Monday, December 30, 2013

The Birds

The Birds

After all my traveling this year. I did not get back to Zumba.  However, I did ride some, and I did take care of my commitment to volunteer at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center.

One of the education birds is a Peregrine Falcon, a beautiful bird.  He has a wing injury, as do many that are education residents of Bird TLC, and that does not allow him to be released.  However, he and his presenters are able to educate others about birds, this particular type of bird and conservation. 
The most majestic of birds, the bald eagle.  There are a number of them at Bird TLC, including a few right now who are waiting to molt burned feathers (Adak dump where they got burned).  Once they do they hopefully will be releasable.  Two education eagles at the center, Hal and Petra, are stars of the show.  They may have been in the program for a number of years, but they still have that "eagle eye" look. 
Bird TLC is a pretty fantastic place, not always fun, but always interesting. You just never know what you will be doing. Over time I've picked up an eagle twice, which has to be very high on the list of thrills … the power that you know is in the legs that you are holding … while they are flexing … the talons that can shred prey in a heartbeat … the breast rising and falling as it breathes … the beautiful feathers … the golden eyes … the hook at the end of the beak that could rip a hole in my latex glove and stab through my flesh … my heart pounds when I have the privilege to do this. I've picked up other birds, but nothing equals the excitement of handling an eagle. For me, they've not been fully healthy, which makes it easier for my first times. I don't know that I would be the winner of a confrontation with one that is healthier, but I have not yet learned to fear, only to respect, to marvel, to love what I am doing there.

There are a number of owls in the education program ... wise, photogenic owls.
I've helped administer meds, I've cleaned eagle mews, bird cages, changed papers in the bottom of them, prepared food fit for the most majestic of birds as well as the smaller, not quite as significant ones, I've watched as one has passed over, or had to be helped to release its suffering hold on life.

Don't even think of taking a piece of salmon from this young eagle.
Volunteering at Bird TLC is not always pleasant, but we are there to help injured birds heal and be released back into the wild, or to pass if necessary, to have rehabilitated but unreleasable birds find homes elsewhere including in the Lower 48, to care for the education birds, and to enjoy what we are doing.

This little guy is a short-eared owl, but don't be fooled.  Those aren't ears, just feathers.  The ears are on the sides of the head.  The joke's on us.  And this one is saying that to our faces. 
There is another piece to this world … and that is becoming a presenter of education birds. I've elected to try this path, and have embarked down it … taking the class, handling a bird and giving my introduction presentation. I'm excited to be doing this … because it's an opportunity many never experience … to present, to educate, to see the wonder in the eyes of those who are the audience.

Presenters have as much fun as those learning about the birds.  The Eagle River Nature Center hosted a day where many birds from Bird TLC were available so people could see them and learn about them and the organization.

It will take some time as the presentation process is quite involved and lengthy … presentation preparation, working with a bird, giving presentations before a number of folks, including the Education Committee, and your mentor, and having your mentor sign off on three specific presentations … a walk by (such as at a fair or conference), an informal and a formal presentation.

Magpies ... noisy, obnoxious, curious, beautiful.
And what may be the most difficult piece … learning to tie a falconer's knot. Let's just say I'm still working on that, but am certainly closer … continuing to practice, practice, practice. Good grief, how hard can this be? I'm not a knot tier. It's difficult!!! But, I may have it … ask me for a demonstration.

Many birds come and go at Bird TLC.  Of course, the best ending is one of a bird coming to the clinic, being rehabilitated and then released back into the wild.  But there's not always a happy ending, sad, but true.  Sometimes a bird dies and you don't even know why when it appears to be on the mend.  But you try to let it go with dignity and then go on to help the next one hopefully achieve the best life it can.

What I've learned is that I know nothing when it comes to birds, and specifically my bird of choice for my beginnings as a presenter. I did not choose a hawk or owl or falcon as many others in the presenter class did. I chose Kodi, a crow who has been in the education system for quite some time and that I'm quite familiar with because he lives part time at the Bird TLC Clinic. I've changed his newspapers, I've prepared his food. And he fascinates me because he is close to a raven (which I did not choose because it lives in the Valley and would be difficult to access for training and presenting).

Kodi is short for Kodiak, which is where he was found. He's smart, as are the members of the corvid family (ravens, jays, crows, magpies), he's beautiful with his irridescent black feathers, and he's interesting as a species. I expect to continue to learn, and hopefully present in the future. What a wonderful opportunity for me (and others who elect to volunteer or to learn to be a presenter).

Kodi the cache crow is always ready to turn a buck.  He'll take it from you and cache it in the jar.  He's quite the little money maker, and he seems to be aware that he's a star at Bird TLC.