Monday, March 12, 2007

Wildlife Recovery

(note: edited to correct name)
Last weekend we saw a raptor presentation of the Wildlife Recovery Association. This is Joe Rogers with an eagle unable to return to the wild. (Joe is fully licensed -- y'all know we unlicensed masses can't keep even a single feather from an endangered bird, right?) Those are some really serious talons.

While the eagle was the showstopper because of his size and striking appearance, I was most taken with the owls. We saw a variety of species and learned their calls, habitat, and food preferences. (I didn't take photos, except one of the eagle, because I was busy watching the birds! Sorry about that.)

Joe had several little tricks to demonstrate aspects of the birds. With the great horned owl, he very carefully poked a pencil through its neck feathers from front to back. It looked like the bird had been stabbed right through its neck -- but as he explained, the neck is actually very small, and all that bulk is feathers. "Bet you didn't know an owl makes a great pencil holder!" he joked.

Joe held one of the hawks fairly close to an audience member, and it stared the person right in the eyes. "They do that right before they attack," he said. After a pause, he added, "And basically all the time."

Perhaps the most impressive part of the demonstration was when he gently bounced a hawk on his arm to and fro, up and down. The bird's body moved with his arm, but its head remained absolutely still. It was eerie, and beautiful. This, he explained, is how a raptor can focus on its prey while sitting in a wind-blown tree -- something I'd never even thought about.

On a different note (literally), I heard the call of sandhill cranes this morning -- the first of the spring. Driving home this morning, I saw three of them in a field. Spring must be coming after all.