My involvement with RAPTORS ( Birds of Prey ) began in the late 80's when I attended my first "Owl Hoot". " Hmmm" you may be thinking. An Owl Hoot ? Yes...an Owl Hoot.
A group of people gathered east of Sherwood Park, Alberta. As I recall it was a cold December night.The leader of the group was Karl Grantmyer the Director of the Strathcona Society for Injured Birds of Prey. The idea of the Owl Hoot was to try and get owls to answer to recorded sounds of .... you guessed it... owls hooting. In particular the Great Horned Owl. The Great Horned Owl is the Provincial Bird of Alberta, Canada. Not only were recordings used, vocalizations by Mr. Grantmyer and others were also performed in hopes that an owl would answer.
Much to my amazement the recordings and vocaliza tions were fruitful and they did get answering calls from an owl. In fact one owl even flew over the group, investigating the intruders into his territory.
I had seen hawks, owls and eagles before this but they were just another bird. Little did I realize just then how much I would get involved with the Raptor Shelter and the recovery, treatment and release of Injured Birds of Prey.
My first visit to the Shelter was a bit of an eye opener. Here I saw, owl, hawks and eagles CLOSE UP. There were other birds there also, ducks, geese, robins and even a couple of sparrows. I watched as the birds were fed. Some of the birds were so weak from their injuries that they had to be force fed. This entailed introducing a tube into the birds throat. Then using a large syringe filled with a metered out concoction of food and vitamins was fed into the bird.
The injuries to the raptors was varied. From electrocution (coming into contact with power lines) to gunshot wounds to owls and hawks flying into windows to birds being hit by vehicles on roads. In some cases the birds were starved due to a lack of food. I watched as broken wings were carefully set and wrapped and even helped in restraining birds so that they would not struggle and further injure themselves. My involvement with the treatment of birds was very limited. This was best left in the hands of those qualified to do so.
It was during one of my many return trips to the Shelter that I was asked by the Director if I would like to accompany him to pick up an injured owl. I readily agreed as one of the things I enjoy is driving out in the country. After a few pick ups of injured birds with the Director and other volunteers I was able to go by myself. The majority of injured birds I picked up were north of an east/west highway which cuts Alberta in half.The highway begins at Lloydminster on Alberta's eastern boundary, runs through Alberta's capitol city Edmonton and ends west of Jasper National Park at the western boundary of Alberta. Injured owls and hawks seemed to be the most prevalent of the birds picked up. Other birds such as Ducks, geese, cranes, pelicans and even a hummingbird were recovered.
I think that one of the more memorable recoveries and releases was that of a young Osprey. During a violent storm in the Fox Creek area in NW Alberta, a tree in which there was an Ospreys nest was blown over. There had been two chicks in the nest but only one survived. I was asked if I would drive to Fox Creek and pick the Osprey chick up and return with it to the Shelter. On return to the shelter the chick was examined and found not to have any physical damage and was just hungry. The chick was kept at the shelter for two weeks while it regained its strength .
In the meantime Fish and Wildlife Officers in Fox Creek had erected a pole in the same area as the fallen tree and on top of the pole had nailed a large tire. The tire was filled with broken twigs to simulate a nest. I returned to Fox Creek with the young Osprey. With the help of a Power Company and their cherry picker, the Osprey, in the hands of a Power Company employee, was raised to the level of the nest and carefully placed in it. There was no sign of the adult Ospreys. I had to return to Edmonton but later learned that the parents of the Osprey chick did return and were in fact feeding it. It was one of the recovery, treatment and releases of a Bird of Prey that ended well.
Go to the following links to see pictures of Birds Of Prey.