Friday, July 19, 2013

Meeting the Birds

Yesterday my parents took Steve and I and all the grandkids to a raptor center.  (10 year old Anthem was relieved to find out it was a birds of prey center and NOT a velociraptor center - he was having visions of Jurrasic Park reenactments!) 
It was a fascinating morning!  This center rehabilitates injured birds and abandoned chicks.  Returning the birds to the wild is the goal, but some are too badly injured to survive on their own, so they stay.  In an hour and a half we saw and learned about five types of owls, a kestrel, a turkey vulture, a Harris's hawk, and two kinds of eagles.  It was so interesting!

We started the morning by meeting and feeding a baby barn owl.  She did not have a permit yet, so we could not photograph her.  Trust me when I say that she was so homely she was cute!  The kids really liked her - she was all eyes and feet and white fuzz.
Then it was on to the owls.  I have seen owls in the wild before, but never up close.  They were so beautiful!  I loved the barred owl's big brown eyes.
Next was Herman, the turkey vulture. 
He was pretty unattractive, but you've got to love a critter that pees on his own feet to kill off germs!  Oh, and we learned that vultures are the only birds that can smell.  Of course, the stinkier the smell the better, as far as they are concerned.
We had the chance to feed many of the birds.  All of them ate dead mice or mice parts.  Rachel and the boys were completely grossed out by this.  Katherine was not about to let some dead rodents get in the way of interacting with birds.  She was the first to volunteer to feed the baby owl and Herman.
Ewwww! Mouse guts!  (Herman the vulture was Kate's favorite!)
When it came time to visit the Harris's hawk, Steve volunteered to be the falconer.
The hawk's name was Hannah.  She caught mice thrown in the air and flew just over our heads!
The owner of the center had built a giant nest, mimicking the size and style of a bald eagle's aerie.  It was enormous!
The last pen enclosure we visited belonged to Wazoo, the bald eagle.
Even with a permanently injured wing, he was magnificent.
He obviously enjoyed posing and showing off and he could be a bit goofy.
But a close look at that beak...
...and those talons...
proved he would be the winner in any kind of arguement!

Wazoo had been trained to sit on a decorative perch and pose for pictures. 
All of the kids but Rachel took a turn. 

Poor Rae was not much interested in big birds and dead mice and standing quietly.  Her favorite part was finding a ladybug on the sidewalk.  But for the rest of us, visiting the raptor center was fascinating!














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