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bird releases

January 19, 2010

On Tuesday, 1/5/10, I released a Red Tail Hawk, and on Saturday, 1/16/10 I released a Screech Owl!  I I’ve helped care for MANY birds, but rarely have had the privilege to release them. It is always wonderful to let them go back to the wild.

When I worked at the wildlife center some years ago – from 8/06-5/07, I got to release 6 hawks – 3 at a time – 2 different trips.  I have a small car – almost no backseat at all, cramped in there. I crammed in 3 pet carriers, each carrying either a Red Tail Hawk (the biggest we have in this area) or a Red Shoulder Hawk (slightly smaller). The first trip – no problem. The second trip – the largest red tail tried to bust through the box before I drove off. I’m glad she started doing that before I was on the road. I grabbed more clothes pins to secure the box with, and put more towels over the box, and more clothes pins. It was a scary ride, but the hawk did not get loose in my car. I let her and the other 2 go, it was great!

The red tail hawk I released on the 5th of this month had head trauma. That is the most common raptor injury these days – both hawks and owls get hit by cars.  Owls in general fly fairly low but hawks not so much. However, it can get foggy out in the country, so the hawks fly lower. Hard to imagine a hawk or owl getting hit by a car, but it happens a lot.Sometimes the animals recover just fine, sometimes they sustain an injury, such as a damaged eye, but otherwise recover – thus making them non-releasable animals – they end up in zoos or other nature facilities. Some, their injuries being too great, are put down. This hawk made it.

A female sheriff’s deputy (a hot brunette, and of course, married) brought the bird in, and called the wildlife center to request attending the release of the bird. The following week after she called, I drove out to a very small town, where I met her – she was in her community service truck. I told her to drive to a spot out in the country and I’d follow. She drove quite far along a muddy dirt path in her truck, and I followed in my Mustang – not the greatest car for going off-road, but I didn’t get stuck.

I got the box out, the deputy got her camera ready. I put on the heavy gloves, and held the hawk for her to take a few photos, then let the hawk go,

The Screech Owl, a tiny bird, very small compared to other owls, also was brought in with head trauma. It recovered quite well, and it was time to let it go. I headed out to the country west of town, found a nice stretch of orchard, parked the car, and got out the box.

I hadn’t brought gloves, and didn’t need them. I just leaned over a barbed wire fence, held up the box high enough, opened it, and the really cute little owl hopped up on the flap of the box, then flew into the orchard. It was just before dusk – perfect time to release the owl.

I worry about the birds I release, and that they will find enough prey, but that is out of my hands.  Mostly though, I feel really good! It’s a wonderful thing to see a rehabilitated animal return to the wild.

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