Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Holiday Close Encounters

May your holiday season be filled with wonder and the unexpected. 

Photo appears courtesy of the North Carolina Zoo/

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Some Thanksgiving Tips from my Furry Friends

Today, I braved the hoards at several airports across the country to travel to my father's house for Thanksgiving. This year promises to be filled with good food, family, and lots of laughter. By way of a brief Happy Thanksgiving wish, my furry friends would like to offer up a few choice holiday tips for everyone.
Baby the giraffe says, "Savor every moment."
Emeril Junglefowl recommends more veggies this year.
Arnie the water buffalo says, "Make time for friends!"
Cinco says, "Keep Tums handy, just in case."
Mercy was fond of the post-turkey nap.
Nita and Teela were always partial to family hugs.
Above all, tell the ones you love how special they are!

Happy Thanksgiving. Have a safe and happy holiday.

All photos by Amanda C. Sandos except the junglefowl photo appears courtesy of John Ireland.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Free Spirit Day!

Happy Spirit Day! It's one of my favorite days of the year. A day to wear purple and be seen around town, so you can show all the LGBTQIA youth in your area that you support a community of tolerance and acceptance for all! So, today, I will be dressed in purple, of course, but this year we are going even one better to show our spirit. The Ravens Crossing has gone purple, too. For the entire weekend our first anthology, The Ravens Crossing, Book One: The 13 will be ABSOLUTELY FREE. Head on over to Smashwords to download a copy and celebrate Spirit Day with a fun science fiction adventure!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rescuing Baby Squirrels

Sorry photos taken with my crappy cell phone camera!
We get all manner of strange requests at the pet store where I work part-time, but yesterday's was perhaps one of the strangest to date. A woman and her two kids dropped by to ask if we knew what to feed three baby squirrels she had just rescued from her yard. Luckily, for her, there were two of us at the store who know the laws concerning wildlife rehabilitation. And Lila, one of my coworkers, happens to be best friends with one of the area licenced rehabers.

Though we both considered the merits of explaining that it was probably best she leave the babies where she found them, the weather here sort of shot that option all to hell.  Often if you leave baby wildlife alone for a period of time, the mother will do her own rescuing, and trust me, a wild mother is a much better option for a wild animal than we are. However, we had torrential rains and tornado warnings all over town yesterday, and there were also several dogs involved in this scenario. So, no leaving the babies for mama. It was decided that Lila would shuttle the babies to her friend's rehab center on her way home, and thus we ended up putting together a traveling box for baby squirrels. The lady who found the babies, actually, did a great job, filling old socks with rice and heating them up in the microwave to create a nice warm bed for babies in an old shoe box.

Because they are already about five-six weeks old, they stand a good chance of surviving to be re-released again. Still, raising them won't be easy by a long-shot, and trust me, the fun wears off at about day two of hourly feeds and little to no sleep. Plus, finding the right formula to feed a wild animal is tricky at best. Though I'm guessing the kids were a bit disappointed to be handing these squirrel babies off to someone else, I'm sure mom was relieved for this reason and more. She had already been looking up the laws, and was beginning to question if she was legally allowed to keep and raise these babies herself. Good thinking on her part! Many wouldn't even worry, assuming squirrels are simply a nuisance species. And that's where they would be wrong. Squirrels don't make the list of nuisance species not covered by the wildlife protection laws in Virginia, but coyotes do. Go figure. You want to raise a coyote, be my guest, though you still need a permit to release said species back into the wild. But, don't get me started on the way we treat coyotes around here. That's a whole other rant.

If you want to rehab a squirrel, along with most of our Virginia native wildlife, you need  several permits and a license to rehabilitate. These things are not simple papers you can run over to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to file, either. It takes a good bit of planning, some classes, a sponsor, and a care facility that passes inspection. You can check out the steps to gain a license in the state of Virginia here. So, the moral to this story is if you find wildlife that is stranded, AFTER you have given the wild mother a safe and ample chance to rescue her own young, preferably before you interfere, you can fairly easily find out what to do. Contact the Wildlife Center of Virginia. They keep a list of the local rehabers throughout our state and, they will be happy to give you advice and the best number to contact for help.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Manatees Need You

Who doesn't like manatees? I mean, what's not to like about these gentle giants, also known as Sea Cows. If you haven't made time to visit them in Florida, I highly recommend checking them out. They come into the inland waterways during the winter, and congregate near the coastal power plants, where the water stays nice and warm all winter long. If you are lucky, you'll get to see them stick their adorable faces up out of the water to munch on the leaves and grasses along the shore. Often you can see the calves swimming alongside their mothers. Snorkeling with them in the crystal clear water of the inland springs is amazing, but I have learned many of them aren't big fans of the bubbles created by divers, so be advised that snorkeling will usually net you a closer look at them. However, these amazing animals are endangered, so there are some important rules to follow if you plan on trying for a close encounter. You cannot touch them, feed them, or in any way disturb them, and this including blocking their path so that they have to swim around you. Sometimes, this can be difficult when you meet up with a friendly and curious one.

But, the fact is, this species is in steady decline. The two most detrimental issues to them are the destruction of the sea grasses and  underwater habitats they need for feeding, and the numerous injurious deaths caused by boaters who don't watch where they are going, or don't follow the watch their speed while traveling the Florida waterways. I have met a number of rescued manatees with horrible and permanent disfigurement and scars thanks to motor boats. It's terribly sad, because these animals truly are one of the most gentle and sweet creatures I've had the pleasure of meeting. I've been approached by several wild manatees in my day who just wanted to check me out and see what I was doing in their water. I've hand fed rescued manatees who have been through all kinds of hell and still don't mind letting a stranger feed and scratch them.

Now, manatees are in need of your help. There is a proposed dredging project on our gulf coast that keeps coming back to haunt those of us trying to help protect manatee habitats. If allowed to pass, this proposed project in Pasco County will cut a huge swath straight through Fillman Bayou, one of the best feeding grounds that manatees and many other species depend on to survive. For what? For another huge resort and more marina space, which according to the locals, is not really necessary. This proposal was already fought via petition and voted down once, but as seems to be the way any more, those proposing it have changed a few small things, and are resubmitting it again in hopes that we wouldn't notice it getting slipped through this time. We have until September 19th to sign the petition and help save manatee habitat. Please, won't you take the time to go read a little further and sign the easy petition? Every voice counts! I'm sure the manatees would thank you if they could.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Life Lessons from an Otter Pup

Otter the Great Dane Puppy is spending the weekend at the farm with us. He's only three and a half months old and already he's teaching us a few things about life. Here's what he has to say:

1) Life is all about play time. Play time should only be interrupted for occasional musts like sleep, food, and potty breaks. In fact, potty breaks should be put off as long as possible during play time. Oops, did I do that?

2) Accidents happen. When they do it is best to look very sorry and then snuggle up to whoever seems the most upset by them.

3) Sleep can occur at any given moment and should never be confined strictly to human sleep times. When you need sleep it is best to find a seriously comfortable place. I highly recommend crashing on top of the nearest human.

4) If at first you don't succeed in making friends, try, try again. The power of cuddling is always your greatest asset. However, this seems to work better on humans than on other dogs. Frankly, I'm still trying to figure out the whole making friends with other dogs thing. I've opted to forgo friendship with cats all together. I highly recommend giving them a very wide berth at all times.
I hope these lessons will be useful to you all! Now, I have to be going. Play time is here!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Take a Baby Break!

I've been hard at work on The Ravens Crossing (TRC) and my various other creative writing and visual arts projects for the past few weeks. Though, I've enjoyed every second of it, occasionally, I find myself feeling a little tired. Then, I get these wonderful email updates from my friends at the NC Zoo with various baby pictures. When the day seems gloomy, and I am frustrated by being confined to a mere 24 hours of work time, I get these random little baby breaks, moments of sunshine in my day.Thanks guys! You know who you are. I thought all of you might appreciate a baby break too. I hope it makes you feel as warm and fuzzy as I do. Above is baby Bomassa the Lowland Gorilla with mama. And, below, you have Nori, the two year old chimpanzee playing with one of her troupe members. Photos appear courtesy of the North Carolina Zoo. Now, I must get back to work on TRC. As always, if you are looking for something fun and free to read, head on over to Morgan & Holly's story and check out our young adult science fiction adventure series. Okay,break time is officially over. Have a lovely day!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Don't Piss Off the Diva Dogs

Cinco says WTF?
This weekend, Cinco and I are hosting some unexpected visitors. I'm more excited about this than Cinco seems to be, I have to admit. My long lost friend Linda came up for the weekend and where ever she goes, so goes her little doggie, The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Cinco and Molly have long been friends, though they have some sort of unspoken mutual Diva understanding between them about which human belongs to who, and just how much attention mongering will be tolerated. If either Linda or myself step out of line, we get shunned by the Divas who then go off and sulk together. Let's not tell them how humorous we find this, shall we?
Molly Christmas Morning 2008

The wild card in the mix is my pet sitting client's new Great Dane Puppy, Otter. Poor boy is clueless when it comes to the rules. Any rules. And certainly any rules involving Divas. Otter is only three months old, not yet old enough for overnights alone, so I agreed to keep him at my house for the weekend. He is a rambunctious little guy, but oh my gosh what a sweet cuddler. This is not going over well with either of the Diva dogs. Both have made it clear they are no longer speaking to the humans in the house, nor each other, and the only things they've had to say to the pesky newcomer have not been kind. I tried to get a current picture of Molly to share, but she effectively gave the paparazzi the doggy finger. Apparently, there will be no pictures while we have that thing in the house!

Otter with Linda

Poor Otter. He just wants to be loved. Is that so much to ask? Anyway, my hands will be full this weekend. Good thing there is a kennel for the puppy and a baby gate to separate everyone. Lesson learned. Never piss of the Diva Dogs. 

Otter Loves Me!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Three Cheers for Biomimicry!

What, pray tell, is Biomimicry? Well, it's this cool thing scientists, engineers, and even architects are doing. They study things found in nature, and try to use them to design new technologies. Here are some well-known examples straight from Science Daily:
Velcro was inspired by cockleburs, which cling tenaciously to clothing and animal fur. This poor guy probably had to have his head shaved.

Both Leonardo da Vinci and the Wright brothers studied the flight of birds when designing their flying machines.

Sonar was inspired by how whales, dolphins and bats emit high-pitched sounds and analyze the returning echoes to help them navigate.

And now, apparently, scientists are creating robots that mimic cockroaches to traverse deep sand and mud, while others mimic spider crabs and will be able to walk gingerly across loose surfaces like sand and gravel. This is the sort of research that is helping our Curiosity rover wander Mars and collect data for us. It may be the kind of research that will one day help our future vehicles travel the planet without the need for a concrete jungle to drive and park on. We could walk/ride across the miles without the need to pave it. This I like. Though, perhaps the idea of more cockroaches, even if they are robotic...not so much. Make the jump to Science Daily and watch the cool video on this project. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Curiosity Coolness

The Curiosity on the Surface of Mars. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltach/University of Arizona

I'm sure you must know by now that the Curiosity has safely landed on Mars and NASA's Mars Science Lab is now up and running. So far, it's been a bit slow going while the massive crew of scientists run their tests and make sure Curiosity is fully functional. But, a few fantastic images have already started rolling in. This latest image above is a high resolution view of the curiosity on the surface of Mars. That tiny blue dot. And you can make out the blast pattern surrounding it, made from the landing of the rover. I have to tell you, this stuff gets me all excited. I'm literally squeeing over here when I go to NASA's mission sight and find these cool images. I thought I'd share a couple. Below is one of the first high res images taken by Curiosity of it's view on the surface of Mars. Look at those mountains. Wow! How amazing are we that there are people who can build this stuff and go off exploring other planets with it? Thanks to all you tech savvy computer geeky scientist types who work on this project. You are the coolest!

Curiosity's View of Mars. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltach
This is the kind of stuff that has inspired me to write Science Fiction since I was a kid. I mean, I used to pretend to be sick so I could stay home and watch the Space Shuttle's launch and I would sit and make up stories about what would happen while they were out in space. Sorry for lying to you, Mom. As I've grown older, my stories tend to focus more on humans and what humans might become if they could only tap into more of their brain power. You can actually read one of those stories online over at The Ravens Crossing, a science fiction project I am writing for with two other authors, Andi Lea and West Thornhill. Anyway, this is the kind of thing that sparks my imagination. Who knows what they might discover next. But, it sure is fun to dream about what that might be.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Baby Gorilla Born Saturday at NC Zoo

Congratulations are in order to twelve-year-old Jamani of the NC Zoo who gave birth to a bouncing baby boy gorilla this past Saturday at 8 am. Good friend Tom Gillespie has shared some of the latest photos with me today. The baby has been named Bomassa after a town of the same name in the northern Republic of the Congo. Welcome Bomassa and congrats to the staff of the NC Zoo who have not seen a baby gorilla born at their park since Kwanza was birthed back in 1989.

Also, The Ravens Crossing (TRC), the free science fiction online series I write for began Season 2 today. If you haven't been following along, you are seriously missing out. Go find out what a Gaea is, and how they are related to humans. Visit Wildwood and meet our diverse cast of characters. Find out how they Balance the power of nature. You can read  free stories 6 days a week here. Season 1 is also posted on the sight in case you need to catch up. Don't miss the fun!

And, if travel blogs interest you, you might want to go give Old Pair of Jeans a read. It's my mom and her man sharing their adventures as they cross the US in an RV this summer. They are all the way across the Mississippi already. You can follow along and view Gene's fantastic photography to share their favorite adventures along the way.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Baby Booms and Backing Baboons

There are a plethora of babies at the NC Zoo this season. And no, I am not going to show you more of Juma the giraffe, though I admit to being tempted. You can see her here if you missed my earlier posts. Instead, I thought you might like a catch a glimpse of Nori who is turning two this year. If you've been following along, you got to see her infant pictures here. I'm told she's exactly the way a baby chimp should be, rambunctious and a bit spoiled. She has that cute vibe going for her, that's for sure.
Photo courtesy of Tom Gillespie
Also, my friend over at the NC Zoo sent me a fantastic photo of one of the baby kudus out exploring brave new worlds. It's not often you get to see the babies out and about. They hide a lot. This is one of three baby kudus born at the zoo in the last two months, along with two baby fringe-eared oryx. The African Plains exhibit is booming this year, so if you visit the zoo make sure you spend extra time at the overlooks in case you are lucky enough to catch a baby up and nursing or exploring.
Photo courtesy of Tom Gillespie
And in other news, I am very sad to report the death of Rita Miljo, the founder of Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education (CARE) in Phalaborwa, South Africa. She passed away in a fire that also consumed the sanctuary headquarters, offices, and clinic. Miljo founded the clinic in 1989 and dedicated her life to rehabilitating orphaned and injured baboons and reintroducing troups back into protected areas of South Africa. Several people I know who worked with her directly speak very highly of Miljo and of the conservation center. CARE currently houses 400 chamca baboons who are in desperate need of help in rebuilding their home. If you are able, please consider making the jump to CARE's website to make a donation, no matter how small. Every penny will be most appreciated.

Many thanks to Frank Valadez and Jodi Wiley for passing this information on to me.

And last, but certainly not least, if you like science fiction and fantasy, don't miss out on The Ravens Crossing. Season 1 stories are all posted here. They are written by three authors, Amanda Corlies (me), Andi Lea, and West Thornhill. Each author's stories stand alone, but they all work together in the same universe, as well. Season 2 will begin on Monday. Flash fiction segments of our story post six days a week. You can read every bit of it for free.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rodents and Russian Space Rockets

What do these things have in common? It's not what you think. Though the article at NPR on why we should send this curious Kazakh Gopher into space cracks me up. Anyway, the article by Robert Krulwich included this fantastic video of a little guy living in the middle of a Russian spaceport. Check it out, and wait for the end. I promise you won't be sorry. Make the jump to read more about this little guy's crazy life on a rocket launching pad.

Thanks to Andi Lea for sending me this. It made my morning.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Baby Giraffe Video

What? I'm obsessed you say. Well, okay, I can't deny it. The not-so-little Juma at the NC Zoo has me fascinated. WGHP was kind enough to post some of their raw footage of the baby on Youtube. Thought I'd share. Stick it out to the end and you can see her nursing. Very sweet. Oh, and don't miss out on the fun over at The Ravens Crossing. We are interviewing our characters over the summer break. Lots of fun posting every day. The new season begins in just 17 days.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

More on Juma, the Baby Giraffe

Photo Appears Courtesy of the NC Zoo
I know, I've already been oohing and aahing over this adorable baby, but I couldn't resist posting this fantastic picture a friend at the NC Zoo sent me. Plus, they have announced officially that the baby is a girl. She has been named Juma, which means "Born on Friday," in Swahili. I can't wait to go meet Juma in person. Jamili is taking great care of her daughter, too. Since she is just four years old herself, I am very proud of this young mother.

Also, this week is our season 1 finale at The Ravens Crossing, so while I'm repeating myself, don't forget to drop by every day this week to read our Big Bang Finish. Sharon and Alex will post tomorrow morning at 8. This week's stories are some of the best things I've written to date. Morgan and Holly posted Tuesday. Here's the link to them. I'm really so proud of this entire project. All of the stories by the other authors, Andi Lea and West Thornhill are fantastic. Don't miss out! You can start with the week 1 stories here and read them all by following the weeks on the story tab at the top of the page. It's a young adult sci-fi adventure. And  what do you suppose is the best part? It's all free! So go! Read! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Prepare Yourselves for Godzilla Wednesday.

I'm gonna be honest with you. No idea what that might bring. Wait for it, and remember to let sleeping coyotes lie.

In other news, don't miss out on the season 1 finales over at The Ravens Crossing (TRC) this week. Morgan and Holly's story posted today. That's an online, young adult, science fiction/fantasy project I've been writing with two other authors, for those who are going, "Huh?" It's a Big Bang Finish this week, for sure, and the best part is it's totally free on the website. The anthology for season one includes all of our stories for this season and will be available in stores soon. A portion of the proceeds will go to The Make it Safe Project which helps to provide reading material on gender identity and sexual orientation to schools that lack the resources to provide this information in an effort to help keep students safe. You can check out the new cover for the TRC anthology over at my other blog. I'll be sure to post when the book has been released for sale.

Hope you stay clear of that lava flow and be careful out there tomorrow on Godzilla Wednesday.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Welcome Baby Giraffe! Congrats Jamili!

Congratulation to Jamili, the giraffe at the North Carolina Zoo, and to her keepers on the birth of their new baby yesterday morning. What a beautiful way to start the day! Several friends sent me pictures right after the event, which left me with a little extra pep in my step all day. And since one of my dearest friends takes care of these beauties, I am left feeling like a proud aunt. I cannot wait to go meet the little tyke in person. Okay, the not so little tyke. The baby is around six feet tall. The post several weeks ago about Jamili's pending birth turned out to be early contractions. But, you might want to go read the blog about birthing a six foot baby. If you haven't already.

Also, it's an excellent time, while I am announcing momentous occasions, to say that this little old blog just surpassed 10,000 page views. Not something I ever aspired to, but it seems like something I should celebrate. So, thanks to all you page viewers. I appreciate you popping round and giving me a read. I hope you are staying cool in this heat.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th from the National Zoo, and Me Too.

Here's wishing you all have a safe and happy 4th of July. We are still weathering the aftermath of the Derecho of 2012 here in Central Virginia. If you are not sure what a Derecho is, don't feel alone. Most of us who just lived through it didn't have a clue until now, either. You can learn all about it here.

We are one of the lucky homes to have finally gotten our power restored. Tomorrow, we will be hosting a pool party and community cool down cookout for friends and family who are still going without. To spread the joy, here's a little video from the National Zoo's 4th of July Enrichment Extravaganza last year. The animals are having a grand old time. Hope you are able to do the same.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kudos for NC Zoo Kudus

The North Carolina Zoo recently announced the birth of a new kudu calf in their African Plains exhibit. Here's the little girl getting one of her first vet checks. A little known fact about me: I am a huge fan of kudus. I worked with them for many years both at the Dallas Zoo and the African Plains exhibit at the NC Zoo where this gal was born. She's quite an armload for a baby. This photo reminded me of what fantastic little hiders they are and how many hours we would spend searching the exhibit to find them for exams. Being excellent at hiding is how they stay safe from predators in the wild. Mom helps them locate a spot to lie down, and they immediately curl up and blend right into their surroundings, often staying still and silent as the trees for hours on end.   

The NC Zoo plains exhibit is spectacular, if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend a visit. You will think you've stepped right out onto the African Plains, for real. They house a number of African antelope and rhinos on about a hundred acres of rolling hills and grasslands right next door to their African elephant exhibits. The exhibit has several thickets of trees, a pond and a lake. 

It isn't easy to find babies in all that tall grass. We would sit hidden for hours with our binoculars trained on the mother antelope until she would magically call the baby out of hiding. In actuality, their calls are infrasonic, too low frequency to be heard by most predatory species, including humans. But it seems as if they make some magical silent agreement and then mother and baby move in tandem to meet for nursing. That's when we'd follow them to get a better idea of where to locate the calf for its exam. Of course, we didn't dare touch the calf until the herd moved away from it again. They don't take kindly to babies being messed with. One oryx mother beat the crap out of the truck because we had her baby in the back for a medical check up.

Soon, this little kudu girl will grow. And grow. And grow, into one of the largest and most lovely of all the African antelope species. Though they can be fairly docile most of the time, they will take you out if they feel cornered or threatened. A little known fact about kudus: they will do pretty much anything for a grape. I helped train the NC Zoo's kudu herd to voluntarily come into smaller, enclosed holding areas from the exhibit using nothing more than a clicker and a bunch of grapes. 

Anyway, kudos for Mr. Kudu, his baby mama, and his keepers on their latest kudu calf. 
All photos appear courtesy of the NC Zoo.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Help Us Bark for Lynchburg's Dog Park!

For the second year running, we are in second place to win the Pet Safe Bark for the Park competition. If we can muster enough votes before August 1st, we will win a much needed $100,000. Last year we came so close. If we can pull off a win this year, we will make the off-leash dog park our community has been struggling to build a reality at last. This project has been ongoing for years, and speaking as a dog owner and pet sitter in this community, it's is sorely needed. You can help our doggy dreams become a reality! It's really simple. All you have to do is go this page and vote. You can vote once each day for the remainder of the contest.

Yesterday, a whole bunch of our community members showed up to create a video for the contest, and to ask others to join in to vote and vote for Lynchburg. My friend Rebecca and her dog Eli made it onto the news broadcast about yesterday's event. Check it out.

Oh, and don't forget, if you like science fiction, to head over and read Sharon & Alex's story today at The Ravens Crossing. Two more weeks until the season finale. Things are heating up in Wildwood!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Taking a Dive with an Eastern Pewee

The Eastern Wood-Pewee is described by Cornell Lab of Ornithology as a "dull  brown bird." I beg to differ. I happen to have fallen for these forest flycatchers. Why? Because, every summer, they come from our nearby woods to perch on our back fence and catch bugs around our pool. They don't mind if we're lounging on the deck or weeding the garden. They don't even care if our dogs are out. They simply ignore us all and come and go as they please.

This year, one female has chosen to be extra bold. She's  using our diving board to practice her diving skills. Last weekend, she spent several hours alternating between using the board as a perch to scope unsuspecting insects, and taking occasional dives into the deep end of the pool for a bath. She could care less if I got in the pool with her, nor if I used the diving board while she was on one of her numerous trips to her nest in a nearby oak tree. She even agreed to pose for a whole series of photos. I imagine she might take offense at being called dull. So, I decided to speak out on her behalf.

Also, a friendly reminder that today is Morgan & Holly's story day over at The Ravens Crossing. Head over to read the Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy Adventure Series written by myself and two other fantastic authors. Season 1 finale is right around the corner and the sparks, they will fly. In other good news, my Bonding with Hondo story about my relationship with two chimps I met during my zoo years will be officially published in the Canary tomorrow morning. I'll provide you with a link as soon as I have it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Single Beaver Dad Gig

Photo courtesy of the Jackson Zoo.
The story about a single beaver dad over on Discovery News yesterday caught my attention. I know plenty of single parents, and it's always a struggle, but I have to say, being a single beaver dad has got to be particularly rough. I don't know how many beavers you've known, but that "Busy as a..." saying is seriously based on truth. There's a reason these animals bond for life, because it takes a team for them to effectively raise a family.

Sadly, Mr. Single Beaver Dad of a wild colony in Martinez, California, lost his mate to an infection.  After many years as a pair, having raised twelve kits together, he was left alone with three babies. But, he doesn't just have to find them food and keep them safe. He literally has to build their home and tend it every single day to keep his lodge neat and tidy and free of leaks, not to mention do his job on the rest of the dam construction to help the colony keep the water level high enough and the fish plentiful where they live. All this, plus raising and teaching his three young how to be the best beavers they can be. And, apparently he's doing a fantastic job. All three kits have survived thus far. You can see the whole story along with interviews from those in the field observing, and even view a video of him over at Discovery News.

For me, the story immediately brought to mind the family of wild beavers at the NC Zoo who moved in next to our North American Swamp exhibit one year and built their lodge directly underneath the visitor boardwalk. They, too, raised three young as we watched every day, fascinated by all the work the pair of beavers had to do to care for and teach them. There was this knot in the wood of the walkway that formed a hole, so we could actually see down inside their lodge and catch glimpses of the kits indoors while the parents were out taking care of business. I'll never forget the first day I got to see the family out swimming around the lake together. It was very cool. As the kits grew, the lodge would get seriously noisy at times. They're very vocal babies. I couldn't help but imagine this single beaver dad coming home after a long day of construction work, having literally done the work of two, to listen to all that racket all night. Poor guy probably never got any sleep.

Anyway, I found this cool video from the rehabers at Claws, who rescued two baby beavers from an immanent death sentence, and found a safe home in a zoo for them. The footage is a combination of stills and live video, where you get to see some of the work involved in raising beavers. Wait until you hear how noisy one hungry beaver is. Then, multiply that by three. I propose we offer our single beaver dad some sort of father's day award this year! But, I guess he'll probably be too busy to care much about that. So I'll just say all the best to you and your family, Mr. Beaver.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cinco and the Great Blue Heron

Cinco Makes New Friends at Peaks of Otter Lodge
Never let it be said that my dog isn't good at making new friends. Okay, well, she isn't great at it. She really wants to, she's just timid about it. She wants to sniff and generally suss out new people, and she's more than willing to accept treats from them, but there will be no touching, thank you very much, until much much later in the getting-to-know-you process.

Here's the thing, though. Isn't she cute? Everyone says so. Look at those eyes. They draw you in, and you just want to cuddle her. Trust me on this. Not cool. This is the surest way to send her running for the hills where she will hide, preferably under a  bed or a desk to growl until you cease and desist trying to pet her immediately. How did she get to be such a worry wart? I mean, I've owned her since she was six weeks old, and yes, she had it rough in those first six weeks, but she's been living the high life ever since.

Photo by Amanda Corlies Sandos
Anyway, I mentioned a great blue heron, didn't I? Yes, well, apparently great blue herons are not subject to exactly the same distrust as humans. Cinco is more than happy to bound right up to one, regardless of its killer bill that can skewer her, and it's incredibly long neck and deadly accuracy. These things? Not a big deal. Humans wanting to finger her? Terrifying.Luckily, the heron she chose to approach is probably old hat at these sorts of encounters, since she lives on the lake at the Peaks of Otter Lodge, where I'm sure tourists, their dogs, and even more frightening, their children have done all manner of strange things to the poor bird. She is immune. She just flies a short distance away, and promptly goes back to ignoring any intruders as if they are so much dirt under her feathers.

Photo by Amanda Corlies Sandos

What she does not tolerate well, however, are those pesky red-winged black birds landing anywhere near her person. She let my dog and I sit very nearby for almost an hour taking multiple photos of her. But, should a blackbird land anywhere near, she goes into a rage, attacking it, flapping her wings at it, and poking away until she's chased it off again. One of them climbing high into the bush above her to get away from her tanterums. This, apparently, was not
far enough.

Photo by Amanda Corlies Sandos
I had to laugh when the heron took hold of the branches to shake the whole tree vehemently until the offensive bird left. Cinco and I stayed for some time while I tried without success to capture this behavior in a decent photo. After a while, though, I started to wonder if the heron was exhibiting misplaced aggression. I mean, really, what could the blackbirds do to offend her? However, they are certainly easier to take on than some pesky tourist and her even more annoying overly-friendly dog. After giving this some thought, I decided it might be best for everyone if Cinco and I moved on.  It was a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Heron. Sorry for the intrusion.