My friend Clay opened the box and the sharp shinned hawk immediately claimed a perch, turning to look directly at Clay. For a moment they shared this contact, eye to eye. A breeze came and the hawk was gone, strong wings through the air, fast and away through the trees toward a wooded area beyond our vision. That was the end of another successful release of a rehabilitated bird. Close enough to the original rescue site, the hawk could find its territory and possible mate.
Not all rescued birds are able to survive. Not all are capable of being returned to the wild because injury or disease has taken away facilities God gave them to survive. Those birds may be trained to take part in educational programs like the barred owl in this next photo. Blind in one eye, she is still able to well present her species. She has a permanent home and excellent care.
This is a joy in my life: I photo document activities and birds for a local licensed rehabilitation center for birds of prey. Clay is also a skilled photographer and volunteer at the center. There are hawks, owls, the occasional ospreys and even vultures. Located in a middle school, the center is an ideal learning center for students who volunteer for the program. The center is all about education and rehab. Education of people is an ingredient for survival of the wild creatures, an ingredient of such importance it is linked directly to all the center does. These children are 2nd graders. When the barred owl came out of its travel box all faces fixed on the bird. Ohs and ahhs filled this room of big eyes until a teacher interjected, “Remember when to speak. Raise your hands.” Do you think hands were raised from then on? This was not the same as releasing the hawk back into the wild..that time Clay and I and that lady hawk each breathed a golden breath. Absolutely. At the school that golden breath was for the children. These kids went home excited to share and likely knowing more about owls than do their parents.
Photos are ©Thomas Haynes/Clinch River Raptor Center. Located in Clinton, Tennessee. The center is not open to the public. Operations depend on donated financial support and dedicated volunteers.