This is the story about my first day volunteering at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael, CA. You can read the first part here.


After the snake cages, we make a plate of food for Marcie the possum. “She’s been getting a little chunky lately, so we’ve put her on a diet.” Marcie’s diet actually looks pretty good, besides the portion of dog food. She’s got some eggs, some grapes, some blueberries and some apple, all in equal 1/5 of a plate portions. I don’t get to actually feed her, though. “One of our volunteers startled her once by accident and Marcie bit her hand. She was wearing a leather glove, but it was still pretty deep,” Neil explains.

Finally, it’s time to dry off the thawed rodents that we pulled out of the freezer earlier. Neil dumps the hot water out of the bucket, then dumps the animals onto a towel, and we each grab them one at a time to towel off individually. I look down at the baby mouse in my hand, rubbing his belly like he’s an old friend, and can’t help but feel a little sorry for him, knowing that in the next 20 minutes he’ll be making his new home in the belly of a large owl. After all, growing up with a pet guinea pig named Hobbes and a pet hamster named Spikette, I’ve always been much more of gerbil guy than a bird dude.

On our way to the raptor enclosures, Neil and I make some small talk. “So you’re married? You’re pretty young, was that recently?” I ask. “Yeah, about a year now. I wore an orange tuxedo to the wedding.” I choke for a second, and ask, “How’d she feel about that?” Without missing a beat, he tells me, “Oh, it was her idea. She suggested that when I told her I wanted to wear the T-shirt with the tuxedo painted on it.”

Naturally.

We went inside the cages, and Neil turns to me with a smile and says, “Check this out.” He walks up to a small white box attached near the top of the wall, whistles, and sings, “Hey Luuuuuunaaaaa....” Then he takes a small black mouse, waves it in front of the small entrance hole, and makes a few kissing noises. Suddenly, a flash of white, and the mouse is gone. All that is left are the sounds made by a barn owl’s beak crunching into mouse bones.

“Pretty awesome, huh?” Neil laughs.

We feed the other birds, and then I wait outside the screech owl’s cage because “she’s very territorial, and she’ll try to attack you as soon as you come in if you’re not careful.” Neil heads inside to give her food, and remarks, “she’s nesting right now, but she’s infertile, so anytime she has an egg we take it and use it for an exhibit or food for the possum.” He wrestles around in her nest for a second, then comes out with an egg about half the size of a chicken’s.

We took the egg back to the animal care area, and Neil says, “I’m going to hollow this out to use for education.” I’ve never seen someone hollow out an egg before, so that was an experience itself when I saw him poke a hole in each end of the egg and start blowing as hard as he can. “It doesn’t taste too bad, actually. I’ve tried most of the stuff here: crickets, kibble... I haven’t had mouse yet, though.” I look at him for a second to see if he’s joking, and when I realize he’s not, I don’t really know what to say except to mumble something like “oh ok.”

I watch him finish blowing egg out of the shell, then he says “Alright, well I think we’re done for the day. Think you might want to come back?”

With such a great story from just one day of work, how could I not?
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