My Right Foot

At Morgen's request, I'm giving an update on the black-crowned night-heron foot.

First, I have to tell everyone that according to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act you cannot have parts of native birds in your possession (even if you just found them on the ground without state and federal permits). I have an umbrella permit through The Raptor Center. I can have in my possession for education some of the most illegal bird parts out there--eagle parts by using their permits. Now, if you're reading this thinking, "Holy cow, I have a stock pile of cardinal feathers, I gotta flush 'em quick!!" Don't be alarmed. This treaty is in place to prevent poaching, let's face it, it's hard to prove poaching unless it's witnessed, so this is a tool for Fish and Wildlife to get someone suspected of poaching if they have parts without a permit. It's generally not abused, otherwise second graders across the country would be hauled in on a regular basis for every blue jay feather they find.

So, back to the heron foot. I tried to dry the foot in my office with nasty, smelly results but thanks to Morgen, I put it in some silica gel in a plastic bag and it worked great.

Here is my beautiful heron foot, dried in all it's glory. This will be a great prop for explaining why both herons and osprey are predators, but what's different--the feet for one thing. A heron's not going to get fish by using it's feet like an osprey does.

When I was in Maine our group found that washed up sooty shearwater and our guide was kind enough to cut the head off for me. I stopped and got some more silica gel and packed it in my carry on. I didn't have any permits with me so I was curious if I would get this past security. Of course my carry on was flagged at the Bangor Airport--I wondered if they thought the baggy full of a whitish substance was some type of drug? The screener pulled out the bag and raised an eyebrow. "It's got a bird head in it, see?" and I jiggled the bag to reveal the bird head. "I'm drying it out."

"Ma'am," he started, "we're not allowed to let you touch this table, but I'm going to make an exception and have you repack this bag."

So, for those curious, it is possible to get a sooty shearwater head past airport security without too much of a fuss. Here's the dried head, not too bad and more importantly, not too smelly.

I have the head in the bag about three weeks and took it out today. Some of gel is still a little grainy in the cranial cavity... say that five times fast.

Again, another tool for showing a predatory bird with a hooked beak but is still different from raptors. Hm, maybe I'll start doing the duck thing that WildBird on the Fly does, only with the sooty shearwater head. Will I be able to get wacky photos of people posing with my head?