Category Archives: FCWR

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

Raptor Internship Week 5

First, here’s a picture of me with Pip from last week’s class.

During this week’s Raptor Internship at Flint Creek we learned about diurnal raptors. In the afternoon we had our third handling experience.

The lecture focused on eagles, falcons, and some hawk species (the rest will be covered next week). Birds most commonly found in northern Illinois were covered in depth, while other North American raptors were briefly discussed. Besides telling us about field marks and habitat, sometimes Dawn would talk a bit about concerns with particular species in captivity. For example, American Kestrels, particularly females, are prone to obesity in captivity. Dawn also told us about the Peregrine Falcon monitoring that is done in Chicago, which is coordinated via the Field Museum at expedtions@fieldmuseum.

After lunch we got to handle Meepy, Flint Creek’s resident Barred Owl. Meepy has been at the Itasca facility since 1992. She was being raised illegally when she was brought in, so she is imprinted on humans. She used to free fly in programs and indeed she is fully flight capable. I was practically bursting all morning after I learned we would get to work with Meepy. When it was time to start I was eager to go first (I don’t think my classmates minded)!

This was the first time any of us handled a raptor outdoors. I took Meepy from her mew, so it was also the first time I got to take a bird onto my glove and put on all of the equipment from scratch.

Inviting Meepy to step onto my glove

Barred Owls have a lot of feathers on their legs, so it was a challenge to get her jesses in. Like Darwin and Pip, Meepy was extremely patient as I struggled with her equipment.

Working through the fluffy leg feathers

Eventually jesses, leash extender and leash were secured and I took Meepy out of her mew. Together with Dawn and Tawny, a journalism student who joined our class for the day, we walked around the Flint Creek grounds. It was snowing so all was quiet and beautiful. (Many thanks to Tawny for all of the Meepy photos in today’s post).

Outside the mew, finally

During the walk we talked about how to handle potential hazards when out walking with a bird, like dogs, strollers and bikers (apparently Meepy is afraid of all three). There was no one else using the paths on Tuesday, but the Saturday class (with nine students!) had a hazard for everyone. Meepy also bated a few times, so I got to practice raising my arm during a bate and waiting for her to settle before walking on.

Walking with Meepy

After the walk we returned to the classroom. I learned how to take a gloved bird through doors (bird first) and then handed Meepy off to Dawn. Boy was I tired at the end. I really need to work on my arm strength – I was pretty disappointed in how quickly my arms tired after carrying such a light bird (Meepy is probably no more than 2 pounds)!

There were just four students in class this week, and we all got to walk with Meepy outside. I think it went really well for everyone. Fortunately we were able to leave a bit early for the day, as the snow never stopped on Tuesday and we ended up with well over a foot of accumulation. The drive wasn’t easy but being able to leave early sure did help.

Next week: more diurnal raptors and more handling! And hopefully, after two Tuesday snows in a row, no more snow!

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Raptor Internship Week 4

The focus during the fourth week of the Raptor Internship at Flint Creek was more handling (following basics, equipment, and handling part one).

After a brief review of what we learned last week, we practiced putting equipment on a bird by using only our dominant hand. Dawn devised a contraption made of Velcro strips and pencils (kestrel) or markers (hawk) to simulate a bird’s legs. Using this, we were able to thread anklets with jesses, attach leash extenders to jesses, and thread leashes to leash extenders. Boy, was it great to practice in this way. We worked in small groups and could help each other remember to keep our “bird” level and secure while we worked. Dawn told us she first learned to apply and remove equipment like this with a Red-tailed Hawk on the glove. Wow! (Many thanks to my classmate Lee for taking the video and photos below)

Working from behind, here a jess is being threaded through one of the “hawk’s” anklets

Here the jesses are being inserted into the slit of the leash extender.

Working a jess into one of the “kestrel’s” anklets

After everyone got to practice with both sets of equipment, Dawn showed us how to tie a falconer’s knot. After observing Dawn several times, we all took turns trying it out. I had a really hard time seeing what Dawn was doing exactly with her fingers and the leash, but once it was my turn I picked it up pretty quickly. Here’s what it looks like:

The piece of leash between the metal loop and the leash extender should be shorter – I need to practice that!

After lunch and another brief lecture about special handling situations, it was time for us to work with a bird once again. This time Pip, a Barn Owl, was bought in and placed on a low perch. Pip’s parents were part of a captive breeding program for Illinois. While his siblings were released, Pip was held back to be used as an education bird. He is fully flighted.

We took turns taking Pip onto our glove and (much to our initial horror) removing all of his equipment except for one jess. Pip was so relaxed he was mostly either preening (it was so very cool to hear him ‘zip’ his feathers so close!) or near sleeping as we worked on the equipment.

I think we all did really well with this exercise. The ability to practice with the Velcro birds really helped prepare us all for working with Pip on the glove.

It was another great class – I’m so glad I signed up for this internship! Next week we’ll look at the natural history of diurnal raptors and get more handling experience. I can’t wait!

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Raptor Internship Week 3

Last Tuesday morning during my drive to Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation I saw two American Kestrels. One was diving from a utility wire down to the ground; the other was perched and bobbing its tale as kestrels will do. Little did I know then that later in the day I would hold my first bird on the glove, and it would be a beautiful American Kestrel.

Our instructor, Dawn, brought a carrier into Flint Creek as the class participants were arriving. The patient in the carrier was Phoenix, a remarkable bird that we would later get to see being treated.

The focus for the third week of the Raptor Internship was handling techniques (we earlier covered basics and equipment). We began with a lecture and viewing photos of the basics of proper raptor handling. There is a lot to keep in mind when handling a bird, and all of the proper techniques are practiced in order to keep both the handler and the bird safe at all times.

After the lecture, Flint Creek’s beautiful American Kestrel Darwin was brought into the classroom.

Darwin’s information sign outside his mew at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation

Dawn demonstrated taking the tethered bird from perch to glove. Then each student took a turn doing the same. We were each able to spend several minutes with him on our glove. Dawn had to talk us through each step but I think we all did very well. I know the other ladies in the class all looked like naturals once Darwin was in place. I was so nervous when it was my turn but both Dawn and Darwin were so patient. It was hard to take my eyes off of him when Darwin was perched on my glove – I was awestruck!

Once the handling practice was over, it was close to noon, which meant it was time for Dawn to take care of Phoenix once again. We got to watch Dawn and her patient through the clinic’s one-way glass as Dawn administered medicine to Phoenix and fed her. I was so moved not only by this exceptional bird’s will to live, but by Dawn’s extreme professionalism in handling the bird. This beautiful bird has a long road ahead in her recovery. Please consider donating to Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation for all of the remarkable work they do.

After lunch the rest of the class time was spent finishing our gloves from the last class and making equipment. We cut jesses, leash extenders and anklets from practice leather. Later I helped condition a few leather jesses in jess grease (kind of messy!) and even got to cut a few jesses using kangaroo leather.

Practice leash extenders, jesses and anklets (left to right)

Jesses made from kangaroo leather

Next class: Handling Part 2!

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Phoenix’s amazing story

Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation has been getting a lot of publicity the last couple of days from a remarkable patient who was brought in last Saturday. The fire from a small plane crash in Sugar Grove IL had an unexpected victim – a Red-tailed Hawk. The bird was found lying on the ground near the crash sight, badly burned. She was brought to Flint Creek by Kane County Animal Control and since then she has been receiving around the clock care. Here is a piece that aired on our local PBS channel last night.

See also: The burnt bird… | Hawk healing after Sugar Grove plane crash | Badly burned hawk is ‘miracle’ plane crash survivor

I’m going to write a bit about the third week of the raptor internship in a bit. We were lucky to be able to watch Dawn care for this remarkable bird, who is being called Phoenix.

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Raptor Internship Week 2

I recently started a 12-week Raptor Internship at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation. The second class was this week; you can read about the first class here.

The focus of this week’s class was equipment. Prior to class we had to read the equipment chapter in our textbook, Raptors in Captivity. Most of the terminology and all of the mechanics were totally new to me, so I found it hard to visualize some things and how they attach to each other and to the bird. I didn’t even realize that some equipment stays on the bird more or less permanently.

During class Dawn showed us the various equipment, so the reading became clear as we could see and handle each thing. Different materials can be used for certain equipment (leather vs. nylon, etc), so that was discussed as well. Flint Creek has their own equipment preferences, but we are learning about the different possibilities that may be used at other facilities.

During the morning break I took this photo of the view from my table. I can see Meepy (the Barred Owl) from my seat, if she is sitting on my side of her mew. She’s perched just slightly left of center in this photo:

I walked up to the door and took a photo through the glass. She’s dozing.

Here are a few of the different gloves that Dawn showed us. The one on the far left is a two-piece over-the-elbow glove used for eagles.

At the end of last week we had learned that we would be making our own gloves during the second class. We all wondered what that meant and I think a few of us guessed we would be cutting and stitching something out of a fresh sheet of leather. Oh, how wrong we were!

After the morning break on Tuesday Dawn passed out pairs of welding gloves. She explained how we would make our gloves and then we went to work.

First, the right-hand glove was cut in half, between the middle and ring fingers down the middle. The gloves are leather with a denim lining and a woolly synthetic (?) padding in the fingers, so this was tough. The half with the thumb, index and middle fingers was saved and the rest was discarded. The saved half was then turned inside out and stuffed inside the left glove. Inverting the glove was very difficult – there are three layers to work with and the outer leather layer was tough! We used pens or the blunt ends of tools to help push the fingers inside-out. This step was accomplished with much grunting and just a bit of unhappy mumbling.

Once the cut piece was inverted and stuffed into the left-hand glove, the result was a glove with a double-reinforced top half. The two pieces were next sewn together, which was accomplished using heavy waxed thread, thick needles, pliers, and much grunting, mumbling and cursing.

I was able to invert my half glove fairly quickly, so I was able to start sewing before anyone else. Pushing the needle through two layers of welding glove was nearly futile and when Dawn asked if I could use a pair of pliers, I didn’t hesitate to accept them. Using the pliers, I was able to finish my sewing before the rest of the class. In the end I was even able to add a leash tie and a grommet for a hip loop before class was over. I’m kind of afraid my aptitude at glove-making means I will be lacking in other areas of the class (it figures, right?). We shall see! Anyway, I’m very pleased with my glove and I’m glad I was able to finish before it was time to leave for the day.

I took this photo during our lunch break. By this time I was working on sewing the two pieces together up the middle. I broke my needle (pictured) so I had to wait for Dawn to return with more needles before continuing. We all broke a LOT of needles!

Here’s the finished glove (click to embiggen). That’s the leash tie below the palm. The thin piece of leather at the bottom of the glove, used to fix the glove to our belts via a keychain, is tied through a grommet.

Falconry glove

This is what the inside of the glove looks like (click to embiggen). Here you can see how the half right-hand glove is inverted and stuffed inside.

Inside of falconry glove

Since much of our time this week was spent working on our gloves, the five of us in the class (the no-show dropped out) spent some time chatting. We have different goals for the class but we all share a love for nature and for these birds we are going to get to work with. And I think we now all share an aversion to sewing. 🙂

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Raptor Internship Week 1

Last Tuesday I began the 12-week Raptor Internship program at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation in Itasca. The class meets through the end of March and we’ll cover topics like equipment, handling, training and rehabilitation, as well as raptor natural histories. The class has six students, although only five were in attendance for the first meeting. We come with different levels of experience and various reasons for taking the course. One classmate is looking for a new career. Another is looking to enhance her volunteer opportunities. I am the only birder.

Part of this first meeting was spent getting to know each other and learning about Flint Creek and their work. We also got to meet many of the education birds at Flint Creek. The organization has three facilities so we saw the birds in residence at the Itasca facility – but we learned the history of sixteen of the Flint Creek education birds.

This is Pip, a Barn Owl hatched as part of a captive reintroduction program. Pip was held back to be used as an education bird and was hatched in 2002. (photo taken during the open house a few weeks ago)

Here’s Meepy, a Barred Owl. Like many of the education birds at Flint Creek, Meepy was being raised as a pet illegally before joining the education birds. Barred Owls are my favorite so I am looking forward to getting to know Meepy. She has a beautiful enclosure (to my untrained eye) complete with a mural painted on the wall. (photo taken during the open house a few weeks ago)

One of the most interesting education birds at Flint Creek is Zen, a Cooper’s Hawk. Zen has an unusually calm disposition for his species – Cooper’s Hawks are rarely used as education birds. Here is a video of Flint Creek founder (and our instructor) Dawn Keller, with Zen.

We rounded out our first day with a short tour of the facility. We also observed (and helped a little) a couple of the regular volunteers with some basic chores at the mews. This first day was a great introduction to the class and I am really looking forward to the next 12 weeks of learning and working. Now I’ve got to go read my homework. Next week: Equipment!

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Bird-friendly volleyball net?

We were kind of surprised to see this volleyball net left up at Nippersink Forest Preserve. Earlier this year I read about an owl getting caught in a soccer net on the Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation blog: Owls don’t play soccer.

Volleyball Net

Could the yellow edging on this net make it more visible to birds? The holes here are pretty large but I wonder if this is a bird-friendly net. Anyone know?

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Chicago area bird rehab needs help

Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, a private nonprofit rehab organization in the Chicagoland area, is in trouble. The group has three locations, in Itasca, Barrington and Chicago (Northerly Island), and in the past six month they have suffered through three floods at two locations. The Northerly Island location suffered a burst pipe on January 17th, ruining the center’s flooring.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Since September, flooding twice forced [founder Dawn] Keller and her all-volunteer crew at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation in Itasca to evacuate 43 birds from outside cages. Then last month, while Keller was still figuring out where she was going to get $15,000 to replace damaged bird habitats, Flint Creek’s bird emergency room at Northerly Island in Chicago flooded.

Repairs to the ER will cost more than $8,000, and Keller fears they won’t be finished in time for the start of migratory bird season. And as the weather thaws, mildew will start to turn the ER into a veritable bacteria farm, she said.

Read the whole article here

Donations can be made to the center via the website. You can donate via Paypal or contribute to their current fundraising drive via firstgiving.

Here’s a message from founder Dawn Keller, recorded for the 2008 holiday season.

Visit the Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation website for more information.

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Posted in Charity, FCWR, Illinois, Rehabilitation, Video | Leave a comment

Chicago’s Bird Hospital Hopping During Migration Season

The Chicago Park District opened a bird hospital on the former Meigs Field in April. Last week, the hospital served more than 250 patients. Most injuries treated at the hospital involve birds crashing into buildings, and the number of injuries increases each year during the spring and fall migration periods. The central location is pivotal in saving birds which otherwise would have to be driven to suburban wildlife centers for rehabilitation. The survival rate for birds dropped off at the hospital is over 85 percent. Read more in the Chicago Tribune.

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