As the summer gets warmer, insects become more numerous. While this influx of arthropods gives Suli, our turkey vulture, fun things to chase, it poses a problem of ants swarming around any food the birds leave behind. This means that we need to step up our full mews-cleaning schedule to twice a week. This activity provides another great way to note the difference between the birds.
The first step in cleaning the mews is to move the birds elsewhere. Spraying around their mews with a hose is generally a good way to scare the beejeezus out of them, so Suli, Isham the red-tailed hawk, and Hayabusa the peregrine falcon must be relocated either outside in the weathering yard, or inside in their travel crates if weather is unfavorable. You may have noticed, being the sharp, intuitive person that you are, that Teasdale the great horned owl was not mentioned in the previous sentence. Teasdale hates the weathering yard because it subjects him sunlight, which he hates. He hates his travel box even more. What he doesn’t mind, however, is the hose, so he gets to stay in his mew (and occasionally ends up a tad soggy as a result).
The next step in cleaning is to pick up any feathers and food bits left behind. Isham’s mew is the easiest because, while he is molting like a beast, it’s a relatively small space to clean. Teasdale’s mew is the second easiest. He may hiss a few times at first, but he soon grows bored with this. Instead, he watches you quizzically, wondering why on earth you are so intent on picking up what he is quite certain is garbage. Even more confusing is when you praise him for old dropped feathers. Humans are so strange.
Haya, like Isham, has a small mew. Unfortunately, she has a tremendous ability to coat the entire space with feathers from the chicks and quail she eats. You can pick feathers from her astroturf all day long, but you’ll only end up with sore fingers. Suli is, by far, the messiest of all the birds. She also has the largest mew. She spreads feathers and fur all over the place. I was assigned to pick up her mew for the first few times I helped clean. My amazement at her capacity for filth spawned this song (sung to the tune of Camptown Races), which also became my cleaning-the-mews theme song.
Suli monster went to town. Do da, do da. Suli monster ran around. Oh, de doo-da day. Make a mess all night! Make a mess all day! Suli monster went to town. Now I’ve gotta clean all day!
After that, it’s just a quick matter of spraying the rocks clean and refilling the water dishes before the rest of the birds can go back into their mews. Teasdale and Haya make no indication of noticing anything different (just one of the many thankless services we perform). Occasionally Isham will get confused and hang his wings out, expecting rain to come with the new wet. Suli is incredibly comical to watch. She will inspect all of her rocks, incredibly suspicious. Occasionally she’ll wander under her shelf and get dripped on. This causes her to jump up and scurry away with fright (which is hilarious). Finally, even she settles in to enjoy another few days spreading filth all over her freshly cleaned mew.
Falconry Terms in Layman’s Terms
Falconry Definition: The physical condition of being fit and ready to be flown.
Layman’s Terms: Further proof that falconers are determined to have their own, nonsensical word for EVERYTHING. I’m honestly surprised that they don’t have their own language by now.