It is a crisp April morning here in Cody, Wyoming and as I did my morning walk-through of the mews to check on the birds I couldn’t help but think of how lucky they are. Yes, how lucky the birds are. Of course I’d rather they were all still in the wild, doing what they were meant to do but since that is no longer an option, I’m glad they are safe and sound with us. I’m not saying that they wouldn’t be safe and sound with another organization, but we truly do spoil our birds. This is obvious the second one enters our mews, especially on a cold morning.
When approaching the building, which is gated off from public areas, I walked through a dusting of snow. Not a big deal, even for a wild bird here in Wyoming. But if you really think about it, the cold temperatures and dusting of snow would require the birds to burn extra energy to stay warm and many raptors are currently sitting on eggs or chicks right now. That means not only needing extra food for themselves, but for each hungry mouth they have to feed as well. And that means burning more energy to obtain the food to provide more energy. Sounds like a vicious cycle, right? That’s nature!
I can’t help but think about those wild birds as I look at the beautiful face of Hayabusa watching me approach from her 3′x5′ window. Safely tucked inside her room, she has a full belly, plexiglass covering her normally open-air windows, and a personal heater that kicks on when the room’s temperature drops below 39 degrees. Peregrine falcons rarely survive more than a few years in the wild. If Hayabusa hadn’t been found and taken to a rehabilitation center after she was injured she wouldn’t have lived long. Now, she has daily meals, medical care to help with her disabilities, and mental stimulation to keep her from being bored. Of all our birds, she seems to enjoy the public appearances the most – constantly watching the people and her surroundings (especially when we are outside) simultaneously. I’d say she’s a bit spoiled.
Next I look across at the empty mew for Suli. It’s empty because Suli spends the chilly evenings in her “winter mew” which is 8′x8′x9′ and nestled inside the only part of the building that is heated. Turkey vultures, like peregrine falcons, are migratory and don’t handle cold temps very well, although she’ll make the most of whatever sunlight hits her window. So, when the mercury drops below 35 degrees, Suli moves to the heated area. Although she often protests being in there for too long (there aren’t any windows – a design flaw on my part), when it’s cold she is more than happy to pack up and move indoors. If only the poor wild vultures had that option. Instead, they are huddled together in the pine trees, riding out the spring storms.
The next bird to pass is Isham. Since moving from New Mexico to Wyoming he has really come out of his shell. He started off a bit timid and nervous but always a wonderful bird to work with and great with volunteers and guests alike. The longer he is here, the more comfortable he gets and he has transformed into a completely different bird! Most mornings he greets me with quiet “talk” – as long as he doesn’t think I’m looking He has become comfortable enough in his new home that he has recently begun to fly around his room. This was unheard of until this Spring! I am so proud that he has become this comfortable with us – it tells me he is truly happy with his “new” life.
Moving up the hallway I find Teasdale. As usual, he is nestled on his branch perch, right next to his window. In the exact same spot I last saw him the evening before. I don’t worry about the fact that during the day he very rarely moves away from his favorite spot. He’s an owl. That’s what they do. They sit and wait. I do know, however, that he moves around when nobody is there. The evidence below his other perches proves that he is definitely active at night. In addition to the “whitewash” in the other corners of his room, Teasdale leaves a trail of shredded phone book pages strewn across the pea gravel floor. One volunteer has hypothesized that this is his scratch paper for his artwork. She’s convinced he has crayons hidden somewhere and when we’re gone he pulls out the crayons, tears off a piece of scratch paper, and begins to create. When anyone approaches Teasdale hisses to let us know we are not invited to enter his enclosure. We’ve decided now, though, that that is probably the sound of him sliding his drawings under his perch so we can’t see them. If that’s not the sign of a happy owl, I don’t know what is!
The final bird to check on is Kateri. The newest resident of the mews is completely settled in and appears right at home in her new life. It took some adjusting and there were small alterations to be made to make her completely comfortable, but she now appears to be a perfect fit. I have worked with a mellow, amazing golden eagle before (the first one I worked with, in fact) but Kateri blows her away. For a wild animal to be completely comfortable with your approach and to allow you to pick them up and work with them in such a short period of time is truly amazing. We could not have gotten luckier with not only Kateri, but all our birds.
I head back to my office and when I reach the door, as always, I assure the birds I will be back out later. I know they don’t understand the words and that they are perfectly content without me being present but there is something in the words that comforts me. I LOVE that I get the privledge of coming back out to see them again later. And while I honestly believe that each of our birds is lucky, it can’t compare to how lucky I am to be a part of their lives.
Spring has sprung! Although as I write this it’s snowing and blowing outside. I suppose it’s only fitting since we didn’t really have a winter this year.
Anyway, for me, Spring means that summer is just around the corner. Summer. Our busiest season. The season where hundreds of thousands of tourists (literally) pass through Cody on their way to or from Yellowstone National Park. The goal is to get a good number of those folks to stop on into the Buffalo Bill Historical Center and visit not only the five amazing “museums” we have but to stop by and learn about our birds as well.
During the summer everything here is different. We no longer have one informal presentation daily to our small crowds. We have bigger and bigger crowds, interns, summer staff around every corner, and more developed and “show-like” raptor programs for our guests. All that means a lot more preparation on our part. Well, mostly on my part as I’m the one training everyone.
April first means it’s time to begin working on our summer program. Time for birds to get in shape. OK, Suli is actually the only one who actually has to get in shape, but we also do training with the other birds for exercise and enrichment. Isham and Teasdale do short flights and Hayabusa is working on physical therapy maneuvers for her damaged wing.
I have about 6 weeks to get Suli not only in shape, but to also teach her what she’ll be doing during our summer programs. Last year we asked her to make two flights across our amphitheater. That might not sound like much, but for a vulture who doesn’t know she’s a vulture, is scared of strangers, and has never flown free in the wild it was kind of a big task. This year I’m asking even more of her!
On top of getting Suli trained, which I need to do before our three interns arrive in mid-May, we’ve been training Kateri and the volunteers. Kateri is doing amazingly well and seems to handle every new step of her life with the grace and composure that only a truly exceptional eagle can do. The volunteers are also doing well being trained to work with Kateri. I have complete confidence that this summer Kateri will be stealing the show at every program.
Although my mind races with all the preparations for summer, I also have to remember we still have lots of activities going on right here at the Center and tons to do before summer even hits! April and May are quite busy as many local schools invite us to come do programs before the end of the school year. I’ve also been invited to present at a Women In Science conference in Laramie in May, which I’m really excited about, and we’re giving two major programs for the Spring Into Yellowstone Birding and Wildlife Festival the same week as the conference in Laramie.
Fortunately for me and my sanity, I have amazing volunteers that help take a huge chunk of the burden off of me. I can always count on them to provide high quality programs for our guests and their dedication to the birds themselves is incredible. I consider myself very lucky every day and to make sure they continue to be the amazing bird folks they are I provide them with continued training and more opportunities to learn.
That reminds me . . . time to schedule some training for the volunteers! :0)
When I last left you I had just spent an amazing day at Natural Encounters, Inc (NEI). We had been fortunate enough to see free flights of some amazing birds and I managed to snap some pretty cool shots – like this one of the foot of Luigi, the Harpy Eagle.
It was an exciting day filled with new friends, new ideas, new sunburns (like an idiot I left my sunblock in the hotel room), and amazing new birds. It was exhausting! The bus ride out to “the farm” that morning had been quite enlightening as I was lucky enough to sit next to Jennifer, a Keeper/Naturalist/Educator at the National Eagel Center in Minnesota, and behind Susan, newly hired Keeper at the Aquarium of the Pacific in California. We talked about all kinds of stuff from training rats and chickens to the birds we work with and more. On the way home, however, we were tired and much more quiet (which Jennifer and Susan probably appreciated as I was over my shyness with them by now).
After a day and a half of paper presentations on everything from “What makes an expert an expert?” to “Meeting the challenge of excessive preening behavior in a barn owl” we took a trip to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. I LOVE going to zoos! It’s an even bigger treat when they have a bird show, like they do at Lowry Park Zoo. The bird show was one of the last events of the day so we were able to enjoy much of the zoo on our own.
Finally it was time for the bird show! Now, I’m not trying to be negative, but I will say that most “bird shows” in the US are basically the same and although Lowry Park had a GREAT bird show, it was very similar to the shows you will find at most zoos and “parks” in the US. What was cool, though, was that they had more raptors than most “regular” bird shows.
As we got a final back-stage tour of the bird show area I got to check a bird off my life list. OK, I’m not “really” into birding, but I do love when I get to see a new raptor in the wild and I’m doing my best to learn to identify and better appreciate non-raptors. Anyway, as we were touring I heard a hawk scream overhead and looked up to see a red-shouldered hawk flying above us. As I said earlier, I hadn’t seen one up close before, and honestly, I had NEVER seen one so this was a real treat for me.
The conference ended with a few more presentations and a banquet where awards were given for the organizations photo contest, the best paper presentation, best behavior trained that year, and so on. I left with my head spinning with lots of ideas on papers I might be able to present, behaviors I can try for improving our birds lives, and SO much more. To say the least it was inspiring and I hope that each of you get the opportunity to have an experience like this at some point!]
I am a very fortunate person. I am one of the lucky people who LOVES their job. But it’s more than that. Not only do I work with amazing animals and wonderful volunteers who will do almost anything for those amazing animals, but I also work for someone who appreciates me and my skills and allows and even encourages me to seek ways to be even better at what I do. I have learned that THAT is truly amazing.
I have worked with raptors in four different organizations now. Every organization is different. Every organization has good qualities and bad, but one thing I really disliked about a previous job was the fact that my boss did everything in his power to keep me from learing about my “industry.” I read about raptors every night, searching for interesting new facts I could use in my programs and that was fine with him. What wasn’t fine was attending conferences or presentations by other raptor educators or education groups. I soon realized the real reason this took place, but we won’t go into that now. The important thing is interacting with others in your chosen profession and discussing new information and techniques is critical. Fortunately, my current boss supports continuing education and encouraged me to attend the 21st annual conference for the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators (IAATE) in Tampa a few weeks ago. And what a fantastic experience!
A surprise to most people who know me, the most difficult part about attending this conference for me was mustering up the courage to talk to strangers. I know, I talk to strangers for a living! These weren’t regular strangers, remember . . . these were strangers who love what I love. But they also KNOW a lot of, or more than, what I do so it can be very intimidating. Luckily, I found a few super fantastic ladies to chat with, exchange ideas, and just have fun with during the conference.
Before the conference officially begins, they offer “pre-conference trips.” While tempted to swim with manatees, I chose to attend a day at Natural Encounters, Inc. (NEI). Often considered THE organization for professional bird shows (they are often contracted to present bird shows at zoos and state fairs around the country), they are a great source for help with husbandry, animal training, staff training, and much more! Our day inculded a tour of their facility which houses hundreds of birds from around the world – everything from chickens to parrots to crows to raptors! At every corner there were new ideas flooding my brain!
The most exciting parts of our tour, for me, were the free-flight demonstrations. They started by showing us a gorgeous young crowned crane. She takes daily “walks” with a staff member to build up her strength and stimulate her mentally. She was beautiful, but I wanted to see raptors.
Next we got a quick lesson on how to train a parrot to turn around. Having worked with parrots many years ago I was moderately interested, but I wanted to see raptors.
Finally, we got to the good stuff (for me, anyway). I have never seen an albino bird, or even a partial albino (leucistic), in the wild. I lived very close to a leucistic red-tailed hawk in Colorado and never managed to see it – even though half my friends did. On this day, however, I saw one! Lakota, the red-tailed hawk, was one of the most beautiful birds I’ve seen and here she was, flying just for us!
I am a big fan of vultures! While I’m not well traveled, I have been lucky enough to get to see some cool vultures in captivity. There are still MANY I need to see, but it’s always a real treat to see the big ones. “Sadie,” a female Andean Condor was brought out for us next. She is so amazingly beautiful and we got to see her fly up to a large platform and back down. Several times! When it was time to take her back, she didn’t want to go so we got to see a few extra flights
I didn’t think they could top flying an Andean Condor, but I was wrong. Recently NEI received a male Harpy Eagle from the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. They had only had him for two months but had been flying him recently and thought it would be a treat for us so see him. Treat is an understatement! This is the largest and most powerful eagle species in the world. They can weigh up to 20 pounds and hunt mainly animals that live in the trees of the rainforests of Central and South America – that means sloths and monkeys! As you can imagine, I was slightly happy.
I don’t know that I remember much of the day after that. I’m pretty sure the meet and greet mixer was that night but I was still flying on cloud Harpy Eagle
Don’t worry, there was still plenty of excitement to come at this conference but since I’ve already written so much I think you’ll have to wait for more details and photos! Stay tuned for papers and our day at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo!
By Anne the Volunteer
When the Greater Yellowstone Raptor Experience began, Melissa was able to find four wonderful birds that fit our program well. She continued, however, to look for a fifth bird to add to our collection. We wanted a golden eagle, and had even built our mews with a room specifically designed to house one. A golden eagle, however, is difficult to obtain, and even if a non-releasable golden becomes available, one must prove that the program is worthy of having the bird, and the trainer, in this case Melissa Hill, is qualified to train a golden eagle. If you have been following our GYRE on FaceBook, or reading our blogs, you know that our dream recently came true, and our beautiful golden eagle, Kateri, now resides in our mews.
I was not present when she arrived, and Dr. Preston lifted her from her travel box, therefore I eagerly awaited my first peek at our new girl. Now I am not an overly emotional person, in that I don’t cry at the end of sad movies or books, even though I may think about them for days afterwards. For this reason, I was surprised at my reaction upon first seeing her. Kateri was in her mew, which had been darkened so that she would have time to adjust to her new home without a lot of extra stimuli. Opening the door, Melissa gave me my first view of our new golden eagle. She is so beautiful! I was in complete awe of her, and too my surprise I became very choked up, feeling almost like I would cry. Seeing her just overwhelmed me.
So why was my reaction not what I would have expected? I thought about this later after arriving home. I knew I would be awed by her beauty, and overjoyed to finally have our dream bird, but my feelings went beyond that. I decided that my feelings were two fold. First I felt sorry for her loss. Loss of freedom, loss to her mate, and loss of her future offspring. On the other hand, life is very hard for an eagle. They spend so much of their life working. They begin their nest refurbishing early in the year. In fact golden eagles usually have at least two nests. Sometimes they will even refurbish both, and choose later which to use. Then there is the incubating of eggs, and raising their chicks. Even after the chicks leave the nest, the adults will bring food to the juveniles for a time while the young birds are learning to hunt. And of course there is the ever present chore of finding food. I am involved with Dr. Preston’s study of nesting golden eagles, and in the many hours I have spent watching chicks being raised, I have never seen golden eagles flying in a way that resembles play. In flight they seem to be searching for food, moving from place to place, or involved in other survival activities. Survival then, is a full time job for eagles. I also remind myself that although eagles mate for life, should one of the pair disappear, the remaining bird will try to find a new mate as soon as possible. There is a good chance that Kateri’s mate has already formed a new bond.
My second reason for this emotion came from my happiness to have this wonderful bird. I can’t imagine what it will be like to spend time with such a majestic eagle, to stand close to her, to be part of her life, and to share my knowledge with visitors. Kateri could no longer survive in the wild, there was just too much damage to the muscles in her right wing. The other alternative would have been to euthanize her, which would have really been a tragedy. Kateri will live a useful life in education as a ambassador for her species. She will be well taken care of, food will be served to her daily, she will be attended to by a veterinarian when needed, and will live a longer, easier life. She will be loved not only by those of us who will work with her, but also by the many visitors from all over the world who will have the opportunity to see her, and learn about golden eagles. I am so happy that we were the lucky program that was granted the privilege to receive this wonderful eagle.
Question from visitors:
In the past, when I had mentioned that we were looking for a golden eagle, some people asked why would we want a golden eagle instead of a bald eagle.
A golden eagle fits our museum better than a bald in a couple of ways. As I had mentioned earlier, Dr. Preston, the Draper Curator, is conducting a research project studying a number of factors relating to nest success in the Bighorn Basin, such as land use, landscapes, human activity, climate, available prey, and how these may relate to the success or failure of a nest. We hope that in the future our research will help to guide land use management and increase public awareness of golden eagles in our area. Linking to Dr. Preston’s ongoing research project, a golden eagle is a perfect fit for our museum. Golden eagles are also a true representative of the west. While bald eagle populations are common from coast to coast, golden eagles are more commonly found in the west. Although there are a few scattered populations of goldens in the east, seeing a golden in the eastern part of the U.S. is a much rarer experience than seeing a bald eagle. In fact, people who claim to have seen golden eagles in the east, may actually have mistaken an immature bald eagle for a golden eagle. Because of this, more people recognize a bald eagle, especially since it is our national bird, but many have never seen a golden eagle. Here at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West (formally the BBHC) visitors will have the opportunity to see a golden eagle up close.
If you are on Facebook, Kateri now has her very own page. Please visit her at this link, and “like” her. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kateri-the-Golden-Eagle/223859107642765?ref=ts&fref=ts
If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Preston’s eagle study, visit his blog, “Field Notes at the Edge of the Wild,” at: http://goldeneaglebbhc.wordpress.com/
On behalf of the entire live raptor education program staff and volunteers, we are pleased to announce the name selected for our Golden Eagle, as well as the name of the person who submitted the winning entry: Kateri
The name was chosen from 290 entries submitted by the public during a two week period at the beginning of February. Entries were submitted from 41 states, Yellowstone National Park, and from several foreign countries, including Canada, Germany, Sweden, and from a member of the Armed Forces stationed in the Netherlands.
The winning entry was submitted by 8-year-old Chloe Hanson, of Cody, Wymong – what are the odds a “local” would be the winner! The 6-person name-selection committee was made up of Center staff & volunteers who had the difficult task of weeding through the entries and narrowing it down to the one winner. The process was done without the committee members knowing the identity of those submitting the eagle names.
The name remembers Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (1656 – 1680), who is honored as the Patron of people who love nature, work in ecology, and work to preserve the natural and human environments. She is the first Native North American saint.
“Kateri was a child of nature. Her sainthood will raise the minds and hearts of those who love nature and work in ecology.” –Bishop Stanislaus Brzana, Bishop of Ogdensburg, N.Y.
Chloe will receive a copy of the book Golden Eagle: Sovereign of the Skies with a personal note to her from the author. We congratulate her and thank all of those around the world who submitted names. This was a very difficult decision because of the many wonderful names submitted, and we are overwhelmed by this response.
Thanks to all of you who submitted names for consideration, and we promise that you will soon meet Kateri in person!
Mellissa and Chuck
. . . still up in the air ;0)
We need your help to name our eagle! The Draper Musuem of Natural History has put a special link on their webpage that lets you submit your ideas for the name of our new golden eagle.
All of our birds have names that relate to their species or their personal story, i.e. Teasdale was found, injured, near Teasdale, Utah and “suli” is the Cherokee word for vulture. We are looking for name suggestions along the same lines.
Here’s a little extra info to help you brainstorm:
Our bird was struck by a vehicle while feeding on road kill near the Powder River exit of Interstate 90 between the Big Horn Mountains and Gillette, Wyoming. She suffered a compound fracture to her right humerus and although the fracture healed after surgery and pinning, the muscle and tissue damage was too severe for her to regain full flight.
More info is available on the Naming contest page, in case you’re still uninspired
We are looking forward to hearing your suggestions and revealing what the final decision is.
Let the submissions begin!
OK, I know I’ve missed a blog or two, but there’s a REALLY good reason for it. We’ve gotten our Golden Eagle!
We’ve been hoping to add a Golden Eagle to our program since the very beginning, but it’s not an easy accomplishment. The process for an eagle is much more involved than that for the other raptor species and they don’t come available for placement very often.
Our local avian rehabilitation center, Ironside Bird Rescue, has known about our desire to have an eagle but hasn’t had one for placement since we’ve been up and running. One day I noticed that they had a male that was going to be non-releasable and I contacted Susan, the director, right away. Unfortunately, I was the third person in line for the eagle – which meant I wouldn’t get him. Susan mentioned, however, that the rehabber in Gillette had two that were going to be going somewhere else but the arrangement had fallen through. I immediately called the Northeast Wyoming (NEW) Bird Rescue to inquire about the birds. It was true! Diane, the director, and I talked about what we were looking for, my previous experience, our facilities, and our program.
It turns out I had a choice of an immature male with head trauma or an adult female with wing damage. Diane told me to think about it over the weekend and call her back. There really wasn’t much to think about on my end. I preferred the female. While a male would be smaller (an advantage to my volunteers who’ve never worked with such large raptors), a female is much more “imposing” and makes an amazing impression. The female Diane had was described as incredibly mellow and easy going while the male was a bit skittish. In reality, it’s easier to deal with a large but calm bird than it is to deal with a smaller but high strung bird.
I called Diane back and we worked out an agreement that the female would be ours. Pending approval from both the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, of course. I had been working on my federal application for over a year and really only needed to add the information for the eagle and rehabber and do some proof reading. In early November, I sent off the application. And now we wait . . .
Fortunately, the Wyoming Game & Fish Department had authorized an eagle for us a while back so it was only one agency we were waiting on. It was an agonizing two months. In early January I received a call from our US Fish & Wildlife Permit representitive. He needed some more information about our application. They were looking at it! This was getting exciting! At around 10am on January 17th we finally received word that we’d been approved!
A whirlwind of activity occurred instantly! The volunteers were informed. I called Diane to let her know we were approved and discuss a good time to arrange a pick up. We did our best to keep the whole thing hush-hush, but it didn’t work. The next Monday I was off to collect our new eagle. After 8 & 1/2 hours in the car, I returned with an eagle.
Our first task was to get her out of the box she traveled in and examine her briefly before putting her new equipment on. Dr. Charles Preston, Founding Curator of the Draper Museum of Natural History, Golden Eagle researcher and author, and my boss, was called in for his expertise in holding the bird while I affixed her equipment.
We held our breath as we opened the cardboard box for our first glimpse at her. I realize it sounds silly to transport an eagle in a flimsy cardboard box, but they actually work wonderfully for wild birds. They are smooth so they don’t ruffle feathers, surprisingly durable, and you can throw them away when done rather than have to clean them. Our first impression of her was pure awe. They are magnificant animals and we were expecting a relatively small female, maybe 10 or 11 pounds. One look at her feet and we knew we did not have a small girl. She was BIG! We had already weighed the box with her in it and when the box was weighed without her it proved she was a big girl – 13 pounds!
She was incredibly mellow for the entire process of lying her down and placing leather straps, called anklets, around her legs. After they were fitted, her jesses wer put on, followed by swivels and the leash (Anne wrote a whole blog about this so I won’t bore you with details).
Now that she was “dressed” it was time to put her in her mew and let her get settled in. Her room currently has all the windows covered to provide her with a dark and quiet place. This is critical in the initial stages of training a raptor as they are so dependent on their vision that overstimulation can make them more nervous and cause them to associate bad things with their new home – which we didn’t want. She will be in this room until she is “manned” or comfortable standing on the glove and moving about. All her initial training is done in here and it’s a system that falconers have used for thousands of years.
I know most of you are wondering when you’ll be able to see her. Well, that depends on her. We are taking her training at her pace. As soon as she is comfortable enough to face the public, we’ll bring her out. In the meantime, you’ll just have to keep reading the blog for more updates
It is crazy to think that 2012 is over. I know a lot of folks out there are very glad to see the end of it and welcome in 2013. Here at the Greater Yellowstone Raptor Experience, we had a great year! Essentially, 2012 was our inaugural year. Yes, I know we were here in 2011, but the birds didn’t arrive until August and the end of 2011 was mostly training of the volunteers and birds and very little real public exposure. In 2011, our birds were seen by about 5,500 people and each bird participated in around 30 public programs. 2012 was a bit busier, however, with each of the birds participating in around 350 programs and they were seen by approximately 15,000 people! Here’s how it all went down.
The first real test of our educational skills came with a program for a group of Boy Scouts. They came to the Center for their program and it was the first time the volunteers got to experience setting up and tearing down for a program. The Scouts were great, the birds were great, and the volunteers were great! It was a success!!!!
Our next big test was to travel with the birds to an off-site location. We were given the honor of speaking to the students of Sunset Elementary School, here in Cody. Every student was going to get to see the birds! We broke the students up into 3 groups, based on their ages. What an amazing adventure! Again, everyone involved did an amazing job, proving that our program was going to be a fantastic asset to the community.
We continued to have regular appearances at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center throughout the Spring. In April we began preparing for our summer programs. We knew we would spend all summer at the Center, providing programs to the guests, but there were still a lot of details to work out. In the middle of preparing, we made a detour and hit the next milestone for the program – an extened trip with the birds out of town. In May we traveled to Laramie, Wyoming to participate in the Laramie Raptor Refuge’s Migratory Bird Day celebration. In addition to the celebration, we had programs booked in Laramie, Cheyenne, and Ft. Collins, Colorado! It was a 5 day excursion and we were fortunate to be staying at Laramie Raptor Refuge, which had extra mews for our birds to stay in. This was a HUGE bonus because otherwise they would spend their nights inside their travel boxes. By the end of the trip, we were tired, the birds were tired, and Teasdale was DONE! He decided on the way home he was sick of travelling. When we got home, we gave the birds a week off to recover from the trip. All in all, it went VERY well!
After returning from Laramie it was time to prepare for the summer. I had interns coming, a script to write, volunteers to train, and to get Suli flying. It was crazy! Fortunately, after a few bumps, we had it all under control. Everyone was doing a fantastic job and the few people that were paying for the programs loved it! Unfortunately, there weren’t many folks able or willing to pay extra for the programs. After some meetings and consultations, we were allowed to offer the programs for free and ask for donations instead of an entrance fee. It was a HUGE improvement! We went from having 1-10 audience memebers to 60-175 for each program! And the guests were generous! We suffered through heat, wind, and crabbiness, but we ended the summer knowing we had pulled it off and done better than anyone expected!
As summer wound down, the days got cooler, the interns returned to school, and the birds were scheduled for some time off. They were so popular, however, that we were asked to continue our daily appearances for guests, which we happily did. As fall arrived we shifted our focus to promoting our outreach programs again.
Before the year ends, however, there is one last big event for the Center and the birds – the Holiday Open House. Last year the birds were present for a few hours but this year they were out for the entire event, 7 hours of meet and greet and Q&A along with 7 short talks about the birds by yours truly. In those hours our birds were seen by approximately 2,800 people! It was definitely a big day for us.
Fall and winter are the seasons for travel (even though Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate) and we hope to spend our time until spring arrives again educating students and adults alike all over our region. While it is a more relaxed time of year the birds still make appearances daily here at the Center and a lot of my time is spent developing new programs and improving existing ones.
So what’s in store for 2013? Well, the birds will be traveling to Gillette, Wyoming for the Campbell County Rockpile Museum’s Family day on February 9th. I will be attending the 2013 International Association for Avian Trainers and Educators (IAATE) conference in March. I expect to return with lots of great ideas and new enthusiasm for our summer programs. The birds will continue to appear daily at the Center and we are always available for programs at schools and civic events around the area. Basically, we’ll be working hard as always!
Happy New Year!
Holy cow has it really been that long since we had a post! Oops! I will admit, it has been busy around here but I will post a WARNING: The following post might be dull and boring to many readers. To avoid nodding off, I think I will insert random pictures in this post (plus, I don’t really have any that relate to the story about to be told). Proceed at your own risk of boredom
I suppose to most people, the last month here wouldn’t really seem that busy. But since I took some time off to visit my mom back in South Dakota, a lot had to be done before hand. I realize that feeding 4 birds doesn’t seem like a big deal, and it’s really easy to do, it’s just time consuming to organize it.
As you are aware, I have a fantastic crew of volunteers. At this time of year, however, many of them are also traveling to see their families in places like Minnesota or hosting a lot of relatives from out of town and, thus, not able to give up much time. Not to worry, though, there are always those die-hards who can’t stay away!
Preparation to leave for an extended period of time begins a couple weeks in advance.
First: Make sure there is enough food in the freezer to get the birds through. All of the food we order for the birds comes frozen and is therefore shipped quite quickly. Most suppliers, however, ship only once a week, so if you don’t order before Tuesday, it won’t ship until the following week. We had an interesting situation this month as well – rats are in short supply across the country. “How can that be?” you ask. Well I’m not sure, but it’s been tough for those of us who need them. Fortunately, I was able to arrange to get rats a bit smaller than we normally use, so at least we have them.
Second: Arrange for someone to be at the mews daily to feed the birds and bring them into the public for viewing on days the Center is open. With a group of 15 volunteers that can be a chore in itself. I start by sending an email to everyone asking them to let me know if there are days they’d like to help. I get a couple replies but mostly, “sorry, I’m out of town too.” Fortunately, one person offers to cover every day. Another email is sent to everyone saying it’d be nice if she didn’t have to do every day. Finally, several volunteers are in with the birds at the same time and a schedule is agreed upon. Whew.
Third: Plan the menu for 10 days of being gone. Normally I write out what the birds are eating for a few days at a time. During the week I feed and tend to “fudge” the foods a bit. One day a quail will be a bit small and while Haya only eats 1/2 a quail at a time, it means that one of the halves is going to be not quite enough. When this happens to me it’s not a big deal because I can pull a little meat off of something else that’s a little big or from the meal of a bird that might be a tad “plump” but the volunteers are trained to cut the quail in half and feed it. Period. So deciding exactly what to feed that far in advance is a bit more challenging, but I get it done.
Fourth: Prepare info sheets for the volunteers. These have contact numbers for me, my boss, the vet, etc. as well as info on anything that might be of note. For example, right before I left Suli had a swollen toe. I still have no idea what caused it but the volunteers needed to watch it and it meant that she rest for a bit.
Lastly: Tie up loose ends. Yeah, about that . . . I am the kind of person that has a whole bunch of things going at once. I am usually reading (& taking notes from) at least two books at a time. I am always working on new program ideas and thinking of ways to improve things around the mews, and I’ve also been researching a lot of enrichment ideas for Suli as she gets bored easily. My biggest loose end this time was a brochure I have been working on. I finished it up, sent it to our graphics department, and wanted to send it out when I returned. That was a pretty time consuming project that I randomly decided to take on.
Basically, that’s how you eat up two weeks of time before your vacation and turn the slow time of the year into a hectic period. Then, just for fun, when you return from vacation, you should get sick and miss another 3 days of work. Just for fun.