This post is for new readers who may not have seen the photos and read the stories of birds of prey contained in this blog. Postings carry subject titles: Look for "Raptors and Raptor Rehab" in the categories list a short scroll down the right column. Click there to open links to several posts about the birds. You will see photos of owls, hawks and even vultures. The long term resident hawks and owls are pictured and you should find those photographs for the most part beautiful, entertaining and educational.
This Barn Owl had a broken wing and was very weak
when first brought to the center. The caretaker and veterinarian
did not think it would live.
Whether Barred owls, little Eastern Screech Owls, enticing and fierce appearing Great Horned Owls or the Barn Owls, focused determined hunters with white wings giving an almost angelic appearance... these will be at the Clinch River Raptor Center from time to time. The birds are there to heal and be returned to the wild after some tragic event could have cost their lives. Fortunate rescued birds have injury or illness which will respond to treatment and the bird can recover and be set free. The unfortunate are too badly injured, sick or malnourished to survive but do get a chance to live they would not have if left in the wild. When a bird must be euthanized, it will go to sleep and pass on in peace with out the suffering inflicted by death in the wild.
The same applies to the day hunters, the hawks rescued and living at the Clinch River Raptor Center. Hawks and other day hunting raptors within the area served by the center generally include the smallest falcons, Kestrels. A summer ago the center was a nursery for several groups of these small hunters with 8 to 12 kestrels all chirping for food. These birds were healthy but without parents or a natural home, Having left their nests for some reason and unable to return, the youngsters were raised, taught to hunt and when ready were released. The same summer saw a large population of baby screech owls...natural comedians and in a group of 12 the cuteness was almost too much and we all were amused. Still, each would find its own way in the wild once grown enough to release.
This is the same Barn Owl many weeks later. The bird had an amazing recovery and gained full use of the broken wing, an unexpected result. The tireless and constant care of dedicated staff
led to one fine day when the bird was released on a farm with much open land.
The owl made a home in a barn there.
A great many of the raptors brought to the center are healed and set free. Always it is an exciting and joyful event to see a bird fly to freedom and back to the life nature intended. The rehabilitation worked! A rare few are injured in a way that will heal but still will not allow the bird to survive in nature. For instance, a bird with damaged eyesight or a broken wing which healed but will not support active flight can not be returned to the place it once claimed home in nature. These birds are trained to be educational raptors, being part of programs designed to promote knowledge of the raptors and ultimately welfare for the birds in the wilds of nature itself, nature often being forced into coexistence and land sharing with human invasion. Educational birds have a home for life at the Clinch River Raptor Center. They receive excellent care and are able to carry on with their particular disability.
This Osprey was found struggling and almost dead near a lake. Fortunately, the bird responded to treatment and was released to fly free at a lake where it might have less competition. Sometime previously, another Osprey was found shot and also near death. At first it was believed to be the male of a nesting pair then raising chicks. With only the mother to care for the babies, chances of survival were slim. The bird gave it all but died from its wound. As for the nesting birds, the male showed up soon after and we realized the bird that died was a different Osprey. The nesting birds are regular every year, using the same nest atop a power line tower overlooking the lake. A few nest repairs are made and each year they raise new chicks. That shooter took the life of one magnificent bird. Had that bird been the male from the active nest, the toll would have been one adult and two chicks, all for a "little fun" shooting at birds...an illegal act, certainly.
(I must apologize for the poor quality of this photograph.)
The Clinch River Raptor Center sets free the minds of children, giving them a small glimpse into the real world of nature and birds of prey. Located in a middle school, volunteer students spend part of a school year after classes visiting the center. There they learn about hawks, owls, occasional vultures and other birds more rarely like the Osprey.
The students learn how to clean cages and feed the birds. While most birds are fed dead mice, special diets must match the natural food of the particular bird. The Osprey got fish..talapia from a local market! Penguins eat fish and smell like fish. So do Ospreys.
A few of the students are able to take part in educational events, holding a raptor on a gloved hand to be seen and appreciated. How many middle school students have held an adult Barred Owl, Eastern Screech Owl or Red Tailed Hawk? Those who have do not forget the experience and carry with them an honest appreciation of nature, an appreciation that remains through future years.
To me, the birds of prey are another of the creations of God, misunderstood by many people but bound to interact some place, some way. I now see the second part of that statement applies to the critters of nature and also to the nature of God.