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12/01/2007: "Bird Rescue"


Today is the last teaching day. Next are study sessions and final exams. It is time to think about packing! I forgot to mention that two days ago at sunrise we steamed past the famous Madeira Islands. Madeira means wood and many a tall ship stopped here to cut the pine trees for wood for their voyage, get fresh water, and later, buy the famous Madeira wine. There were a lot of houses on the main island.

Yesterday, a student called me in my cabin to report a bird in distress on the aft 6th deck aft. I got there and someone had put a piece of bread next to it. It was a small storm petrel, I later identified as a Madeira Storm Petrel, not often seen. It was wet, sitting in a puddle and losing heat and energy. I had students gather napkins and I worked to dry every feather and to hold it in the sun and get it to warm up. You lose heat 400 times faster when wet than when dry, so getting the little one dry was a priority. I then checked it out, made sure nothing was broken, and then let it go. It flew with vigor, up and up and even flew ahead of our ship which was moving at about 20 knots! (No Bobby, it didnít get eaten like the other time, so there are no cartoon opportunities here!) Petrels are pelagic birds and can spend years over the open ocean and only go to land to breed.

I taught my last Community College course last might and tonight is the Ambassadorís Ball. I wasnít going to go, but was invited by several staff, so will join them for dinner and perhaps a dance or two. Less than a week now. Phew!