BEST. DAY. EVER.
So I was assigned to Pen 1 this morning with Lisa (6 month intern) and Hermin (old SA dude who likes to chat), which is where the Cape Cormorants and Gulls are kept, only about 12 of them, nothing too wild.
First job was to catch them all and box them up so we could clean their pen, give them fresh water etc. All I kept thinking was I was going to stress them out and kill them, they're all going to die and its going to be my fault. Lisa basically caught them all while I tried herding them and then holding out the boxes to catch them (like a shield!). She said she'd teach me to handle them later for when we take them for their 'swim'... christ.Once all the birds were out, it was time to deal with poop city. Joy! All the mats were stripped and taken down to 'Mats & Crates'... it felt so good not being on the recieving end, bleurgh! Once the place was hosed down and clean it was time to prep their fish for feeding time. No fish milkshake this time, but I do get to fish out 40 sardines from an ice cold bucket of water and cut them in half to display on a giant plate like some halloween/horror show sushi platter. Time to let the birds back in one by one and check they eat, I'm in charge of the door this time. That's fine, I can deal with doors, doors don't bite.
I then get to help a couple of the interns in ICU, herding some of the sick penguins from one side of their pen to the other so it can be cleaned. The really poorly ones need their towels changing in their crates but we still leave them outside so they can wave to their friends and top up their tans.
So its gets to 11.30am and its time to 'swim' the birds. I'm sorry, what? Back in the pen we go, catching the crazy birds and boxing them up again then lugging them over to the enclosed swimming pool. It's a large pool, the water is about knee height and when I say enclosed all that's over it is a net, which makes catching them again interesting. So they're all plonked in the pool and are paddling about, happy as larry. I have to stand with a hose sprinkling them with water. Why? Couldn't tell you. Maybe it simulates rain? Maybe being in a swimming pool isn't enough and water is like crack to them? Who knows.So they've had their 30 min swim and its time to get them out...this was like a scene out of the Chuckle Brothers. Lisa, Hermin and I wade into the pool, bent double because of the net and have to start trying to catch these bl**dy birds. Slippery little suckers. I tried chasing this one Gull for about 5 minutes, but he was to smart and/or quick for me.
After the comedy sketch the birds were put back in their boxes and taken back up to Pen 1 ready to be fed their 40ml water syringes. More water, like crack I told you. As Lisa was feeding them (Hermin had wandered off somewhere to look at the penguins), she showed me how to handle them and I had to put them back in the pen. First Gull, fine - grabbed his head, hooked his wings, put him in the pen. Winner! Next Gull - went to grab his head and he BIT ME! Didn't even hurt though, is that all you've got mate? I think it might have been the one I was chasing in the pool though so fair play to him. Next, the Cape Cormorants. Come on Capey's, don't die on me! But it was fine, they were actually easier then the Gull's, not as strong. Maybe I am completely over this fear of birds?? Handled like a pro apparently, and these birds are much trickier then those sturdy little chaps in tuxedos.
It got to the afternoon and Erin (another Intern) needed help giving the penguins in the ICU pen their meds. So I got taught how to handle penguins! It was amazing! On my third day I got to pick up about 12 chicks, and in just 5 easy steps. Kneel, flipper, head nodules, belly and lift...I'll have to give a demo when I'm back haha.My favourite had to be No.555, I fell in love with that little guy. He was a hand reared CRU baby (Chick Rearing Unit) that they had raised at the centre, so he was very timid, shy and gentle. I practiced on him first, trying to get my grip right on his head for ages and he was so patient. No.1057 was an absolute wiggler, and bit me, lucky I had my armguards and glove on or I think I would have cried!
So that was how my best day ever went, I'm so happy and can't wait to work with them more. 12 penguins picked up, 87 showers had and an early night for me.