Poe imprisoned

Mazie and I.  We’re on our way home.

I’d been in Sonoma for 4 weeks.  Mazie had joined her friend Grace in LA for the last few weeks while I was working through the house details.

After being away from Poe for over a month, we now found ourselves in Flagstaff, checking in to see how Poe was getting on with the wildlife rehabilitator.

He was not good.

On one hand the rehabilitator had given Poe antibiotics, which undoubtedly had helped.  But for 4 of the 5 weeks, she had kept him indoors in a small dog carrier.  His breast feathers were abraded and missing.  His tail feathers were a complete mess.

In the last week she had released him to a larger cage outdoors, but on the adjacent property, literally a few dozen feet away, they were literally blowing up a limestone cliff.  The air was filled with the deafening sound of jackhammers.  And on the other side of the yard several large dogs barked incessantly.

This was madness.

Mazie and I stepped into Poe’s cage and sat down with him.  Drowning the overwhelming cacophony, he looked around skittishly.  He sat in a pile of dried dogfood – basically the staple of his diet.

It has vitamins in it, the rehabilitator assured us.

Poe looked up toward us and made his customary feeding calls.  He recognized us as his feeders. But this time the calls were soft and plaintive.

The rehabilitator went to retrieve a scale so that we could weigh him (I guess this is vital to rehabilitation), but as she approached, Poe grew even more skittish and flapped his wings aggressively.

The rehabilitator said that he didn’t like her because she had been forced to tube feed him.

As she tried to step in, Poe edged out of the cage and immediately made for the open yard.  The rehabilitator herself grew agitated and she turned to get him back in.

I looked around.  The expansive yard was surrounded by an eight foot fence.  Tall ponderosas shaded the grass.

What’s the problem? I asked.  Is there a dog?  Anything that can get him?  Let’s give him some space, I said.

Well, umm. It’s just that he might try and get away, she stammered.

Get away?  First off, isn’t that the point?  And secondly, he had a busted wing.  This bird wasn’t going nowhere.

The rehabilitator acquiesced, but not before reminding me that from a rehabilitator’s perspective, it wasn’t safe and that I wasn’t trained in this.

Under the trees, Poe easily relaxed.  He began to play with twigs and branches and dig in the ground looking for grubs.  Mazie and I sat with him as quietly as we could given the roar of the jackhammers.

Perhaps I could let him out a few times during the week, she offered.

The rehabilitator made an attempt to weigh Poe, but she couldn’t tell if his weight had gone up or down.  We helped her get him back in his cage and bid farewell.

Once inside the car, Mazie turned to me.

Did you see all the other animals she had in cages? she asked.

Rehabilitation

For all you ravenites out there, the saga continues.

In July, our family and Kerry’s were going to be gone for much of the month.  Never and More had joined up with the adolescents from the other family groups and were spending most of their time out in the desert.

Kerry did an exemplary job meeting them in the desert, feeding them dead lizards, letting them fly off with their new found friends and capturing shots of their flying prowess.

Never and More in flight © Kerry Hardy

Pretty much every day, though, they would come home and hang in the shade of porch or visit with Poe who was still hobbled by his broken wing.

Never and More descend for a visit © Kerry Hardy

With each day, however, Poe seemed to be struggling.  It was tough with the heat, his appetite curbed, and with his siblings gone, he became less and less active.  Kerry and I agreed that with all of us gone, Poe’s chances of surviving the month were scant.

Injured Poe © Kerry Hardy

Resigned, we agreed that Kerry would took Poe down to Flagstaff and place him with a “wildlife rehabilitator.”  Which he did.  And all seemed good.  Poe settled in with the elderly woman.  And we were told that if he didn’t recover his flight, he could move to Bearizona, a wildlife sanctuary near Williams.  There he would be used as a “teaching tool.”  The ravens there were quite smart, we were told.  If they were handed a dollar bill, they would drop it in a piggy bank.  And if they were handed a plastic frog, they knew to put it in some water.

The thought broke my heart.

Poe being transported to Flagstaff © Kerry Hardy

Going Wild

More and Never didn’t roost at home last night.  But we think we know why.

While on his run yesterday, Kerry spied six ravens in the wash tributary by his house.  He displayed some raw elk meat (leave it to a downeaster to be running around with raw meat in his pocket), but none of the ravens were interested.

Later though, after he had fetched Poe from the wash, two split off from the pack and landed right next to him.  For the second day, Poe and More had been hanging with the adolescent flock!

Earlier I thought I had heard the sing song call near our house which now seems quite possible.  The new routine for Never and More now includes some house time (they like picking through the chicken feed and hanging with Poe), and lots of away time.  They’ll come and go during the day.  When they get bored at our house, they’re just as soon to take off and maybe check out Kerry’s or to go off elsewhere, presumably with the other birds.  If they can keep it up, we all will be quite happy.

More questions, though.  What’s the normal routine for the other adolescents?  Are they always in a pack?  Do they split off into singles and pairs as well for part of the day and then recongregate?  Are they roosting communally?

Do they perhaps have a set feeding period in which they all split off to find food individually (less competition for a single resource)?  More and Never know right away where there’s some good pickings – they can get free water and lots of scavengy refuse from the yard and compost.  They also like the chicken feed.  The other birds may go off in different directions and catch as catch can.  They may then recongregate in the afternoon for hang out time.  Lots yet to figure out.

As for Poe, we’ve decided that  since we’re no longer leading More and Never to the wash, he might as well stay at home in the yard to recoup his strength.  If More and Never are out and about, he’s basically alone down there and it doesn’t seem to push him to develop strength.

He’s a sitter and observer.  At least in the yard he has the stimulation of the other animals.  And the approaching dogs sometimes keep him moving, which is good.  We also have more chances to incent him to flap his wings and get a move on it.  I fear, though, that he may be settling into his crippled mode and perceiving himself as disabled.

That dang bird.  I love him so.

I’ll have to look into adaptive skiing programs.

Poe Learning © Andrew Lewis

Mowgli

This morning, Poe alone in the yard.  No Never.  No More.

In the west toward Floyd’s field, a mile distant, I heard a few calls.  I suspected it was More and Never, but wasn’t sure.  Two days ago on the walk back from the wash, a solitary raven did a fly over.  Poe (in my arms) was the first to catch sight of him and struggled excitedly.  One of our ravens observed where the wild one landed and flew over to join him.  The second raven soon followed.  Never and More had taken off to join one of the wild ravens.  Since it was solitary, we assumed it to be one of the parents.  And there they remained together, all three flitting about in the desert and getting acquainted.

At dusk, Never and More returned and settled in for the evening.

So now, this morning, I have little doubt that the two are off with their new found friend.  But lo, what do I see approaching?  What appear to be six adolescents, dipping, soaring, circling around one another as they approach the house, all the while calling out playfully (more on this in the next post).  I step to the back yard just as four of the ravens settle onto the rise beyond our yard.  And there are Never and More perched on the fence.  The wild ravens continue to call.  It’s not defensive, but more like a summons:  come out and play, join us, why are you sitting on the fence?  But More and Never don’t respond.

I swaddle Poe and set out toward the wash, hoping the other two will follow, (as part of the on-going experiment, I don’t overtly lead them with food this time, waiting to see if they’ll just follow Poe) but they remain where they are, tired perhaps from their morning exertions.  The four wild ravens, however, follow (and lead) us out, and eventually settle in the brush on the far bank while I put Poe in his customary place beneath the tree.  I feed him and he turns to face in the direction of the other birds.  I also leave meat out for them, hoping to attract them to Poe.

I feel like a doting parent trying to introduce my child to new friends on the first day of pre-school.  Please, I want to say, he’s a good bird.  Please, will you be friends with him?

Poe, Alone

We’re trying to help the ravens return to their kind.  But it’s hard.

They’ve all had a good number of Wepo Wash days.  We have to carry Poe, but Never and More will go back and forth between our house and the wash at will.  At dusk, though, they return home to the ramada to roost.

Yesterday was blazing hot.  We were to be gone into the evening and so didn’t take Poe out because we wouldn’t be able to retrieve him before dark.

Never and More didn’t leave either, though. Instead they chose to hang around with Poe.  It could have been that it was just too dang hot (all the birds sat around, following the shade, their mouths gaping open as a cooling response).  Or it could have been that they enjoyed being in close proximity to water.

Or perhaps they just wanted to be with Poe.  A couple times when one or the other of the dogs approached him (Poe tends to hang out on the ground), the other two alighted near by and cawed defensively.

When I returned that evening though, More and Never were nowhere in sight.  For the first time, they chose not roost at the house.  A good thing, I thought.  But that left Poe, alone, roosting on the back of one of the porch chairs.  The dogs sniffed at him and he was safe, but I thought it not good for him to become too comfortable with our house.

I carried him over to a log leaning against the ramada and he clambered up it in an ungainly way.  It wasn’t too comfortable of a roost and he had to work to stay balanced, so I brought the ladder over and he soon alighted on that.  He took to his customary habit of staring off silently into the desert, as if awaiting for someone or something.  He’s one to always look out, away from even his siblings.  I wish any of you could experience his gaze, so solitary and at once both hopeful and resigned.

I lay in the hammock, looking up at the stars.  And I talked to Poe.  And he murmured back.  I felt sad and worried for him, stuck with my meager human company.  He needs to get better.  He needs to fly.  Or soon he will be left behind, first by his siblings and then the other ravens.  And then even by us.  It felt too unjust.  Too undeserving.  And with only that, he and I continued to wait.  We stared out into space and that deluge of stars.