Airport bird dog back on the job

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Mayday, Augusta Regional Airport's bird-chasing border collie, is back at work after a large lump was removed from her leg about three weeks ago.

Tina Rhodes, Mayday's handler and caretaker, said the mass turned out to be benign but it was enough to scare her into having it removed and tested. Her dog, Precious, died of a similar mass several years ago, she said.

"It reminded me of the tumor my personal dog had before she died," Ms. Rhodes said. "It was huge, like a big knot. Thankfully, it wasn't cancerous, but it worried me."

Ms. Rhodes said the surgery couldn't have come at a better time because 11-year-old Mayday does most of her work in the spring and summer. When the weather warms, flocks of egrets and starlings attempt to nest in the tall grasses around the airport's runways and can be a hazard to the airplanes as they take off and land.

In the winter the airport's main avian concern shifts to the thousands of blackbirds that pass over in the late afternoon. Since they pass directly over the airport instead of trying to nest in the runways, Mayday can do little to keep them away, Ms. Rhodes said. Instead, the airport officials have been working with the Richmond County Utilities Department to limit the desirability of the nearby wetlands.

That's a two-fold process. The utilities department deploys a special boat to flatten the tall grasses the blackbirds like to nest in, and the airport uses fireworks to scare the flock from the airfield, according to Diane Johnston, the airport's marketing director.

"What we're trying to do is train them to go back over the Savannah River, which is where their path was before," Ms. Johnston said. "By doing that, what we hope to do is change their migratory path back where it used to be."

In the meantime, Mayday has been able to scale back her work schedule in order to heal. Ms. Rhodes said she has been recovering quite quickly.

If something should happen to Mayday, Ms. Rhodes said, she is not sure she would get another dog. As the airport's wildlife management agent, the decision falls on her, and it's one she doesn't want to have to think about just yet.

"As far as I'm concerned she is still working," Ms. Rhodes said. "It's kind of a hard question for me to ask because she is like a person. To plan a funeral for her while she is nowhere near death is hard. I just love her."

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

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wildman
1225
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wildman 01/29/09 - 04:00 am
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I have lost sleep on this

I have lost sleep on this one, glad to know. Oh I forgot, I fly out of Columbia.

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 01/29/09 - 05:22 am
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The dogs in Ms Rhodes care

The dogs in Ms Rhodes care develop a mass? Sounds mighty suspicious.

ThurstonHowell
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ThurstonHowell 01/29/09 - 08:41 am
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That's actually quite common

That's actually quite common on older dogs, particularly larger breeds. They won't discuss plans on a replacement because although it's a nice thought there aren't many birds to chase away, at least not enough to pose a danger. I'd be surprised if the dog was replaced with another.

RU4Real
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RU4Real 01/29/09 - 08:50 am
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Uncle BS be careful, they

Uncle BS be careful, they want to send the blackbirds back across the river. That may send them in the flight path of Columbia Airport!

b1
306
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b1 01/29/09 - 09:19 am
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What a dork flying out of

What a dork flying out of Columbia. Support your airport. Augusta has really done a great job getting this airport looking like an airport and getting those Delta flights on schedule. I fly a lot and almost everytime it is cheaper to fly out of Augusta than ATL or columbia!

JohnnyYuma
0
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JohnnyYuma 01/29/09 - 09:42 am
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"Sounds mighty suspicious"

"Sounds mighty suspicious" Everything is a conspiracy when you're paranoia.

edst4
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edst4 01/29/09 - 10:01 am
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I have to agree with b1 I

I have to agree with b1 I have compared prices of flying from Augusta to LA it was 75.00 cheaper than flying right from Atlanta to LA. In the past this was not the norm.

sprintman
0
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sprintman 01/29/09 - 10:49 am
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With the low prices at

With the low prices at Augusta's airport. It makes no sense to fly out of Atlanta or Columbia anymore. Like it did 3-5 year's ago. Augusta is a big enough city now.

sprintman
0
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sprintman 01/29/09 - 10:58 am
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I heard that another airline

I heard that another airline wants to come to Augusta.

sprintman
0
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sprintman 01/29/09 - 10:59 am
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I heard that another airline

I heard that another airline wants to come to Augusta

Riverman1
94246
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Riverman1 01/29/09 - 11:37 am
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Absolutely, it is currently

Absolutely, it is currently cheaper to fly directly from Augusta than Atlanta. I have no idea why. Plus, there is no telling how cheap the flights during Masters week will be.

mejustnutts
9
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mejustnutts 01/29/09 - 02:07 pm
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When I can leave from Augusta

When I can leave from Augusta and fly directly to Washington-Dulles Airport, THEN I'll fly from Augusta. Until then I have to fly to Atlanta, then Charlotte, and then into Washington-Dulles at about 3 times the cost. On the other hand, I can fly directly from Columbia to Washington-Dulles in just under an hour and for much cheaper!

Phish
0
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Phish 01/29/09 - 10:01 pm
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Why do they want to chase

Why do they want to chase away the Black birds?? Egrets is white birds and they dont cause no problem?? Typical Augusta racism all over the place even hatin the birds d**m

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