Monday, June 23, 2014

Raptor Fan

I'm a big Raptor fan.

Not that kind of raptor.. (That would be the NBA team the Toronto Raptors for you non-sports fans...)

Actual raptors.. You know, this kind...

Hawks, owls, eagles, even vultures.  I love them all.

I am a volunteer driver for The Raptor Center in the Twin Cities. My job is to go pick up wounded birds and get them to TRC for some TLC.   Many of my transports end up being euthanized, as they are often too injured to save.  That is hard for me, as I have come to be able to tell when I am transporting a bird that probably won't make it.  So I give them as gentle a ride as I can, pray for them and call a few days later to check up on them.

Sometimes, against all odds, they survive.  For this, all credit goes to the hardworking staff of the Raptor Center.  They do amazing things with sick and injured birds.

So, the other day, I got a call to pick up a Great Horned Owl for transport to TRC.  He had already been caught and was in a kennel when I arrived.  I transferred him to a cardboard box to take North.  He was strong, and VERY vocal for the entire trip.

He spent a LOT of time clacking his beak at me, a Great Horned Owl way of telling others how fierce he is, and if I would just stick an errant finger through one of the holes in the box, he would gladly chomp it to demonstrate his ferocity.


I'm pretty sure he will recover. Fingers crossed and prayers sent up.

After I dropped him off, I got to take a Red-Tailed Hawk with me to be released back to the wild.  He was a young hawk, not quite ready to fly, brought in by a concerned and well meaning citizen.  Unfortunately, this meant he had been separated from his mom, so my job was to take him back to as close to the spot he was found as possible.

Fortunately, the route back to his territory passed right by my house, so I was able to stop and pick up the kiddos along the way.  They are learning some compassion for our feathered friends, and how important they are in the food chain and the whole web of life.

As I pulled away from TRC with the hawk, I told him not to worry, that I'd have him back with his mom as soon as I could.  With that, he let out a screech, long and loud and powerful.  It sent a shiver down my spine.  He let out a few more of these, and I spoke back to him in gentle tones.  Soon he was chatting away with me.  Neither of us understanding the other, but having a great road trip none the less.

Because I anthropomorphize, I like to think that the talking helped, as he soon relaxed enough to sit in the box and stare at me through the breathing holes.  He'd give me a few chirps, and I'd respond in English. 

At one point he had been silent for a few minutes, so I asked how he was doing. To my surprise and delight, he answered right back with some contented chirping.

He did most of the talking on the trip. Telling me stories and singing songs.  It was pretty phenomenal.  I recorded some of his antics and put it in a short video.  

Seriously. Listen to that voice.  Takes my breath away every time.

I have been a raptor fan as long as I can remember. But Red-Tailed Hawks are my very favorite.  
I know they are common, everywhere. But they will always be my favorite.  There are things in this world that I cannot explain. Connections that I have with animals of all sorts. Dragonflies on the wing. Buffalo grazing on wide open prairie.  But nothing stirs my soul and makes my heart happy like a red-tail soaring through the sky. I can't explain it. I've stopped trying to explain it to myself.  Every time I get to hold one of these magnificent birds, I am beyond exhilarated.  Being able to feel the heartbeat. I think mine syncs up with it.  And being able to release a healed hawk back into the sky gives me a joy seldom equalled.

I wish I lived closer to the Cities, I'd be volunteering at TRC all the time.  Probably good that I don't though.  My family would miss me.

Ah, Red-Tails.  You soothe my soul.
Freedom Bird
More Later

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