For the last several years, I have visited the same friends in the Texas Hill Country and I still need directions. Even so, I will inevitably make a wrong turn at the last fork in the road. My favorite friend to visit is a four year old Vulture named Buffy who was orphaned and had to be hand fed and cared for until she learned to survive on her own. Even after she learned to fly and was able to soar with the other Vultures she never needed a map to find her way back to her birthplace. Our friend Bruce has a way with birds and has rescued and rehabilitated numerous species through the years. They remind me of dogs with feathers. As much as I have read about birds, especially birds of prey, I am still clueless as to how they are able to migrate. I can’t even drive to the north side of San Antonio without a map. If you call someone a birdbrain it is supposed to be an insult, but more and more I realize how fascinating and complex birds are. Two weeks ago, Buffy and another Vulture were brought here to our ranch to be released so that they would have a safe environment free of the dangers of highways and power lines. We kept them confined to the aviary for a week and then according to plan we released them hoping that they would stay within a mile or so. Not a chance…..Yesterday, my phone rang. I did not recognize the area code or number. “Buffy is here perched on my shoulder” The call was from Dave, a neighbor of Bruce’s. My little birdbrain had flown 100 miles.
I forgot how wonderful our Canon 300 mm lens is, until I switched from the 70 to 210 zoom to take pictures of the Falcons that were showing off for us. They were the opening act before the fireworks display that we had later the night of the 4th of July. They knew that they would be rewarded with a treat left on the fence post…..
When your much loved pet is sick or injured you would do anything to insure the best possible care and a speedy recovery. But would you or could you care for about 150 to 300 orphaned or injured birds in a year? We are not talking cute little parrots or love birds. How about hawks and vultures and other birds of prey? Up until 1971 a bounty was paid for shooting a hawk. They were getting a bad rap from farmers for killing chickens. Eagles have been known to kill sheep, but to wipe out a whole species has proven to be detrimental to the planet. Through the educational efforts of Last Chance Forever, a raptor sanctuary, the public is gaining knowledge as to the benefits that these birds contribute to our environment. Demonstrations by LCF held throughout the United States provide a means to enlighten 500,000 people each year to the role that these raptors play as indicators of our ecological health. Master Falconer and Veterinarian Technician, John Karger founded the organization in 1978. Each year due to the care these orphaned, sick or injured birds receive, 65 to 80% of them are able to be released back into their natural environment. Surgery and medical care is provided for these birds by Melissa Hill, the highly skilled veterinarian for LCF. Raptors that are rescued, but sustain injuries that prohibit them from surviving in the wild, are used as ambassadors to increase awareness of their virtues to the public. During one of the exhibitions conducted by the staff of Last Chance Forever, we were treated to a demonstration which included a Red Tailed Hawk, a Harris Hawk, a Bald Eagle and a Great Horned Owl. On another occasion we were able to see a Lanner Falcon and a Barn Owl. Superstitions and myths surrounding owls were dispelled for me, the first time I looked into the eyes of this beautiful female barn owl that had been rescued as an orphaned owlet. She appeared healthy and strong, but malnutrition that she experienced before her rescue had caused a deformity that would prevent her from flying and surviving outside the sanctuary.
Information and advice for anyone who needs assistance in aiding wildlife of any kind can be found at their web-site Lastchanceforever.org. They primarily provide care for Birds of Prey, but are able to direct you to organizations that will help other species of birds and animals.