Archive for May, 2009

We’ve got video!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 26, 2009 by Dawn

Here is the video my friend Adrianne made of my red-tailed hawk release.  I was nervous…can you tell?  I don’t think my public speaking skills are up to par.  However, big kudos to Jodeane (director of the MRP) for being there and helping me out when I needed it (and for giving me this awesome opportunity in the first place).

It’s a bit long – just about 10 minutes – and the best part (the actual release of the bird) happens between 8 and 9 minutes.


Posted in Uncategorized on May 26, 2009 by Dawn

Thanks to everyone who voted for my blog in the Birdchick’s Birdorable Blog Contest — I won

Please stay tuned for an updated entry on the great horned owl release on May 11, plus a new entry about my very first raptor release which happened on May 16.   I fell a bit behind due to some of my other projects, but I hope to have For the Birds. back up and running.

In the meantime, here is a photo to tide you over…

This is me, having a little chat with the red-tailed hawk Im about to release.  Photo by Julie Staub.

This is me, having a little chat with the red-tailed hawk I'm about to release. Photo by Julie Staub.

Into the wild…

Posted in Uncategorized on May 13, 2009 by Dawn

Part I – The release.

Monday evening before my rehab session at the MRP, I had the privilege of witnessing the “armpit biter” great horned owl (GHOW) being released back into the wild.   This particular GHOW had been with us for several months, so I’m sure she was ready to get back to her wild home.  

The release took place at the Iowa City home of the woman who found her and reported her injury to MRP staff.  The plan was to release the owl in her backyard, but when we arrived on site we knew it wasn’t the best place to let her go because…


…this family of ducks was swimming around in the pond, and none of us wanted to see one of the ducklings become the owl’s dinner.

To avoid a confrontation with the ducks, we ended up taking the owl about a block away where Nikki, one of the other rehabbers, placed her in a pine tree.   Though I AM going to miss working with her, hopefully we will not see her again and she will thrive among the other wild creatures.  Here she is in her pine tree:

 I’m quite sure this was the most exciting thing to ever happen in this neighborhood.

View my Flickr set for all the photos from the release.


 Part II – A misty-eyed rehab.

Monday was my final rehab session with the red tailed hawk (RTHA) in the flight cage.  The director of the MRP called me on Friday to see if I would be interested in coordinating his release, and of course I was all over it. 

His flying had improved so much in the last couple of weeks.  He had excellent speed and control, and to watch him glide to his perch is like watching a dream.  He was obviously ready to go.  I just kept watching him fly back and forth above me, and relished one of the last chances I would have to enjoy sharing such a small corner of the world with such a fantastic bird.

Watching him, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like a parent whose child was graduating from college.  But I think this is much, much cooler.

Here he is, mere days away from being sent back into the wild.

And so, being the huge dork that I am, I let my eyes tear up a little bit. I was so proud of the bird, but also proud of myself for accomplishing what I have so far.

The release took place on Saturday, May 16th at 10am at the Macbride Raptor Project. 

I will miss working with this hawk, but he needs to be free.  And I am looking forward to giving him that freedom.

red tailed hawk video

Posted in Uncategorized on May 5, 2009 by Dawn

red tailed hawk video, originally uploaded by kitty cat bandit.

I made a little video during my rehabilitation session with the red tailed hawk on May 4, 2009.

great horned owl video

Posted in Uncategorized on May 5, 2009 by Dawn

great horned owl video, originally uploaded by kitty cat bandit.

A little video I made during my rehab session with the great horned owl (AKA Armpit Biter) on May 4, 2009.

Best. Rehab. Ever.

Posted in Uncategorized on May 5, 2009 by Dawn

Last night was perhaps the best rehab session I’ve had so far in my volunteer-career as a wildlife rehabilitator.  I hadn’t rehabbed in the two weeks prior to tonight, and it felt great to get back in the flight cage and see how my feathered friends are doing.  Last Monday, I didn’t go out to the raptor center because I didn’t feel well and the week before I didn’t fly either bird because they both had additional injuries that were separate from their “regular” injuries (i.e. the injuries for which they are in the flight cage in the first place).  I didn’t want to agitate anything further so I let them be.  It looks like letting them rest was a good idea because they both were in fine form tonight.

I began with the red tailed hawk, who I fully expected to be as much of a pain in the butt as he was last time I flew him.  If you will recall, I spent nearly an hour chasing him along the floor of the flight cage to no avail at all – he barely flew for me, so I put him back without completing his regimen of five perch-to-perches.  Tonight was completely different.  After catching him (which was the hardest part of the whole ordeal), he proceeded to give me his five perch-to-perch (P-P) flights plus an additional two P-Ps.  I felt like he and I were perfectly in sync and that he understood exactly what I wanted him to do.  He didn’t struggle while being held, and he didn’t put up a fight once I had caught him and was holding him.  His flying mechanics have improved greatly since the last time I worked with him, and he demonstrated a vast improvement in his landings.  I tried to offer him positive feedback and cheer him on while he was going through his exercises, which in my mind makes all the difference.  I completed his exercises in about 30 minutes, I think, and got him back in his cage safely and soundly.

The armpit biter great horned owl was up next.  Once he came down from his high perch on the wall, I caught him easily only to be bitten very hard on the left arm.  It left a tiny but very painful welt.  But, since I’m used to the sharp sting of his beak at this point, I got right to his wing stretches and then launched him into the air from the middle of the flight cage.  His flight had improved tremendously since our last session, as well.  His height, speed, glides, and landings were all those of a bird who was well on his way to being released back into the wild.  After being a resident of the MRP since early winter, I’m sure he is eager to get back to the woods and tell all his friends about the mean girl who made him fly back and forth inside a big cage.

I was so thrilled after the rehab session that I literally jumped up and down afterward.  I was happy with the birds’ performances, but was also happy with myself for being what I felt was a very observant and patient rehabber.  I did not allow them to intimidate me, which I do sometimes because, well, they are large wild birds who are not happy about their current living situation and the fact that people in big leather gloves come into their space, corner them, grab them by the legs, and make them do flying exercises.

Sometimes it’s also easy to forget that there is a barrier between myself and these birds, and that barrier is called WILDNESS.  These birds, no matter now much I talk to them or anthropomorphosize them, are wild animals.  They want nothing to do with me.  When I’m holding them and looking into their eyes (from a mere six inches away) thinking about how amazing it is to be thisclose to a wild great horned owl, they are thinking, “I’d kill you right now if I could.” 

It doesn’t bother me.  I signed up for this so I can’t complain about the bites or the birds’ blatant animosity toward my presence in their immediate space.  I am helping them, whether they know it (or like it) or not.  And tonight, I felt like the three of us – me, the hawk, and the owl – were all on the same page.  We danced.  I led.

 They’ll thank me in the end.

I made two videos from today’s session, but will post them in separate entries from my Flickr account.

Today’s photos:

My rehab accountrements: leather falconer gloves, rehab notebook, trusty pencil.

My rehab accountrements: leather falconer gloves, rehab notebook, trusty pencil.

The new kid: a Coopers hawk was brought to the flight cage this week.  He is under observation only for right now.

The new kid: a Cooper's hawk was brought to the flight cage this week. He is under observation only for right now.