Monday, October 29, 2012

Of Birds and Kilts

When I began volunteering at the World Bird Sanctuary in the spring of 2011, I had vague dreams of handling and flying birds. 

I worked hard to discover what my strengths (talking to visitors and bird room cleanup – that’s a nice way of saying I clean bird up poop – can I say poop in a blog post?) and weaknesses (bird food prep) as a Naturalist are. 

By fall 2011 I was helping with Owl Prowls.  By January 2012 I was ready to help with remote display events and even held walk-on roles in a few programs.  Having also learned to fly birds glove-to-glove, I had the luxury of volunteering to help out with a variety of on- and off-site events. 
The games were new and strange - here they are doing the caber tossing event (photo by Sandra Murray) 
Each fall, the St. Louis Scottish Games Organization (a not-for-profit) coordinates the Scottish Games event that takes place in Forest Park.  The purpose is for education, cultural exchange, philanthropy, and making clan connections.  They are open to anyone with interest in the history and rich culture of Scotland and Scottish heritage. 
 Executive Director Walter Crawford is quite the picture in his Kilt. (Photo by Sandra Murray)
I have been told by family members that there is Scottish blood (I think up through my paternal grandfather’s family) but I don’t think any research has ever been done.  Note to self: do research on Grandpa’s family line.   I did, however, marry into the Clan Murray.  My husband’s family has been able to trace their roots back to Scotland.  As a result of this history, I have also developed a crush on all things Scottish including several Scottish celebrities like Gerard Butler, David Tennant (Doctor Who – don’t get me started), and Craig Ferguson.  And, I have to admit, that I am crazy for men brave enough to wear Kilts!  I think it has something to do with getting to see their knees (sigh) and perhaps the constant mystery of what they wear (or don’t wear) beneath them!  So I was very excited to see the 2012 Scottish Games listed in the Help Needed email from World Bird Sanctuary that circulated in early September.  I eagerly submitted my name to participate.
 Volunteer Fred Abrolat releases Lewis (Photo by Sandra Murray)
I know you’re thinking, “Isn’t this supposed to be a blog about birds?”  Stick with me-- here come the birds.  A crew of humans from the World Bird Sanctuary (Walter Crawford, Roger Wallace, Fred Abrolat, Cathy Spahn, and Gina Staehle) and a crew of birds were with me at the Scottish Games.  We had Lewis & Clark – Bald Eagles; Tigger – Tawny Owl; Xena – Eurasian Eagle Owl; Sequoia – Red Tailed Hawk; and Lightning – Peregrine Falcon.   Most of us were either in Renaissance Faire style clothes or decked out in Kilts. 
  Little did I know there was something amiss with my skirt (photo by Cathy Spahn)
The first thing that happened to me that day was noticing that I was wearing my borrowed Ren Faire skirt inside out.  It stayed inside out all day.  The second thing that happened to me was a funny encounter with, uh, Clark’s poop.  There I go saying poop in a blog again.  As Clark was being transferred from his traveling crate to his display perch, and in an act of precise timing and aim, Clark sliced all over my lunch bag, water bottle, and camera.  The lens of my lovely Canon Rebel was covered in poop.  I think Roger was more upset about it than I it was his fault Clark was aimed in just the right direction at the exact right moment.  For the most part it was nothing the water hose couldn’t fix.  My lunch was fine, the water bottle was fine, and my camera, after careful cleaning, went on to shoot more than 100 pictures.  I praised Clark for his spot on accuracy, then forgave him and made him pose for a picture with me to get even.
 Lewis was spot on with his flights (Photo by Sandra Murray)
Lewis gave two spectacular flight demonstrations in the main ring to the delight of the crowd.  For many that have seen this wonderful bird fly at Busch Stadium, it was a real treat to see his flight close up.  There were cameras and phones aimed all around as he flew back and forth between Roger and Fred. 
Crowds surrounded trainer Roger Wallace and Lewis after each flight (Photo by Sandra Murray) 
It was a pleasure to see peoples’ delight as they surrounded Roger after each demo to photograph Lewis and ask questions.  This is why I do this; seeing their faces light up as they encounter birds from World Bird Sanctuary.  I know that my face reflects the same joy and wonder as I look at them too.  There were lots of visitors to our area to ask questions about the birds and the facility.  We, of course, were happy to educate and invite them to visit.
 The food booth gave attendees the opportunity to try new foods (Photo by Sandra Murray)
The entire day was a feast for the eyes, ears, and taste buds as we listened to and watched the athletic games, bagpipes and pipe and drum corps competitions, and sampled the variety of distinctly Scottish foods (Haggis anyone?) available.

With a little sun on our noses and necks, we packed everyone back up and headed back to World Bird Sanctuary.  Next up for me is a trip to Kansas City for WBS’s participation in the Renaissance Faire.  Note to self: make sure your clothes are on right side out next time. 

The dreams that dance in my head now revolve around flying a Bald Eagle glove-to-glove and accompanying the flight team to a St. Louis Cardinals game.  And, Ok, I’ll admit it, I’d also like to get my husband into a kilt!

Submitted by Sandra Murray, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer Naturalist

Photo by Lisbeth Hodges

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