2012: The Year in Review
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!