31 January 2009

Special forces possum

We like to give the animals in our care a good chance of survival when they're released. This means giving them the opportunity too practise the skills they'll need in the wild.

This it trooper Terry during his covert ops training, abseiling down the front of his cage.

We also teach them hand to hand combat and assassination techniques.

Seriously though, we recently moved Terry into a bigger cage and he's gradually getting the hang of climbing on branches and stuff. It's a lot less stressful than having him climb on us, and a lot less painful than us as well.

15 January 2009

Time to go

Donna was manning the BARN rescue phone on the weekend when she got a call from someone in our suburb. The caller had found a baby bird of unknown species sitting in the drive-thru of our local Red Rooster. She'd done the right thing and left it there for a while to see if it flew away or the parents came to feed it, but no such luck. So Donna asked if she could bring it round to us.

It turned out to be a Black Faced Cuckoo Shrike, a species we hadn't had in care before but had recently transported one for another carer. They're insectivores, but they'll also eat fruit which makes them pretty easy to look after as far as feeding is concerned.

This poor little fellar seemed to be pretty exhausted though, and with birds in that condition it's not a good idea to just feed them as normal. Your body has to use energy to break down food, so if you give a starving animal something that isn't easily digestible you may kill them. Fortunately, we have a product called First Aid which is made especially for this situation. I was able to get the bird to take some of it by putting some in a teaspoon and dragging its beak through it from side to side.

The next morning it was crying out for food and we discovered it was able to fly quite well, a fact it demonstrated by flying around our garage when we opened the basket it was in.

As I said, they're quite easy to look after, we got it to take a mix of pet mince (no, it's not minced up pets) and Wombaroo Insectivore, the same thing we feed to the tawnies, magpies, butcher birds and peewees. For the last few days all I've heard is the little bird calling out for food.

Our intention was to get it paired up with another cuckoo shrike of the same age that another carer had, the one we'd delivered a week earlier, but luckily we didn't get around to it. With all the calling it'd been doing it attracted the attention of an adult cuckoo shrike.

We usually put our birds outside during the day as they need the sunlight, even the nocturnal birds.

Yesterday the cuckoo shrike spent all day hanging from our clothes line and calling. We're lucky to have understanding neighbours, because it was a little annoying. Then later in the afternoon while we were busy feeding all the animals we noticed the adult was not only visiting, but it was visiting with food.

Eventually it landed on the cage and tried to feed the baby through the bars of the cage. This was the moment we'd been waiting for, as it meant the baby was either being adopted or the adult was actually one of its parents. As it was only found about five hundred metres from our house it's quite possible that it was a parent.

So I opened the cage, let the little guy perch on my finger and lifted it up onto the clothes line. From there it flew into one of our trees where it was met by one of the adults. It was a very rewarding sight to see the adult fly away, then come back with some food for the littlun. They then flew away in the direction of Red Rooster.

Hopefully we'll see them again, but not in care next time.

14 January 2009

New computer

It's been nearly a month since my last post. You'll remember that back then I'd just destroyed my laptop. Well now I've got another one and I won't be destroying this one, it's too cute.

What I bought is an Asus EeePC 901. It's more of a kneetop than a laptop really, it weighs half what my old Acer weighed and is a lot smaller. The keyboard takes a bit of getting used to because of its size, but I'm still touch typing with it so it's not too bad.

As I said in my last post, I don't want another windows computer. This one is running a version of Linux called Xandros. When I originally decided on the EeePC my intention was to try it with Xandros, then install Ubuntu. I'd already played with Ubuntu a bit on our desktop computer and quite liked it.

Getting Ubuntu onto the EeePC, or more specifically a version of it called Ubuntu Eee (now Easy Peasy) that's just for the EeePC, isn't as easy as you might think. That's a bit ironic when you consider that the E in the name stands for easy. The reason it's not straight forward is the EeePC doesn't have a CD drive, so you need to make a USB thumbdrive bootable and somehow get the operating system onto it, then install from there.

It involved a lot of mucking around, but as always Google was my friend and I managed to find out how to do it and eventually turned the little EeePC into a dual boot system running both Xandros and Ubuntu. Then the frustration started.

No matter what I did I couldn't get Ubuntu to make a wireless connection. In fact I couldn't even get it to connect to the internet by plugging into the router. Luckily the frustration was tempered by the fact I could still connect by rebooting into Xandros. Then I discovered a few other things that didn't work in Ubuntu as they should and, believe it or not, there was no e-mail program installed. Not that that was much of a problem if I couldn't connect to the internet.

After a few days of mucking around with Ubuntu I noticed that Xandros wasn't working as well as it should, to the point it was becoming almost unuseable. When I tried running restore it wouldn't work at all, so I decided to reformat the whole thing and just have Ubuntu on the computer, thinking maybe I could get the wireless problem sorted. No such luck.

Now here's where I love the little EeePC, where it stands out from a lot of other computers. A lot of manufacturers these days don't supply disks with their products, it saves them a few cents on each machine and that all adds up. What they do is put the operating system in a partition on your hard drive and you restore from there. Of course it's absolutely useless if your hard drive gets corrupted like on my old Acer.

Asus supply you with not one, but two disks. One has the operating system on it and the other has some useful utilities, including one that allows you to make your little USB thumdrive bootable.

So now I have a nice clean installation of Xandros on the computer and it's running as it should. I must admit though, I was having a fiddle the other day and ended up breaking something. It's so nice to be able to get the whole thing back up and running again in under ten minutes.

Because the EeePC only has a 20GB hard drive you have to rely more on external storage, a good thing as far as I'm concerned. In fact Asus give you free online storage for your files if you have an EeePC. I also use Firefox Foxmarks to keep my bookmarks synchronised. If I have to reinstall Xandros again all I have to do is download all my bookmarks from the server. That's something I'm really glad I had on the old laptop.

So if you're in the market for a new laptop, consider the little EeePC. It's not for everyone and if you're not computer literate don't go for the Linux version as it's not as straight forward as windows when you want to install new programs. It comes with most of the things you might need, including Open Office, Firefox for web browsing, Thunderbird for e-mail and even a few half decent games. If you're looking for something small, light and cheap it's great. Ideal for a student.