Bird TLC

Bird TLC

When I went to college at the University of Minnesota, I learned about the Minnesota Raptor Center when the organization came and gave a presentation at the dorm where I was working as a resident assistant.  The Raptor Center is operated through the U of MN College of Veterinary Medicine – which makes a lot of sense – and “specializes in the medical care, rehabilitation, conservation, and study of eagles, hawks, owls, and falcons.”  As a hazard of human occupation of the former wild habitat for these birds, human-raptor encounters often result in broken bones, wings, punctured eyes, and all manner of injuries to raptors.  The place where they go to receive care is the Minnesota Raptor Center.  If they can be rehabilitated, they are released to the wild; if not, they remain at the Center and are used in public educational presentations. It was the first time in my life I was exposed to such a place.  I thought it was a wonderful idea, and had no comprehension that it was not a unique facility.

Fast forward many years later, and I am riding a ferry from Whittier to Cordova for my first Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival.  I was on the boat with several members of the Alaska Society of Outdoor and Nature Photographers, including one of our new honorary members, Roy Toft, whom Cathy Hart, a longtime ASONP board member and heavy recruiter, had met at a recent annual conference for the North American Nature Photography Association.  Really – this is how people make connections in the nature photography world!  Anyway, during the seven-hour ride, there were several presentations given by the Bird Treatment and Learning Center, the Anchorage equivalent of the Raptor Center.  However, unlike the Raptor Center, the Bird TLC does not specialize in raptors, but opens its doors to all manner of injured birds as well as abandoned fledged chicks.  (If you recall my post about swallows earlier this summer, the Bird TLC helped a fledgling we found in our own yard.)

Over the years in Minnesota, I went to several public events where the Raptor Center would have education on their birds and also release back into the wild some rehabilitated birds.  When I saw a notice that Bird TLC would be having its autumn event, I insisted that we go.  So, Daniel and Michelle and I went to the Bird TLC facility, which sits on the bluff overlooking Potter Marsh.  If I were a rehabilitated raptor, I could not think of a better place to be released but over a wetlands with lots of juicy ducks and other waterfowl for the taking.

It was a great opportunity to see all of the things that Bird TLC is up to, but also to see the expanse of other organizations, both local and national, that address issues associated with birds and birding.  From falconry to parks to Audubon, several organizations and issue-driven booths were available.  Most intersting for me, and I am sure for Daniel as well, was the opportunity to see the birds up close and to handle various bird parts (like trumpeter swan wings) to get a sense of the texture, size and weight.  Of course, Michelle’s favorite part was the owls, and we had some great opportunities to see a Great Horned Owl and Snowy Owl up close.  When Michelle went to purchase a couple of lattes at the stand, Daniel wandered into the woods to pick raspberries.

We were not able to stay for the bird release later in the afternoon, but it gave me great pleasure to see how many people turned out for the program and to imagine the rehabilitated birds gliding out over the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge upon release and return to freedom.

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