form. She started strafing runs almost as soon as we got up on the roof.
Bob, Jeremy, and I got the window washing rig (all the tires had air!) and pushed it over by the nestbox. Rigging up to go over a wall is a little different than rigging to go over a cliff, especially when Amy is on the attack. In this case, the anchor is set around two eyebolts attached to the rig. The rope goes straight up the middle, through a gap designed to allow it to pass. So, you set the anchor, pull the rope through, climb to the top of the rig, and attach to it to your grigri while ducking the falcon. These photographs are from Michael Furtman's excellent website. I'm going to be buying some prints.
I got all that done, and went over the wall. I'm used to having a rope bag attached to my leg, but in this case, the forward and tag ends of the rope are both going back down - one to the anchor and one to the bag, which sits on the roof. It is very, very important to make sure you have your hand on the tag end of the rope, not the anchor end. Normally, this isn't something you have to think about, since the rope bag makes it real easy to remember, and you usually have a chance to get good and on the gear before going down, and a falcon isn't attacking you while you rig. But you do have to take care here.
I position to the side of the nestbox and whap, Amy hits me. Head down and whap, Amy hits me. Quick look up to see where she is. Ah, circling back for another run. I reach in the box and grab baby one - maybe 17 to 19 days old, the perfect age for banding. Into the box she goes. Whap! Amy hits me. It's a good thing I shop at Target, since she ripped up the left shoulder on my tshirt - possibly just seconds after this photograph was taken. I love this falcon!
We also had a very nice surprise - there were four babies in the nestbox this year! After last year's experience, when all the babies but one died from Frounce, this was a great thing to see. I got all of them into our sky kennel, Jeremy and Bob pulled it up, and we took them down into the building. We were in a hurry, so Bob banded.
It was hot and we didn't want to put the babies back in the kennel, so we had some volunteers sit, with their legs in a big circle, and mind the babies. I'm not sure who the adult is. The children are Isaac and Elizabeth. Rebekah also minded a falcon, whom she nicknamed 'Screech'. Screech was the vocal one of the group. Elizabeth, my oldest, announced afterwards that she wants to begin coming with and helping. I'm glad she had fun - I'm glad everyone had fun! It was wonderful to see these healthy young peregrines. Make sure to visit Julie O'Conner at PeregrineWatch on the Lake Walk in Duluth - watching these guys learn to fly will be quite a treat!
After Greysolon, we headed for the Hibbard Plant. The kids had to stay in my van here, since this is a working power plant - not a good place for children! I parked where they could watch the action, if they liked, and we headed up. Bob's shoulder was sore from Maiden Rock, so he asked Jeremy and I to go up and band. It's maybe a 75-foot ladder climb here - not too bad - on the outside of the stack. The plant provides harnesses and fall protection, which you clip into with a dynamic lanyard. However, the drop would be roughly 8 - 10 feet on the lanyard, so I have to say that I would not want to put it to the test.
The female here is the same as last year, *Y/6. She is downright polite when compared to Amy. Jeremy got the three babies one at a time and I banded them. There were two males and one female. We did not draw blood - I've drawn twice this year (successfully, both times!) - but it was windy and I was nervous. I'm going to get a bag of needles and practice on oranges over the winter. That's how they do it in nursing school.
We got back down and that was the end of it. Total: 7 baby peregrines banded in Duluth, 1 ripped shirt, and 1 very, very good day.
Is it just me, or is it funny that the word verification to post this blog was preen.