Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Squirrels are like peas

There's a spring crop and a fall crop. As the baby bird nursery is closing down, the wildlife center is feeding the fall crop of squirrels, bins and boxes of them all over the place. I don't know where they come from or who brings them in. Some are so young that their eyes haven't yet opened.

After watching the frustratingly slow job of feeding the very young ones, I learned how to feed the older squirrels, the ones who are--in a word--squirrely. All are fed formula with the same kind of 1 ml syringes used for baby birds. Unlike with birds, the amount of food squirrels get is strictly regulated. The incentive to follow the rules is simple: too much food and they get diarrhea. If I understood correctly, they're fed from syringes rather than baby bottles in order to control the rate at which the food goes into their gullets. Some are reluctant to eat; others want to inhale the food. Literally. If the rate of consumption is too fast, they'll aspirate the formula and can get pneumonia, which would be quite a waste after all the work of trying to get them to survive.

It may seem strange for an organization to spend so much of its resources on common animals like gray squirrels and crows but this center has made a decision to value all living things. Once they're released, let nature sort them out.

The squirrels I fed today were close to being weaned. Group #20 is a litter of five, ear tags on the right for girls and on the left for boys--or the other way around. You reach into the bin, grab a squirrel, set it on a towel and insert the tip of the syringe into its mouth. Some are smart enough to remember, "Oh yeah, this is where the food comes from." With others, you have to cram that syringe in and start fueling up (no gag reflex, like birds). The little light bulb goes on and the squirrel stretches out its back legs and grabs the syring with its hands while going, "Whoo-eee, gimme more of that stuff."

Except for the one who insisted on acting like a teenager. I gladly gave her to the woman who was teaching me. This squirrel wanted to run, jump and dance, none of which she could do because she was being restrained. So she confined herself to wriggling and scrambling, taking a bit of food, then wriggling and scrambling again. After half her feeding, we put her in a box to reflect on her behavior while we finished feeding the others. On the second attempt, her manners were a little better, but not by much.

The experienced volunteer who had been teaching me how to feed squirrels said, "Well, that blows my theory that girls learn faster than boys." I think she meant squirrels.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Do not laugh at the squirrel

But I did.
From my study window, I look out over part of the roof and the ugly but useful white fiberglass sheltering part of the deck. (Shown through the window screen, which I won't take off because it'll take me an hour and much swearing to put back on.)
I saw a squirrel walk casually across the roof and out of sight. A little later when I was away from my desk I heard scrabble, scrabble, scrabble, thud like a cartoon. 
By the time I ran down the stairs and out to the deck, there was no squirrel in sight. It must have fallen from the fiberglass to the deck here:

while the dogs were inside. Otherwise I would have heard ga-thud, ga-thud, woo woo woo as the dogs gave chase.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Another reason to clean up promptly after your dog

Set aside the "ewww" factor and consider this story from Science Daily* . In an air quality study done in Cleveland and Detroit during the winter, the dominant form of bacteria found in the air came from dog feces. Because this was only one study done in the Great Lakes region, no one can say how the bacterial count in these cities compares to others.

Ephemeral sculpture

People notice the smell of dog poop, especially if they take a walk and find someone else's dog's poop on their shoes, but who considers what the smell means? Then take super-dog cities like Seattle and Portland where we outnumber the national average of one dog for every three people and, well, we're lucky to have air blowing in off rivers and oceans--I think.

The scientists intend to study the microbe populations in more cities. Imagine a bacterial atlas of the United States, adjusted seasonally, to help you decide where to take your next vacation and what areas to avoid in your search for clean air.

I see this bacteria count as one more justification for wacking non-scoopers upside the head with my plastic bag of poop. Instead, at those rare times when I see someone not picking up, I cheerfully offer them a bag because I carry extras.

Always prepared

*R. M. Bowers, A. P. Sullivan, E. K. Costello, J. L. Collett, R. Knight, N. Fierer. Sources of bacteria in outdoor air across cities in the midwestern United States. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2011; DOI: 10.1128/AEM.05498-11

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cute critters and chicken hiccups

Last week at the wildlife center's daily meeting, I heard about some tiny new animals who had just come in. I didn't realize until today, though, that there's a video and blog post about them right here.

Can chickens get hiccups? It seemed so the other day when Bran made sing-song wheezy noises punctuated by the occasional sneezy sound.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Alanis' Saturday Snooze

First check the lower yard and chickens.
Then find the right grassy spot.

Just keep The Pest away so that I can sleep while the rest of you go blog hopping.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sock monkey

Where do running socks go when they get big holes in them?
Surprisingly, Miro seemed not to notice.