"Meet me in Zihuatanejo"
Eggs really are the rage this time of year. Everybody is either laying them, hunting for them, dying them, scrambling them or trying to break out of them. Very popular. At the Center, the eggs that are getting the most attention are those which remind me of scenes in two of my favorite movies. Think "Shawshank Redemption" and "Raising Arizona." Both have great jailbreak scenes concluding with some sort of rising from a pool of sewage. Chicks hatching are not quite as wet and messy, but the scene is filled with excitement just the same. There is always the chance you won't make it.
We breed a limited number of birds at the Center every year for education. It is now officially the time of year when owls hatch chicks. I was corrected by a friend at the Audubon meeting that owls don't have "babies" only people have "babies". I appreciate correctness and therefore now call the man who corrected me a friend despite having spoken to him only once. At any rate, owl eggs started hatching last Thursday while I was away. Things have not been easy for those trying to get out of Asian Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica) eggs over the last few attempts. In fact, only one had made it out alive and only lived a few minutes on the outside. Young pairs often take a few trys to get things right. We did what we could to help, but the breakout can only be executed from the inside. Blood vessels in the egg membranes must be gradually pinched off by the chick's beak (with egg tooth) movements. Outside help, while well intentioned, can cause death from "external" bleeding. Yikes.
Several had reached the pipping stage (seen in picture above), but had failed to turn in the egg and therefore failed to break out. The chick must rotate and chip a "belt" around the egg separating it into two halves. We weren't sure if it was an issue of humidity or some congenital defect. We fixed the humidity issue and were patiently awaiting this egg's pip. 36 hours went by with little rotation. Aargh. But he had started with 2 cracks. He had rotated some. A step in the right direction. Keep going little fella. Keep going.
When I arrived Saturday morning, we were almost there. Like most good escapes, the bulk of this one happened under the veil of darkness. Just a little way to go. Don't give up.
Saturday afternoon, I could see the egg flexing as the chick stretched its legs and wings. I could not resist assisting at this point because I knew all of the veins had been closed. It was only a tiny application of pressure and with a snap, the chick rolled out onto the hatching incubator's surface, mostly wet, but with a small fluffy area that had been exposed to the outside world for a day. Notice that the egg must serve as a sewer as well as a home. I think it looks most like John Goodman covered in mud.
The final shot is of our new Asian Brown Wood Owl chick lying on the beach in Zihuatanejo with its old friend Andy Dufresne. Freedom is sweet.