Although I have been trying to perfect my skills as a boring-pose taxidermist, today I decided to go bold. Coming soon – the flying mallard.
The day began doing some touch up work on our pheasants before we “put them to sleep” which is taxidermist jargon for letting them dry for a week or two. Every feather must be properly placed, toes must be aligned and wings set just right. Once the bird is dry, I am told, it can’t be fixed. Clarence required a bit of critter clay to set his waddle in place (that red dangly bit). Nobody likes a poorly set waddle.
Once Clarence and his companions were set to sleep comfortably, we began work on our mallards. First, we painted the beaks. While we used the real head on our pheasants, on the mallards, we removed the real heads and instead used a head from the taxidermy supplier. The beak comes unpainted, so a bit of artistry is needed. Dennis gave us the secret recipe of colors for a perfect mallard beak and we airbrushed away. We set the eyes in critter clay and made a fake neck out of some caulk cover. I am constantly in a state of wonder – how can something constructed in such a bizarre manner look life like in the end???
Next, we wired the wings and the feet. When a bird is in a standing pose, the wing wires are not needed. I missed the pleasure of wiring wings with Clarence. In order to wire a wing, one needs to hold the wing completely straight while jamming a highly sharpened piece of wire in from the body side and back out at the tip of the wing. This requires a shocking amount of force and a good bit of cursing under one’s breath. On the first wing, I stabbed the wire out of the wing and nearly into my hand about a dozen times before it landed in the right spot. Thankfully for all involved, the second wing went a bit more smoothly. The body end of the wire is then pushed through the body of the manikin (again sharp and right towards your hand!) and “pigtailed” into the body.
With all of that done, it was time to sew. Mallards have very tender skin. Unlike small mammals which require a rather large sharp flat needle, the birds are sewn with a small sewing needle and . . . dental floss – waxed dental floss to be exact. I sewed away, and soon had a mallard who seemed to be jumping for joy. Using another rather large piece of very sharp wire, I attached my mallard to a two-by-four scrap and began posing. As you can see from the photos, he is really going for it. I suggest you play “Flight of the Valkyries” as you view the photos. It really adds something.
Clarence was basically finished yesterday, today I added a bit of critter clay and some pins in his toes so that he will dry properly in his majestic pose.
Since their feet can’t be pinned in place, the flying birds need critter clay on their feet to hold the pose while drying.
After quite a bit of cursing under my breath and nearly stabbing myself with a sharpened piece of wire, my mallard is all trussed up and ready to be sewn.
Hooray! I have finished sewing.
Naturally, in the time it took me to skewer myself and stitch up my bird, Dennis has completed his mallard which is now soaring majestically near his bench.
Cue “Flight of the Valkyries.” My mallard takes off!
Now the tricky part, eye pinning. As always Dennis makes it look incredibly easy.
Rob takes a break from working the turkey to do some dental work on his coyote. In the meantime, I am pretty sure Mark’s mallard is about to crash land into his back.
This place is turning into a Monty Python version of a museum diorama. That darn bobcat is always jumping at something.