Sunday, May 20, 2012

A visit to Pacific Northwest Raptors

 Ella had a Pro D day on Friday so I planned a little trip to Pacific Northwest Raptors. I had been wanting to check this place out for awhile and it seemed like the right time to go when I got a couple of 10% off admission coupons when I ran into the girls from the raptor park leaving tickets on windshields at the dog show last weekend. I gave my friend Lee a call in the morning to see if she and the kids might want to join us and so we all met up to see the birds.

The park has been around for about 10 years and most of the birds have been raised there. There are a few who have been rehabilitated and some have been deemed unrealeasable because they have imprinted on humans. Can you imagine walking through the forest and having a falcon randomly land on you? Yeah, that probably wouldn't go over so well.

Elton the spectacled owl

Manwe the bald eagle who was later used in the flying demo

Snowy owl

We arrived about an hour and a half before the flying demonstration so we had lots of time to see everything. They had a really great selection of birds, lots of owls(snowy, barn, screech, spectacled and more), hawks(harris, redtailed and more), falcons(peregrine, saker and more) and eagles(golden and bald), even a couple of turkey vultures and some kookaburras(these guys sound so cool). I'm saying more in my descriptions by the way because I can't remember the names of them all, they really did have a broad selection.

 Once we had wandered around and seen everything we went down to the flying field for a demo. It started out with Manwe the bald eagle who is nine years old and quite the performer.

He flew back and forth right in front of the crowd which was very impressive as he was quite a big bird(we learned that males are about 30% smaller than females so he was actually not that big for a bald eagle) and had a big slow way of flying. At one point he did fly up and land in the trees and to get him back down they use a big fishing lure and that apparently resembles salmon scales and he came right down to get it. He was a bit of a performer and the kids loved him.

 Next came Ollie the barn owl who was very chatty and so cute. He had a bit of a mind of his own and didn't always want to come back to his handler but the meaty bits kept bringing him back. 

After Ollie came Chinook the red tailed hawk and my friend Lee's son Dillon was picked from the crowd to run with a lure to see how Chinook hunts. He came flying down to land on the lure and then did what is called mantling, which means he spreads his wings out and around the "prey" so that Matt his handler couldn't get it. It was quite interesting to see.

And last but definitely not least was Arrow the saker falcon. This type of falcon hunts birds and they are so fast(Matt told us that the fastest one clocked on record flew at 340 miles per hour!!). They have sort of a quick in and out way of flying and they have a kind of tooth on their beak that they use to hit their prey with on the way by. This enables them to bring down much larger birds than themselves, and while it is quite rare, they do occasionally bring down full size geese. Saker falcons are from the middle eastern areas and were the first type to be domesticated and used by humans for hunting.

 All and all we had a really great time and I would definitely recommend it and go back again too. They have things called owl walks where you get a guided tour with one of the biologists and he brings the owl along for the walk and you also get to see what it's like to have him come in and land on your for a piece of food. I think that would be a fun birthday for a kid.

Hope you get a chance to check out the raptors in the near future, so fun!

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