In early April I began volunteering with a wildlife educational program that specializes in raptors called Native Bird Connections. I have wanted to work with raptors for a long time and was very lucky to have been introduced to Jenny Papka, a founder of the organization who allowed me to come on board as a volunteer for Native Bird Connections. To be honest, I have been wanting to write about it for a while, but it is still so fresh, overwhelming (in a good way) and frankly, mind blowing to me and I just haven't even been able to find the words. But, I think it's time to share this exciting adventure.
I met Jenny through a student of mine who came though my classes with her puppy. One day she came to class wearing a shirt with a raptor, I think an eagle on it and I commented that I loved raptors. It turns out that she is a longtime volunteer and put me in contact with Jenny. It can be hard to get into a position of being able to actually interact with and handle the birds. I was very lucky and it isn't something that I take for granted.
Currently, I go to where the birds are housed and I help feed, clean and do whatever is necessary to care for the birds. Additionally, I attend programs where the birds are taken to different events for audiences to see them and learn about them. The work is not easy and it can be very "icky", sometimes even a little unpleasant when it comes to fighting with the wasps who want the food, cleaning up the leftovers and hosing off poop. But, hey, it all goes with the territory!
Most of these animals are not social animals, unlike dogs and parrots. Because my experience and expertise is with social animals, I had to switch gears and begin looking at things in a different way and use different strategies to interact with them. Building trust and a cooperative relationship is crucial. I am excited with this new challenge and the opportunity to stretch myself and gain insight and new information. I feel strongly that any training, behavior work or even simply interacting and observing other species can only enhance our training and observation skills.
I find the work extremely rewarding for a few reasons. First, these animals have all suffered some time of injury impairing them in a way that makes them non-releasable. They wouldn't survive in the wild, at least not for long. So, they allow themselves to be kept in captivity for our programs which allows us to share them and information about these species with others. Helping to make sure that they are fed, comfortable, clean and well looked after feels good.
As I go travel through this journey I will be sharing experiences here.