Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Farewell Can Be Hard

Farewell can be hard.  But I try to remember our birds with joy and celebrate their lives.

World Bird Sanctuary was founded in 1977 with a smattering of volunteers and a haphazard band of beautiful birds.  As we reach over 37 years educating people around the country, we inevitably have to say goodbye to the stalwart animal ambassadors who have been at WBS longer than most staff and volunteers.

Birds in the wild seldom have the luxury of dying of old age.  Instead, they are preyed upon; killed while defending their territories; succumb to weather extremes, disease or starvation.  At World Bird Sanctuary every single one of our birds' needs are taken care of, and we are able to extend their lives by up to three times what their normal life span would have been in the wild.  Sadly, we have to deal with the process of saying goodbye to our feathered friends now and then.

I shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that I am so often overwhelmed by the feelings I have when one of our birds passes.  I remember the first time I met them, and the things I learned from them – the experiences I shared while working with each of them.

Tobin, who we called 'our little butterfly' for his beautiful silent flight, was the first bird that I ever had the pleasure of having fly to my glove.  His sweet little face, gentle nature and consistently good performance made him a favorite among everyone.

Dewey the Bateleur Eagle took my breath away the very first time I saw her.  I grew up in a game reserve in Botswana in Africa, with a pair of Bateleur Eagles nesting in my backyard.  I had seen them close up and learned of the reverence with which African people admired them by listening to the folklore as a child.  I met Dewey when she was 22 years old.  When I got to handle her on the glove I felt privileged and overwhelmed at being in such close proximity to an African icon. 

I'm not a parrot person.  I dealt with them when needed at work, but I am not passionate about them at all…except for Rodney.  He was a little Red-lored Amazon that stole my heart.  He was always friendly and let me handle him and scratch his head without any of the idiosyncrasies that come with handling the other parrots.  If I was having a bad day I'd go and get him out of his cage and bring him up to my desk to “help” me work.  Playing with him was an instant pick-me-up.  He was with WBS for 26 years, and was given to WBS by a family from Milwaukee that couldn’t care for him anymore.  The day he died was a sad day, but I remembered him for his constant cheerfulness and sweet voice every time I walked past him in our nature center.

Every time we publish an obituary for one our birds we are touched by the response we get from our supporters.  No one can get past the fact that there will be some sadness, but I invite you to join me in celebrating the contribution our wonderful birds have made to our commitment to saving wild birds and their habitats.  If you were lucky enough to meet them in person, celebrate the personal interactions – for each one has their own distinct character and personality that has brought me joy on many occasions. 

Submitted by Catherine Redfern, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Fundraiser


Monteen said...

Well said. As a raptor rehabilitator, falconer and educator since 1983, the most frustrating thing I deal with is old age. I can fix them up when the hurt ones arrive, but I can't stop my ed birds from growing old. My GHO just turned 22, Screech will be 17 this spring and the Tawny and Augur Buzzard (both from your facility:) will be 15 this spring. We live, we love, we lose, we grieve and somehow we keep on putting one foot in front of the other....m.

Shauna Kei said...

While I wasn't around for the beautiful Dewey or Rodney. I grieved deeply when I found out that Tobin past away. My father generously renewed my sponsorship of him for this year as I didn't have the money to do so. While I'm happy to be helping WBS and Goblin. I dearly loved Tobin, even more so being able to fly and show the "little butterfly".

Aviaries said...

I feel for you. I remember when my dog died. It was very heartbreaking. But I always remember his sweetness and his love for me and that makes me smile. Very passionate post indeed.