Friday, May 7, 2010

Raptor Recovery Mission

As we continue build and re-open this nature center I’m always looking for new things to learn about. I’ve always been fascinated and awed by the people who work with and volunteer for the Raptor Recovery program. I’ve had the privilege to get to know Blake Hatfield and Vickie Orr. Blake has a long history with the Nature Center both having worked here and spent many volunteer hours doing just about anything.

Hit the jump to read more!

It’s clear that he loves wildlife and the out of doors. His enthusiasm is strong. Blake and Vickie have come to the Center on several occasions to do public presentations using some of their many education birds that they keep and care for at their home in Dannebrog Nebraska.

I’ve been eager to photograph the bird’s close up and use the images for the Nature Center as well as provide images for use by the Raptor Recovery Program for them to use as they see fit. I was also interested in looking at the enclosures to see how they are constructed and so forth. Blake took me around and showed me most of the operation when he received a call from Laurel Badura from the Fish and Wildlife Service telling him that there was an injured hawk of some sort at a farm just outside of O’Neil Nebraska some 2 hours north of Dannebrog.

Without missing a beat Blake said, “gotta go”. Ok I’m thinking, what am I doing, can I go, what are my kids doing, would my wife care? Blake was on the phone with Vicki and me with my wife, schedule was cleared and so off we went to O’Neil. That’s how it has to be, when your called you just go. I’d have a tough time doing that, but Blake has done it for years. He just goes.

The ride gave me a chance to visit more with Blake as we headed north up Highway 281. I learned that he puts over 20,000 miles a year on doing this kind of thing along with the educational programs. That adds up! He said he thought that would buy a pretty nice vacation to go somewhere. They choose to spend their time and treasure on this.

When we finally got to O’Neil, Blake called the landowner who met us just north of town and took us out to his parent’s place where the hawk was. They had it in a live animal trap causing Blake to remark that it was nice when they have them captured. He later told me several stories where multiple people would chase birds over hills and through rivers, but that’s another story.

The landowner said that he saw his dog named “Bear” playing with something in the yard. He hollered at it and as the dog slinked away he saw it was a hawk. The bird then made it’s way to a nearby lilac bush. He was able to capture the bird with the help of other family members and put the bird into a live trap for safekeeping.

Blake and I got out of the car and the bird was sitting on a nearby table. Blake identified the bird as a coopers hawk, but admitted that it’s really tough to ID these birds sometimes and left it open for a better birder to get the correct ID. Blake pulled the bird out of the cage with a gloved hand and allowed everyone to look at the bird. It was a really beautiful animal. He then tucked it into a cardboard box for transport home.

The next thing was to get some information from the folks who found the bird and then including a description of where the bird was captured and other info such as times, names and the like. The Fish and Wildlife people and the Recovery program require complete notes with as much information as possible to help document these type of activities. Blake also made a call to Betsy Finch, state director of the program to let her know that the bird was recovered and a preliminary description of what was wrong with the bird and the circumstances.

We then set a course back to Dannebrog where we met Vicki who was able to examine the bird more closely. Blake held the bird’s legs and covered its head with his gloved hand so it wouldn’t be able to claw or bite her. I know anyone who has worked with birds like this has scars to show for when something went wrong. The birds are lightning fast and their claws and beaks are sharp. She continued to examine the bird’s wing and felt some swelling and she checked its breast to see if it was malnourished in any way. She determined that it was not a broken wing and it would just need to be wrapped up. She got out a roll of gauze and careful wrapped the wing and then around the body to secure it to the body area. Blake said sometimes it olds and sometimes it doesn’t.

The last thing she did was provide some sort medication in the form of both a liquid and a pill. It took four of five tries to get the pill down. At least in the days when I would give meds to my kids, they couldn’t cut me with razor sharp talons!

I then said goodbye as it was about 9:00 p.m. and I still had a ways to go to get home. On the drive home, it was a very satisfying feeling to have gone with Blake and learn a bit more about what they do along with so many volunteers to make a program like this work. I know it’s something that we want to try to connect more people to through our work here at the Nature Center. Stay tuned for more of that in the not too distant future.

1 comment:

  1. Blake and Vicki have a dedication to birds that borders on fanaticism. Or maybe they are fanatics - I only know that they love birds and will do whatever they can to help them, as the story illustrates. They are humble and non-assuming people, but total powerhouses when it comes to caring for our avian friends and it is wonderful to read about them and know that others will also hear of their work through your blog.