Monday, January 27, 2014

Incredible People, Awesome Birds

This is what drew me out into the cold. Eight bald eagles were graduating from rehabilitation to release. I was within an arm length of these birds. Each arrived in the arms of a skills and compassionate wildlife expert. The next photo shows Marge Gibson, executive director of REGI, Rapture Education Group, Inc. Look at her face. That smile never left her as she sent her patients one by one into the skies along the Wisconsin river. 

Interns, graduates with wildlife conservation degrees, joined her, each baring an eagle in their arms.
For the most part, the eagles never struggled. They suffered the indignity of human control for one last time as if they could smell freedom, just moments away.  

Notice the caution tape, I was front and center at the tape, snapping away as they paraded the birds around the perimeter for the hundreds of people assembled. The only rule, don't touch. I don't have the words to adequately convey the feeling of being so close to a wild bald eagle. 

The brown headed eagles are young, less than a year old, while the partially brown headed eagle is somewhere near 4. By the time an eagle is 6, the white markings we all recognize have filled in. 

Marge was mic'd and provided clever and informative banter while she shared her passion for bird rescue. Did you know that females are substantially larger than the males. She was holding a female and one of her interns, a male. They stood side by side for a moment. I missed the shot, but as Marge said, "this is why male bald eagles all say 'Yes Ma'am' ."
Before she was ready to release them, she would flip them on their back, and give them one last free meal. Beef heart, nearly devoid of fat was apparently what they needed. She explained that eagles can't digest fat properly. Think about it, fish is pretty lean. They things you learn when you listen. 

Not every bird was hungry, but Marge insisted. "You'll be glad you ate this tomorrow." As the day wore on, and later birds arrived for release, the beef heart started to freeze, but every bird left with a full crop. Marge took her time, acclimated her patients to the scene. None had been found in this part of Wisconsin, but this was prime bald eagle habitat. 

I have more post on this topic, you won't want to miss the conclusion of this series. I'll be here, waiting for you to drop by. 

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