Saturday, May 24, 2014

Special Delivery

Throughout my time at World Bird Sanctuary I have helped to transport many birds.  Every so often new birds arrive that are coming from someplace far away, so we receive them by plane.  If you think it is a hassle to pick up people from the airport, just wait until you are waiting for a bird to arrive!

Scarlett the Red-Shouldered Hawk (photo:  Gay Schroer)
I have picked up three different birds for World Bird Sanctuary during my time, and each one has been a different experience.  Scarlett, our Red-shouldered Hawk, was the first bird I was ever charged with getting from the airport, and I was very excited.  Of course since it was the first time that meant I had to first find the Air Cargo depot, which took me a lot of trial and error and some help from a (friendly) airport security guard.  Once I finally found my way to “Cargo City” it was a piece of cake.   I just gave them my confirmation number and they gave me my hawk.

Reese the Great Horned Owl (photo:  Leah Tyndall)
Simple and quick!  “Well, that was easy and totally repeatable,” I foolishly thought to myself.  Since things went swimmingly for my first go round (minus getting lost) I was eager to pick up the next bird (Reese, the Great Horned Owl) a month later.  As an added bonus I got to stretch my naturalist skills and tell everyone in the Air Cargo office all about Great Horned Owls.  He was a quiet little passenger on the ride back, except for the occasional hoot every time that I coughed.  Once again, I thought to myself that that was easy and if it needed to happen again, I was totally game!

Azizi, our young Abdim's Stork (photo:  Leah Tyndall)
Finally, on March 6 I had another chance!  We were getting a new, young Abdim’s Stork (native to Africa, but this one was hatched in Delaware) and he needed to be picked up from the airport.  His flight was supposed to get in at 6:30.   I would have to wait about an hour for him to go through security and then back to WBS.  I may have been so excited I jumped the gun and got there at 6:45, but I didn’t mind.  I figured I would just wait in the office and play on my phone…you can see where this is going, right? 

I sat down for a bit since I knew the stork wouldn’t be ready until later and watched people pick up their dogs.  At around 7 they asked for my confirmation number and told me that the plane had been delayed in taking off due to mechanical issues, so the bird arrival would be closer to nine.  An hour later I found out the stork was not due until 11!  The plane had taken off, returned to Dulles airport and was waiting to take off again!  At this point my phone decided it was a great time to flash low battery, so I pulled out my pocket logic puzzles, bought a soda and settled into my surprisingly comfortable chair.  The plane was delayed twice more. 

The office closed, although the wonderful people at United Cargo let me stay, and finally the plane arrived at midnight, and then I waited an hour for the stork to go through security.  Finally at 1:02 AM I glimpsed the little bundle of joy. 

We drove back in silence and bright and early in the morning I let him out of his crate.  As he chittered happily and flapped his wings to beg for food I realized all of the trouble was worth it.  He was precious, and so we named him Azizi, which means precious in Arabic.

Azizi, bravely checking out his new quarters (Photo:  Leah Tyndall)
Life with birds is never boring and not just training them. Each airport visit will always stick with me, whether it was the terror of being followed by Airport security, the quiet hoots from my back seat or the first time I laid eyes on a precious stork.  Despite my last trip, I’m psyched about the opportunity to pick up the next bird.

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

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