The People

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One of my favorite things about birds, other than the birds themselves, is the way they bring people together. Whether birding out in the field or setting up for a raptor program, birds open opportunities to meet people I would otherwise never speak to.

Aldo, Carson, and I did a program last weekend for the Sax Zim Bog Birding Festival in northern Minnesota. The weekend-long festival gathered 150 serious birders bent on finding boreal species that the Bog is known for. But it also connected birders and birds to local residents. Our raptor program was scheduled in the afternoon while birders were out on field trips, so the community center was packed with local families.

After the presentation, I had the opportunity to chat with some of the individuals in the audience. I met one gentleman that told me about growing up in Meadowlands, the quiet town just south of the Bog, and how he remembered it as a bustling community with frequent trains coming and going. A local artist proudly showed me his drawings of a kestrel and hawk. One young man remembered me from a program last year and asked detailed questions about owl adaptations while a 7-year-old boy (whose mother explained how much he enjoys nature) touched every wing, foot, and skull on my table. I hadn’t noticed these four people in the audience when I was focused on teaching, but it was exciting to later learn about them and hear their stories.

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Mew Remodeling

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Carson’s mew has had quite the makeover this winter with the help of several volunteers. Her hutch was reinstalled in the fall as a wind block and space to contain body heat during cold nights. At the front of the mew we added a small spruce tree, delivered by volunteer Larry Baldus, for enrichment.

We also made adjustments to better suit her wing injury. Broken bones in her left wing never healed properly and left her unable to fly. Perching was reconfigured last fall to reduce the use of that wing. We lowered perches and installed a ramp built by volunteer Larry Hanson to help her navigate her mew with confidence. Carson was wary at first of the strange new structure, but I saw her use the ramp for the first time this week, finally a stamp of approval of her remodeled home.

Splish Splash

I offered Aldo a pan of water when he was inside last week and he took advantage of it right away! Bathing improves their feather condition, softens beak and talons to help them wear down naturally, and cleans off any leftovers from their last meal. But I think Aldo was just excited to have fun splashing in his bath.

Steps Toward Flight

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To prepare for a training session, I closed the blinds in the classroom and set out a step stool – just in case. I brought Aldo into the room and carefully closed the doors behind me. I removed the metal swivel and leash that normally keep him secure on the glove if he tries to fly away. He needs this level of freedom – in a controlled room like the classroom where he cannot escape or hurt himself – to accomplish his new training goal: to fly!

I let Aldo step onto the perch and take in his surroundings. He has seen the classroom many times before, but he was curious as he looked around the room, his head bobbing up and down. After a moment, I raised the glove to his feet once again. He looked down at it and stepped up with both feet. I bridged and gave him a few mouse tidbits, then set him back on the perch to try again. While not very exciting yet, this is the first step in flight training. I will gradually move the glove farther and farther away so he has to take a big step, then hop, then finally fly to the glove. Eventually, he will fly across the room during raptor programs to demonstrate falcon speed for audiences!