Thursday, December 6, 2012

Challenged by Mother Nature

This summer was an incredible experience working with a great variety of birds of prey from the World Bird Sanctuary at Grant’s Farm near St. Louis.
 Our new exhibit area at Grant's Farm
I was fortunate to be able to display the birds in a new exhibit area in view of the public, with their own personalized signs. It’s been a real joy to work with Stetson the Harris’ Hawk and Riley the Barn Owl, the two birds that free flew in the shows.  As one of the performers I felt the excitement of the audiences and their reactions of joy and excitement upon seeing a Bald Eagle up close, and hear their exclamations of wonder at the beauty of a Barn Owl.   I felt honored and privileged that I was able to be a part of that.
 Stetson the Harris' Hawk
Although, I should mention that presenting an outdoor show with animals is bound to have some obstacles from time to time. This summer we were put to the test by Mother Nature.  She threw us some curves, which included 100+ degree heat for a good portion of the summer and some early freezing cold in the fall. 

In addition to the temperatures, some shows had to be “modified” due to rain, which never seemed predictable. I remember a show where I had just finished Stetson’s flights and was signaling him back to the glove when a wall of rain came pouring over the stage. In one show we had a rain “interval”. It started raining after the two speakers had already started the show and as they ran off stage they said that was the end. Of course, shortly after that the rain stopped. The people in the theater benches were still waiting as they had cover from a roof over the audience seating area. So, in the “show must go on” fashion, after an almost 10 minute pause, we finished the show. 

I would also have to say that the resident North American grackle was an annoyance during the spring nesting season, as they seemed to delight in pestering Mars, the Red-tailed Hawk on display.  A memorable occurrence was having Mars on my glove during a display for the public when a grackle came diving right at my head!
 Even though they are beautiful, Peafowl were not a welcome addition to the Raptor exhibit
Another hazard was the groups of wandering Peafowl at Grant’s Farm, that would occasionally decide to cross through the exhibit area.  I diligently shooed them away and hoped they didn’t come right back.

But despite all that, being able to work at Grant’s Farm with these amazing birds made it all worthwhile. I was able to get to know these birds and educate the public about the importance of protecting them in the wild.

The World Bird Sanctuary taught me the importance of remembering the effects we have on these animals and how we can all make a difference in protecting these beautiful birds.

Submitted by Whitney Cowan, World Bird Sanctuary Grant’s Farm Supervisor

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