Last year we learned of the Avian Reconditioning Center for Birds of Prey. It's a small facility, run on donations and hard work, staffed by volunteers, and doing a great service in the world of local sick and injured birds of prey. The ARC, as it's known, had a table set up when we attended the fall festival at Wekiwa Springs State Park. Since then I've been following their goings-on through their Facebook page. In February they had a pre-Valentine's Day party, and Olivia and I decided to attend since The Boys were working.
After finding the location...a very humble set-up of a few mews (flying and roosting areas for the birds), a couple of small buildings, and a pavilion...we made our entry donation and walked up to find several birds out on their perches. Right after this the ARC founder, Carol McCorkle, brought out one of their resident bald eagles. Ike, as he's known, was such a majestic bird! Carol took her time teaching the small crowd about eagles, and then held Ike up for people to pose for pictures. Ike has a broken wing that prevents him from flight, and he will never be able to live in the wild.
This is Pierce. She's a red-shouldered hawk and also a permanent resident at the ARC because of her missing eye. A few other photos:
Gordon, a Great Horned Owl
After we walked around and met some of the birds, it was time for the falconing demonstration. Scott McCorkle, Carol's husband, is a master falconer and introduced us to Spyder:
Pretty soon the hood was removed and Spyder was off! He flew around for several minutes before landing to receive a reward. If you look verrrrrryyy closely, you can see Spyder in this picture:
Did you spot him?
After the demonstration, we walked over to meet Sir Henry. He's a European barn owl and pretty well known as the ARC's Goodwill Ambassador. He's also extremely photogenic....
Kids weren't left out of the festivities, and Olivia kept reminding me of that. Pretty soon we decided to get out of the biting wind for a few minutes so she could get her face painted:
The building that housed the face painting also had a resident, Hunter, the screech owl. He sits in his little home quietly until dusk, when screech owls are most active. This cute little guy is barely 6 inches tall!
We made a detour through the tiny gift shop and then came out to meet Miko, a short-tailed hawk (also known as a Little Black Hawk). Some jerk shot Miko in the wing with a BB gun.
As I'm sure you can tell, we weren't allowed to touch any of the birds. The ARC has a pretty strict policy on bird handling, and even their volunteers have to work their way up to glove handling. I appreciate that they do this, and I know it gives the volunteers a greater appreciation for the awesome work they're doing!
Next came Whisper, the barn owl. She's a beautiful bird, very majestic, and again...so photogenic!! Enjoy...
Olivia got a chance to make a Valentine's Day card with Sir Henry's picture on it, and she chose to make it for her teacher. I love my sweet girl!
After the card and quick snack, we got to see two swallow-tailed kites. They're some of the most beautiful birds I've ever seen! These are named Scooter and Willow:
Their feathers are kind of puffed up because the weather was just a little cooler than they prefer. It was windy and chilly that day!
The final bird we were able to meet was Gordon, the Great Horned Owl.
It was warmer in the sun than Gordon likes, and he was actually panting. It looked to us like he was trying to talk!
Our trip to the Avian Reconditioning Center was extremely cool. I got to see, up close, animals I would never get to see otherwise. I now know what to do if faced with an injured bird while we're out. And I appreciate, so much, the hard work and dedication that goes in to keeping this facility in operation. We spent the day surrounded by such majestic creatures, sidelined from their true calling by injuries, and yet still able to live with dignity. It was an amazing experience, and I can't recommend enough that everyone visit!!