Raptors and Children and Parks Oh My

This past windy, windy May Day we spent a few hours at the Hyland Lake Park Reserve. The crew has been planning this little excursion for a bit, a month plus, which for our lil’ family is a fairly long-term goal.

You see, a fellow student in Leah’s Microbiology class (“Smart Girl”) mentioned something about a bird release that would be happening thanks to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center. The gal wants to be a bird trainer, which I hadn’t really known was something you could be, but I don’t really think about birds, per se, especially not in any career sense. Apparently it is a tough nut to crack – the bird discipline field. Who knew? Well, who cares; moving on. Smart Girl told Leah about the bird release, and this seemed like a perfect trip for the family, especially because of this one.

None of us have much experience with releasing birds, and I was expecting driving up to the park, and asking around to find out where this little thing was going to occur. I was afraid it’d be in some obscure corner of the park, down a wood-chip trail, with a dozen or two folks gathered around some scruffy dude. Man was I wrong.

Raptor releases are a BFD. This is a full-scale event, with cordoned parking, attendants, tents, informational booths and people. Flocks of people.

And a host of birds, which shouldn’t be surprising, but I was basically picturing a scruffy dude getting out of a busted-up van with a couple of eagles under his arms, saying “Howdy”, chucking the eagles into the air and sparking a smoke. There were actually quite a few volunteers with a low scruff factor, and quite a few birdies on display, in addition to the birds that were specifically there to be set back into the world. This was a pretty big thrill.

Well, there were other sights to see, so we tootled around for a bit while we were waiting for the big release.

We eventually migrated to the staging area, and deliberated about where to perch while we waited for the main event. They had some of the area roped off, but it didn’t seem to signify much of anything as people were sitting everywhere. So, we walked around, lost Rexgoliath a couple of times, and eventually found a nice spot to sit. We settled, started in on our lunch, then promptly had to get up and move behind the roped off area. The birds needed some space to fly, I guess, and even though they have the entire sky the big shots are so important they need some terra firma available as well.

Finally the little presentation started, and there were four birds released in total. A couple of red-tailed hawks, and a couple of Cooper’s hawks. There was a modest amount of fanfare – some spiel about the Center and their work, a bit of introduction on each bird’s particular story of rehabilitation, honorary releasers (including our gal Betty McCollum!), and a countdown for each bird’s triumphant reëntry into the greater world.

A good time was had by all, and although the crew was starting to get a little owly by the time we were on our way out, the kids loved the whole thing up.

(Bonus game: Count the number of ornithological references I tried to drop throughout the post!)

– Wr. Monderful


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Auntie Kesah said,

    bonus points for knowing what ‘ornithological’ means

  2. 2

    msvcas said,

    Your experience is wonderful. Since my childhood I wanted to see such experiences from young children….. Also, pics are very nice and exciting.

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