If you have a passion for something, it's not really work, even though it takes hours of your time, and gallons of sweat. That's how I feel about volunteering at Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky. The reward comes when it's time to release one of the rehab birds back into the wild, and we have made some pretty spectacular releases in the last week. This Bald Eagle is 25 years old, and came with a broken wing, having been hit by a car. As the wing healed, we discovered that she also had lead poisoning, which causes neurological damage. They can forget how to eat or fly. After her wing healed we put her in a long flight cage, but she showed no interest in flying at all, and we feared that she would never fly again.
Two young Bald Eagles arrived in June and July, and joined her in the flight cage when they were well enough. One came from a downed nest in Land Between the Lakes, in Western Kentucky, while the other was found at the Ford Truck Plant in Louisville. It weighed less than 4 pounds and was starving to death. After watching them fly back and forth for a while, she started to fly again too. We all teared up to see her recovering after being inactive for so long. Sunday, we released all 3 birds at once down along the Ohio River in Western Kentucky. Our hope is that the adult will take the two youngsters "under her wing," so to speak, and help them learn to hunt successfully.
Cheer, applaud, cry... It's a very emotional time. About 50 people met us at the site to join the caravan of volunteers who drove 3 hours to see the release. One family drove 2 hours from Indiana to watch. RROKI generally releases over 60% of the birds taken in for rehabilitation, which is a very good number.
Last weekend, as part of a program at Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve, we released 8 young Red Shouldered Hawks into the wild. Most were eager to leave the travel crate and bolt for the sky.
One didn't quite know what to do next, we we had to assist it a bit. This gave the audience a good chance to see the different markings on a young hawk compared to the adult we brought to the program.
As often happens, the resident Mockingbirds wasted no time in mobbing or chasing the young hawks as they looked for a place to land.
We also released a young Peregrine Falcon along the Ohio River near Louisville that weekend. It's wonderful to see them flying free again. We all pray that they will be able to find enough to eat and grow up to be successful adults with young of their own! This week we are releasing several of the young Great Horned Owls in the evening, at the locations they were originally found. Our pair of young Black Vultures were human imprints and can't be released into the wild. But we found a raptor center in Texas which plans to train them for free flight programs, so we are delighted they have found a wonderful permanent home too. I love happy endings!