On Storing Specimens

Ready for Take-offAhhhh, Saturday. I tried for a picture of Max’s leg bands, but just could not get one that was clear enough. The picture above, at the very least, shows evidence of black over green. I am fairly sure of the “5” on the top. That bottom letter is still killing me, though. It looks, for all the world, like a tipped over “E,” but that just can’t be. So, I keep trying.

Herc and Max spent most of the time I stood on the garage perched on the skyperch, the Old Colony building or the Monadnock. A lazy Saturday for all, I guess.

I heard some screeching from inside the nest and saw a puff of feathers come out that would indicate baby or babies trying their wings. I am guessing that the babies will be out on the ledge sometime late next week, possibly Thursday to Saturday. I’m pretty excited. How many could there be? No idea. My guess is 2 to 3.

This makes sense in the development stage too. From what I’ve been reading, by day 22, the flight feathers really hit some big development and the chick’s legs are nearly fully grown. This is right at the age when banding is safe, since the legs won’t experience any more growth, so the bands will fit correctly. The babies are very active at this point and may even begin flapping their wings in order to strengthen them.

The feathers of the wings and tail really control a bird’s flight, so they are important. I’ve already put three new words into your vocabulary, I hope. Countour feathers are the feathers distributed over the whole body. Some of these contour feathers modify to form the remiges (flight feathers of the wing) and rectrices (flight feathers of the tail).

If you stretch a birds wing out, you will notice that the rear edge is lined with big feathers. These are the flight feathers. The primary flight feathers are on the outside, farthest away from the body and are connected to the bird’s hand bones. These are the largest of the remiges and the main feathers used for flight – they propel the bird through the air. When a bird lives indoors as a pet, owners clip these feathers (it’s painless) so that the bird cannot fly around the house where it may injure itself. So, lesson is, without the primaries, the bird can’t fly. The secondaries are the next feathers in and are connected to the birds arm bones. They help give lift, sustaining the bird in flight.

The tail feathers (rectrices) are used for steering and balance. They are used like a rudder and also like a brake. With the speed and agility of the peregrine, they certainly need these!

At any rate, our chicks should have both rectrices and remiges emerging from their shafts and growing at a good clip. The secondaries grow more quickly. I suppose that is so the bird doesn’t try to fly before it is ready. You can see a picture of this stage here.

Peregrine Falcon Prey Remains 1I found a Cedar Waxwing on the garage top. It was very fresh. If this were a weekday, I would baggie the remains and take it into the museum. But, it wasn’t, so I’d have to store it until Monday. With nowhere to store it, I took several pictures instead: from the back and from the front.

Actually, this might be a good time to mention the woes of marriage to a biologist type, which I am. My husband, Sean, is a wonderfully intellectual man with interests in many, many things. Not only has he been been fantastic with regards to my excited going on and on and on about the prison falcons and falcons in general, but he’s actually come up to watch with me now and again. He works as a computer network engineer at Midway Games.

Peregrine Falcon Prey Remains 2One thing that he has asked me not to do is bring home animal remains and store them in our refrigerator. For most biology types, popping this sort of thing into the fridge until you can take it into the museum isn’t a problem. We double baggie this stuff and, if Ziploc commercials are to be believed, what is inside, stays inside and doesn’t contaminate outside, so no prob if a half bird is stored next to your Yoplait, right?

But, most people, I suppose, don’t feel this way. So, in honor of Sean’s sensibilities, I had promised to buy a small cooler to store anything of that sort out of his sight. I had not yet done so, so couldn’t bring this Cedar Waxwing home.

While I don’t find the following anecdote particularly gruesome, some might, so stop reading now if you are a sensitive type.

When I was in Oregon, working on my first degree in biology, I roomed one summer with two people in my class who were working for the US Forest Service during break.

One day, as they were coming down out of the mountains, they saw a dead doe on the side of the highway and stopped to make sure she was dead and not in need of help. She was, but she was pregnant. So, they did what they could, hoping they might be able to save the fawn.

The fawn, however, was going to be stillborn anyway as it had a remarkable birth defect – it had two full heads. Of course, they brought it home for our biology department’s museum collection. This, however, was a Friday night. So, we cleared out the bottom of the fridge and stored the rather large specimen over the weekend.

I guess that’s where I learned to be a bit blase about the whole thing. Not everyone, including my husband, feels this way, of course. That two-headed fawn still resides, as far as I know, in the Southern Oregon University Natural History collection. ‘Nuff said.

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~ by Steph on May 27, 2006.