Category Archives: FCWR

Posts related to Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation. I did the Raptor Internship there in early 2010.

Raptor Internship Week 11

My Raptor Internship at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation is winding down. Since this week was the first session since the initial class that I didn’t take any photographs, this will be a very brief summary of the day. The lecture for this week focused on rehabilitation and medical issues. We also spent some time reviewing previous material in preparation for the final exam next week. (eek!)

In the afternoon we had the usual cleaning duty and handling experience. I took Meepy out of her mew. I heard her vocalize for the first time and I suddenly understood the meaning of her name. She meeped at me! She actually seemed a bit out of sorts and it took me a few tries to get her on the glove. After a walk on the FCWR grounds I put her into the weathering yard and my fellow classmates then all took turns practicing equipment removal and assembly with Meepy. Part of our exam next week will be practical so I think we were all happy to have the extra bit of practice. Until then I’ll be studying my notes!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in FCWR | Leave a comment

R&R in Chicago

On Thursday Arthur and I are volunteering for Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation’s Migration Rescue & Recovery. Each morning during the spring and fall migration period, volunteers look for injured fallen birds who have struck buildings in downtown Chicago. Birds rescued by FCWR volunteers are treated at the Northerly Island bird hospital. Salvages are brought to the Field Museum.

A bit of Chicago before sunrise

From the FCWR Blog:

Thousands of birds strike glass on Chicago’s many buildings during their twice-yearly migration through the city. These stunned birds fall to the ground where they lie unconscious. Without intervention, they are stepped on by unaware pedestrians, eaten by hungry gulls or die a slow death without the benefit of medical treatment. These birds include many beautiful warblers, woodpeckers, thrushes and buntings, among others. Last year [2007], an amazing 90% of birds that arrive for treatment at our Northerly Island facility recover and can be released back to the wild. Timely treatment is important to survival rates and rescue teams ensure that birds can be treated by our trained staff at Northerly Island where they will have their best chance of survival.

Finding a safe and legal parking space is about the only hazard we face

Earlier this month at Birding America we attended a lecture by Dave Willard where we learned a lot about the hazards of migration through Chicago’s urban environment. The number of birds that are killed from window strikes each year is incredible.

The Rescue & Recovery we are doing takes place early in the morning, to save or salvage nighttime migrant birds that have struck the buildings before sunrise. According to the American Bird Conservancy, the intrusion of light into migratory bird flyways poses added danger to an already perilous journey. The interior and exterior lights on tall buildings and bright uplights used for decorative illumination of monuments, government offices, parking garages, and other structures of all heights, emit light fields that can entrap birds. The birds are reluctant to fly from a well lit area to a dark one, particularly during periods of low cloud cover or inclement weather when views of the stars and moon, which serve as navigational aids, are obstructed.

So turning off the lights helps. It helps a lot. A study done at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention building found that turning lights off reduced bird deaths by up to 88%. For all the days counted, 1297 birds died from hitting lit windows while only 192 birds died from hitting dark windows (either because the lights were out or heavy drapes were drawn). After adjusting for the variance in lit versus dark windows, the overall reduction was 83%.

Programs like Lights Out Toronto, Smart Lights/Safe Flights in Cleveland, Lights Out Chicago, and several other lights out programs across the U.S. encourage building managers to dim their lights during the spring and fall migration period. Besides saving lives, turning off the lights is good for the environment and saves money on energy costs. That’s why I don’t really understand or support the Earth Hour initiative. A global campaign to switch of lights anytime they aren’t needed – like in all office buildings outside of working hours – would make more sense to me.

As awareness about the hazards to birds caused by buildings increases, programs like and Birds and Buildings are able to educate and work with the public and an increasing number of firms to make modern construction safer for our avian friends. Birds and Buildings works “to educate members of the building industry […] about the design practices that send the wrong signals to birds, the signals that tell birds it is safe to fly into a window.”

Despite the Lights Out programs and expanding knowledge on bird-safe construction practices, bird strikes still occur. Not all of the birds die in the initial strike. Rescue & Recovery aims to collect stunned and injured birds and get them to care as soon as possible. Most rescued birds can be released the same day they were picked up. Yesterday we got good news about a Brown Creeper that was picked up on our morning route – released. Good luck, little creeper!

Brown Creeper, 4-2010, NJ
Brown Creeper, 4-2010, NJ by Kelly Colgan Azar, Creative Commons on Flickr

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in FCWR, Migration | 2 Comments

Raptor Internship Week 10

The Raptor Internship at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation is starting to wind down — there’s just two more weeks to go! Week 10’s lecture focus was medical care for raptors. There were two coping demonstrations and then we all got in some handling practice. Three students from the Saturday class joined us, so there were eight of us on Tuesday!

The rehabilitation activities at Flint Creek are on the rise as spring babies get into trouble and need help. The first baby squirrels of the season were in Dawn’s care and we got the chance to see them being fed. Look how tiny!

Around lunchtime, Zen came in for a visit. Zen is FCWR’s Cooper’s Hawk.

Two birds had to be taken from their mews, and we drew cards to see who would get them. My card said “JR” so I went out to get Junior, the Great Horned Owl. I was warned that he might give me some trouble, maybe by hanging from the ceiling or by just flying from perch to perch as I would try to get him on the glove. Well, ‘some trouble’ was an understatement. I stepped into his mew and he hopped up to a high perch. I moved my ladder to him and climbed up to offer my glove. He flew up to the ceiling and hung there like a bat. For a very long time. I would climb up towards him and he’d fly off to another perch. This went on and on for some time, most of it with me looking up at Junior hanging completely upside-down from the ceiling. He was getting tired and so was I.

Finally he flew down to the floor of his mew and I could get one jess in. He was standing on my arm very awkwardly and as I stood up to adjust and get him down onto my glove, he bated. I held tight onto the jess while he flopped around until he was finally hanging prone. I lifted him up and got back to work. I got so hot and sweaty out there trying to get Junior, and when I was done I had to hand him over immediately to Karen, one of FCWR’s volunteers, so he could be brought inside.

I had been outside for so long I think I missed some lecture about coping. Coping is the term for clipping, filing and otherwise reshaping beaks and talons. In the wild, raptors wear down their beaks and talons on natural rough surfaces. Coping is a part of regular maintenance for education raptors.

I was happy to finally sit in my chair, relax, and see what other interns would be doing. Classmate Connie had drawn the ‘hold Meepy’ card, which meant she would hold and control Meepy while she was being coped. Meanwhile classmate Lee stood at the back of the room, holding Meepy. She asked to be relieved and, well, without thinking really I kind of jumped up with my glove to get her, practically before Dawn asked if someone could take her. I figured I would just hold her for a minute before passing her to Connie and Dawn for coping… like some positive reinforcement for me after my ordeal with Junior (because, well, I just love Meepy).

When it was time I brought Meepy up to the front of the room and Dawn thought maybe she could try coping Meepy on the glove. Very, very cool! But then I felt very, very bad for having jumped up to take Meepy in the first place. Meepy’s talons didn’t need any work but her beak did, so Dawn worked on clipping and then filing smooth Meepy’s beautiful Barred Owl beak.

As usual Meepy was a star – she did great! She got a mouse for being so good.

When Meepy was done, it was time to work on Junior. First Dawn put him into position on the table and covered his head. Covering the eyes helps a bird to relax in a stressful situation. Fellow student Kristi then held Junior while Dawn clipped and filed his beak.

Later we took turns walking with birds and then got to hold Old Red, another FCWR Red-tailed Hawk. First I took Meepy for a long walk and then held onto Red before she was put back into her mew.

Big thanks to all of my classmates who were so kind to grab my camera to take photos of me holding Meepy and Old Red. Special thanks to Kristi for sending me pictures of Meepy being coped.

Next week: more on medical care, rehabilitation, and review for the final exam!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in FCWR, Rehabilitation | Leave a comment

Raptor Intership Week 9

During this week’s Raptor Internship at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, we learned about raptor diets. We also got to watch Pip do a bit more flight training. Along with the usual handling experience and mew maintenance, I got to hold a Red-tailed Hawk for the first time. (!!)

Pip the Barn Owl was given some more flight training. Last week we watched two of Flint Creek’s volunteers, Karen and Linda, work with Pip. This time two classmates got to flight train. Pip started out a bit over-enthusiastic – flying before he should have. Then after a few flights he completely lost all interest, the rascal.

As the class was coming inside after the flight training, a huge huge flock of Sandhill Cranes flew overhead. I took this crummy video – see how big the flock is?

After lunch some classmates took Junior and Meepy out of their mews. The rest of us waited inside while Dawn brought 0511 into the classroom. I got to hold her first.

Dawn warned that if she bated, it wouldn’t feel like anything we’d experienced before – like she was taking our arm away with her! 0511 was agitated during the initial transfer and I was awed by her strength.

First taking 0511 onto my glove

0511 starts to settle down

Once the transfer from Dawn to me was complete, I was surprised by how heavy 0511 was. She didn’t fully relax while I was holding her and a few times I could feel her strong talon grabbing my arm – what power!

0511’s powerful talons

Nervous but happy

Most of the time her legs remained in a somewhat awkward position and she kept her wings slightly spread. It probably didn’t help that I was nervous, too. I was waiting for a bate but after a while my arm felt fatigued so I gave her back to Dawn.

After this we took turns walking with Junior and Meepy. Towards the end of my walk with Junior, he bated and didn’t correct himself. I was happy to have the chance to lift him back up, with coaching from both Dawn and Linda, who were nearby at the time. During my walk with Meepy I took the long path. ๐Ÿ™‚

While we were cleaning out a couple of the mews, Dawn showed us the insides of a quail (prey item), to illustrate the digestive tract of a bird. We had seen diagrams in the morning but it was helpful to see the real deal. Lucky for you I did not manage to take photos of this. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Next week: Rehabilitation.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in FCWR | Leave a comment

Birding America VIII

Last Saturday Arthur and I attended Birding America VIII, sponsored by the Chicago Audubon Society. The event was a kind of symposium, beginning with a keynote address by Joe Lill, former president of CAS.

When we arrived I got the thrill of my life seeing one of ‘my’ bumper stickers on a car in the parking lot. I just had to take a picture!

Following the morning keynote, attendees could choose from several hour-long sessions. Generally these break-out sessions or workshops fell into three categories: Near Chicago Birding Areas; International Birding Trips; and Skill-Building Workshops. This was a nice mix and we attended sessions of all three types through the course of the day. Before the lunch break we learned about the local specialties of southern Arizona and “Birding the Frozen North” (Wisconsin). The Wisconsin presentation was by Steve Betchkal, author of All of This and Robins Too: A Guide to the 50 or so Best Places to Find Birds in Wisconsin.

Clair Postmus answers questions about the birds of Arizona. His wife Bev gave the presentation.

During the lunch break, birds of prey from three area centers were on display. One of the groups was Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, and the Saturday class of Raptor Interns was on hand to handle the birds. Yes, I was jealous! There were also birds from the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest and Stillman Nature Center in South Barrington.

A Great Horned Owl from Stillman Nature Center

Dawn with 0511, the Red-tailed Hawk. 0511 will make another appearance on this blog very soon!

In the afternoon we attended Dave Willard’s lecture on hazards of migration through Chicago, and a group presentation on bird conservation opportunities in the Chicago region. The final keynote address, by Kevin Karlson, was about the wonders of migration. It featured fabulous photographs by the Shorebird Guide co-author and noted birding trip leader.

Dave Willard answers questions about bird collisions in Chicago

It was a fun day and I learned a lot. Ironically the weather on Saturday was the most spectacular for several days before and since, yet 100+ birders were inside for their hobby! Anyway, I look forward to attending the next Birding America – hopefully on a rainy day! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in FCWR, Festivals & Events | Leave a comment

Citizens for Conservation

Wednesday night I had the pleasure to attend the annual meeting of Citizens for Conservation. CFC is a non-profit organization based around Barrington, Illinois. The group’s mission: “Saving Living Space for Living Things” through protection, restoration and stewardship of land, conservation of natural resources, and education. It was the group’s 39th Annual Meeting, and I was so impressed by the wide range of their activities and the diversity and dedication of their members.

Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation was the proud recipient of the group’s 2010 William H. Miller Conservation Award. Three of FCWR’s education birds were on display during the social hour before the meeting began. I held Meepy (Barred Owl), while a fellow intern had Pip (Barn Owl) and Dawn had Spirit (Long-eared Owl). After I got over my initial nervousness, I had a lot of fun talking with people about Meepy and the other birds and the work that FCWR does. It was my first “program” experience (albeit very informal) and I really enjoyed it!

FSC096 by Barrington Area Library Local History, on Flickr

To find out more about Citizens for Conservation, visit their website. They also have a new group on Facebook. As a non-profit organization, they rely on volunteers and donations.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Charity, FCWR | Leave a comment

Raptor Internship Week 8

The focus during this week’s Raptor Internship was training education birds. The brief lecture covered how to glove and flight train a bird, and training using positive vs negative reinforcement.

Two volunteers, along with Pip, then demonstrated flight training using a creance.

Pip on the glove, prior to a flight

Barn Owl flight
Pip in flight

Pip about to land on the glove

The trainers face away from each other between the flights. During this time the receiver prepares the food reward on the glove and the bird finishes the food it has just received from the last flight. When the bird and the receiver are ready, both trainers turn around and the receiver blows her whistle to signal the bird to fly.

Here’s a closer look at the creance. It’s a piece of capped PVC pipe with some sand (?) inside to make it the appropriate weight for the bird in training.

Dawn explained that lures may also be used to flight train a bird, and she showed the following two examples. The pigeon might be used for training a bird like a Peregrine Falcon, while the black and white “skunk” might be used for a Great Horned Owl.

In the afternoon we had more handling experience. I took Pip first and since he had flight jesses on, I had to change his equipment, which went pretty smoothly. Next I walked with Meepy, and finally with Darwin. All of the students were walking around the grounds at the same time; it was like a parade of raptors.

After the raptor walkies, it was time to clean out a couple of the mews. I hadn’t cleaned while a bird was in its cage before, but I got to pick up waste and change the water in Zen’s place while he watched me warily from the corner. Next I worked in Junior’s mew. Junior’s a bit horny these days, which might mean he could be aggressive towards people. While I was picking up, volunteer Karen kept an eye on Junior and stood guard in case he got any bad ideas. For those keeping track, I found another two headless mice while cleaning out the mews this week. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Next week: feeding and nutrition!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in FCWR | 3 Comments

Falconry terms in common language

I’m learning how to handle birds in the Raptor Internship at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation. A lot of the terms used in handling birds of prey come from falconry. Did you know that some common English-language idioms actually originate in falconry? I took the following chart from Wikipedia.

Expression Meaning in falconry Derived meaning
in a bate bating: trying to fly off when tethered in a panic
fed up of a hawk, with its crop full and so not wanting to hunt no longer interested in something
haggard of a hawk, caught from the wild when adult looking exhausted and unwell, in poor condition; wild or untamed
under his/her thumb of the hawk’s leash when secured to the fist tightly under control
wrapped round his/her little finger of the hawk’s leash when secured to the fist tightly under control

I’d never heard the phrase in a bate before, but I do find the other connections fascinating. I especially would never have guessed fed up, under my thumb and wrapped around her little finger came from falconry, but really, they make perfect sense!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in FCWR, Offbeat | 1 Comment

Raptor Internship Week 7

Wow, I can’t believe the Raptor Internship is already over the halfway point! This week’s lecture was about housing requirements for raptors, and about transporting birds. As usual, in the afternoon we had handling experience.

First we observed as Dawn and volunteer Karen changed the anklets on 0511 (“oh-five-eleven”), one of Flint Creek’s resident Red-tailed Hawks. Here’s 0511 before the procedure. She’s so beautiful!

Then we all took turns walking with Darwin. Darwin was the first bird we handled, back in week 3. Here he is on a classmate’s glove before going outside. Isn’t he gorgeous?

When we weren’t walking, we were scrubbing & cleaning. The highlight for me was finding a headless mouse in Darwin’s mew. ๐Ÿ˜›

After everyone had a turn walking with Darwin, it was nearly time to leave for the day so we were dismissed. One classmate and I stayed a bit longer so we could walk with Darwin alone. Our first solo walk with a bird! Thank you Connie for taking a few photos of me with Darwin. Here’s my favorite.

During the walk I passed a man and his daughter who were interested in Darwin. I told them he was an American Kestrel and was going to say more but the man started to approach me and I suddenly got nervous. Raptor education FAIL. I politely asked the man and his daughter if they wouldn’t mind to continue their walk. Later I passed another man walking on the path; he offered to stop and let us pass. I had the idea he had been walking there before and passing someone with a bird on the glove wasn’t so remarkable to him.

After everyone had left, Dawn asked if I wanted to put Darwin back in his mew, and feed him. Oh, sure, I can do that. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Dawn handed me a mouse and I walked into Darwin’s mew. I set the mouse on a stump and removed his equipment. It had been a while since I’d worked on removing a leash extender so I it took me a minute. Then I raised my hand to let Darwin fly to his perch. I didn’t open my fingers enough and he was a bit stuck for a moment before his jesses were free from my glove. I felt bad about it but Darwin wasn’t hurt and I certainly learned from my mistake – that won’t happen again.

Next week: training (and hopefully less mice than this week).

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in FCWR | Leave a comment

Raptor Internship Week 6

During this weekโ€™s Raptor Internship at Flint Creek we finished covering the natural history of raptor species. In the afternoon we had more handling practice.

First we wrapped up discussing the diurnal raptors and then covered the nocturnal raptors of North America, again with a focus on the birds most commonly seen in Illinois. During part of the lecture Dawn had Turkey, Flint Creek’s resident Turkey Vulture, on her glove. Turkey likes to stand with his wings spread out. While Dawn was lecturing, he yawned several times. I guess he’d heard it all before.

Before the lunch break I asked who we would be handling in the afternoon. Just then Junior, one of Flint Creek’s Great Horned Owls, was being brought into the building by a volunteer. As if to answer me, right at that moment he hooted loudly. I had my answer – we’d get to work with Junior!

Junior came to Flint Creek via RAPTOR, Inc, in Ohio. He’s got quite a history, a big part of which you can read over at Susan’s blog: The owl who loved me. Junior has been at Flint Creek since 2007. The past two winters he has had a female Great Horned Owl outside his mew and trying to get in, apparently interested in his amorous calls (she would move on, eventually). From what I have seen, Junior is very vocal. The boy loves to hoot.

One thing we heard about Junior was that although he is fully flighted, he has a tendency to not correct himself after a bate. Before we took turns walking with him, Dawn brought him into the classroom to see if he would bate, so she could demonstrate how to help him back up. He was not immediately cooperative.

Once outside, just before handing him off to the first student, he bated. He didn’t self-correct so the other students ran over to watch Dawn demonstrate getting him upright again.

While one student was walking with Junior, the rest of us helped a bit with mew maintenance (ie cleaning up poop, pellets & leftovers, scrubbing and replenishing water).

Finally it was my turn to walk with Junior.

Junior and me

He was so relaxed during our walk around the grounds. I was kind of hoping he would bate so I could correct him, but he was just chillaxing, giving a hoot here and there and looking around. And it was a nice day for a change, with lots of sun breaking through big white clouds, not too cold.

Back inside I took a few more photos of him. Gratuitous glam shots:

GHOW Junior

GHOW Junior

Later we all got to walk with Meepy again (squee!) and take a second walk with Junior. Meepy was like a different bird, she was so much more relaxed than last week. I was also more relaxed, and I was able to keep my arm in position much better than before. I could see a big improvement in myself from last week to this week. ๐Ÿ™‚ Still need to work on my arm strength though.

Meepy and me

Posted in FCWR | Leave a comment