Friday, August 12, 2011

All They Talked About Was Returning to the Raptor Center

I bet your community has a raptor rehabilitation center. And if it does, it does the inner child, and even the outer child, some good to get out of the usual routine and go see some local birds.

Plus, if you happen to have actual children, it's amazing to see that sense of wonder radiate from a child confronted with a bird nearly as big as themselves that can carry a wiener dog to its young for dinner.

Kids love that kind of stuff. They also love birds. And if they're like my boys, they love talons. Big, sharp, pointy talons.

Yesterday was one of those summer days when an exasperated parent tells his children "NO SWORD FIGHTING IN THE HOUSE" and "GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY!" and then later "MAKE UP YOUR MIND! INSIDE OR OUT...out is the only option." And in case you didn't know, that exasperated parent was me at the same time I tried to focus on some obligations that had piled up over the week we went to Iowa to visit family on a minor family medical issue.

Just as I was about to rip my hair out and bellow at my two sweet, sweet, hellion boys...Grandma rolled up into the driveway like a red Buick from heaven and notified us that it was one of the only two days this month that the Raptor Rehabilitation Center would be open to the public.

"...ya know what? Screw it...I'm not getting anything done anyway. BOYS! Get in Grandma's car! We're going to see birds!"

We drove along scenic hills, through the woods, past some corn, a lot of ice cream stands, down a one lane dirt road with oak and sassafras and Michigan prickly pear cactuses along the side of the road. The cactuses tend to grow in sandy soiled areas where the scrubbier plants grow. All the while the children made repetitive requests for ice cream.

We got a guided tour of the raptors from the woman who takes them in and nurses them back to health and releases back into the wild those that are capable of surviving there. The ones we saw where those that could no longer survive in the wild...we saw bald eagles, a red tailed hawk, a turkey vulture, a barred owl with one eye, a peregrene falcon who can dive at over 200 miles per hour....we saw screech owls, and a great horned owl. They had a touching exhibit for kids to touch preserved wings, feathers, skeletons, and talons...and they could run around with cardboard wings the size and span of eagle wings.

Mostly funded by donations, our local raptor rehabilitation center is monitored and partially funded by the Federal government, and some of the raptors in their care are from other centers that were closed down by the US Government after failing to meet Federal standards for care of these birds. This is one of those services our government provides.....and because of centers like these, many of the raptors in our communities are returning from the brink of extinction. The center rehabilitates up to 90 birds per year....birds that were injured by cars, hunters, building, other animals.

And while my boys droned on for ice cream on our way OUT to the raptor center...all they talked about after leaving the raptor center was wanting to go back some time soon.

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