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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Charlotte: Carolina Raptor Center

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Last time I was in Charlotte, forever ago, Ms. Ivey took me to the Carolina Raptor Center. And I fell in LOVE with this place. When I decided to fly out to see my parents I knew if my mom was in ANY shape to go that I would have to take them there. Thankfully mom is feeling much much better. We are still not clear on what EXACTLY happened which is a little frightening but all in all we are happy that she is getting back to her ole wacky self.

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We walked into the center to purchase our tickets into the park and I spotted the most adorable masks. I thought for a split second that I would buy one of them. I would have worn it while I go birding... to many that would be strange but in LALA land where you can see a Micheal Jackson and Jesus on the street everyday wearing a mask wouldn’t be that crazy. But then I decided it would be too hard to bring on the plane. My mom and I compromised by taking a photo. I am going to call my mother ‘Mama Bird’ from now on.

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WE LOOK REALLY ANGRY BUT I ASSURE YOU I WAS SMILING

The Raptor Center is a non profit organization that takes in injured and sick birds. They provide medical attention, rehabilitation with their goal being to save and release as many Raptors as possible. Birds who’s injuries are too sever to allow them a good chance at life are kept in the zoo like park. You see birds that can no longer fly or see. These birds find a permanent home at the facility and are then used as ambassadors of education.

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THIS LITTLE EASTERN SCREECH OWL ONLY HAS ONE EYE

We had planned our arrival to coincide with the first bird show. In a large outdoor amphitheater a speaker got up to show us a few birds, describe how they live and their habitat, describe how the center works and answer questions. He was a fantastic speaker and had the whole audience rapt with attention.

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The first raptor he brought out was a very large Great Horned Owl. This particular bird was brought into the center as an imprinted bird. Great Horned Owls imprint, or attach the fact that food came from people. This owl cannot hunt, nor can it learn to hunt, because at the very vulnerable age it associated people with food. Now she serves to educate people.

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GREAT HORNED OWL

I love this park. Owls and raptors are very cautious birds and although I do see them in the wild they are hard to find and hard to get close too. Owls in particular you can generally only find at night, and even once found there would be no way I could get close enough to that bird as I did this owl.

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GREAT HORNED OWL DETAIL

In the Great Horned Owl part of his talk he showed us the actual skull of the bird. It is amazing that this bird is MOSTLY just fluffy feathers. Pretty neat to see the skull and the bird side by side.

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GREAT HORNED OWL SKULL

The other bird the speaker brought out was a Peregrine Falcon. I could totally see myself volunteering at a place like this. I wanted to run up on stage and take this man’s job. I wanna hold a Peregrine Falcon TOO!

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PEREGRINE FALCON

Peregrines are beautiful birds. I think that their markings are really beautiful. The coolest thing about this particular bird though is its speed. Clocked at being able to reach over 200 miles per hour during its hunting dive it is one of the fastest animals in the world.

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PEREGRINE FALCON

Sadly this particular bird ran into some power lines and was brought into the center with such sever wing damage that the vet had to remove his left wing. It’s sad what can happen to such a magnificent animal but I am thankful for the center at being able to save his life and provide a place for him to live.

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PEREGRINE FALCON

Out of all the birds I photographed today he is one of my favorites. The light seemed to follow him wherever he went. Photography and light go together like peanut butter and chocolate. This bird was after my own heart and I had such a hard time editing down his photos.

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PEREGRINE FALCON

After the show we wandered around the rest of the park. We had about two hours to view the raptors in the various cages before the next scheduled show. Birds are kept in groups in various structures under a canopy of trees. Although the fences for the structures made photographing very difficult we loved seeing all the different birds they had on display.

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Although not as extensively large as a zoo there are signs and placards describing the different birds, their habitats, the conservation efforts and most importantly how we can all help. We are all pretty knowledgeable about birds but there is ALWAYS more to learn.

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Mostly while walking around at the various birds in the cages we just looked. Sure there were times when we tried to take photos of the various birds, we were just too excited not to try, but sadly the cages are built in such a way to prevent that perfect shot. Mom mentioned that it would be fabulous to put in a clear Plexiglas panel so photographers could get a photo of these beautiful hard to find birds without the hindrance of the wires and bars... I couldn’t agree more. SIGH.

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WE WERE HAPPY JUST TO BE TOGETHER

A few of the hopeful cage photos came out ok. There are a ton of factors to getting a cage shot. If the bird is just the right distance away from the fence, if I am just the right distance away from the fence, if the fence isn’t in direct sunlight AND if the wire isn’t too thick then sometimes you can get a photo that is quazi ok. I say quazi ok because if you look closely you can catch the blurred lines of where the wire was.

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SHORT EARED OWL

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TURKEY VULTURE BEING FED – THESE BIRDS ARE AWESOME EQUATED WITH A HUMAN 2 YEAR OLDS INTELLIGENCE

Although the caged birds are cool to see the real reason that I lost my heart to this place is because of all the UNCAGED birds that you get to see. You get to see them at the shows, sometimes flying, sometimes so close you can touch and then also, if you are lucky, you get to see more. Volunteers are constantly ferrying the birds back and forth to the vet office to be weighted and health checked.

The first handler and owl we were lucky enough to run into was a man carrying a Eurasian Barn Owl. Originally I thought it was just a smaller version of the Barn Owl I am used to seeing here but the color was slightly off and he was tiny. We then found out that this is the European subspecies. The handler only paused for a few minutes, you could tell he was in a hurry, but we were thankful to just get a few photos up close without the bars.

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EURASIAN BARN OWL

The second owl we got to see was a woman carrying an older Barred Owl. This bird is completely blind so is a permanent resident here at the sanctuary. You could see him cocking his head this way and that, trying to figure out what all the excitement was.

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A BARRED OWL AND HER HANDLER

As we were taking photos she mentioned a photographic extravaganza that this place does in October. Open only to photographers during the course of the day they bring out a ton of birds. They fly them, they feed them, they allow us to get close and take all the photos we want. I am seriously considering flying down just for this event. I do after all have a girlfriend who lives 20 minutes away plus Mr. Rogue’s parents live close-by... hummmmm my wheels are a turning!

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BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS OF BEAUTIFUL BIRDS

This handler hung out in an open area to talk a little about this owl and answer questions. A crowd of course gathered. Ahhhhhhh to see an owl, this close, almost able to touch was fantastic. In fact my mom even asked if she could touch the bird. Alas our hands have oils on them that would hurt the birds feathers... no touching allowed.

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EVERYONE LOVES OWLS

Not only are birds shuffled back and forth to their doctors appointments but we also ran into a volunteer going to feed some birds. The raptors are weighed regularly so they can modify the amount of food they are given each week; gotta keep them at a healthy weight after all. I am not sure that their meal looked anything like an appetizing dish, I am sure I crinkled my nose at this, but I am sure that they love it. EWWWWWWW.

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THE BIRDS I AM SURE THINK THE FOOD IS APPETIZING

Whenever I take my big birding lens out, especially to a place like this where there are a ton of people I inevitably get a ton of attention. Most often its comments like

“That’s a big lens.”

“What are you taking photos of, the eyeball.”

Or as one little boy asked my mom, “Is that a telescope?”

Some more curious people ask how far I can see and often I will offer to give them a peak. I especially love how curious kids are to see into the big lens. As long as a parent doesn’t mind lifting them it’s fun to see the joy on their little faces.

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I NEVER MIND WHEN PEOPLE JUST WANT TO SEE

I also get a bunch of questions from photographers. Some just ask general questions, some are super knowledgeable and want to debate the finer points of photography and equipment and some are newbies trying to learn. The first man I ran into this trip was at the first demonstration. He was trying to decide between two different camera bodies. He really had done his research and seemed to understand why I was recommending one camera body over another.

The second man we ran into near the Bald Eagle cages. He was a newbie that at first was just asking a few general questions which I didn’t mind. Then asked to borrow my lens for a second, I let him take a few shots with it but I was a little annoyed. Then he started following my parents and I around asking more questions. I get it, we all start out somewhere and you have questions you want answered, but I was here to spend time with my parents. After a while we politely and then not so politely excused ourselves.

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BALD EAGLE

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BALD EAGLE CALLING

The last event of the day was another show. This was a show about the birds of the world. I posed with a photo of the Eurasian Eagle Owl they call Queen.

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This show had great birds brought out but sadly wasn’t as good as the first. The speakers were not that engaging. The very obviously read script was terrible. I felt like I was at a really bad high school play. Thankfully there were awesome birds, and where there are awesome birds I can ignore terrible acting. The first really cool bird they brought out was the Speckled Owl named so for the spectacled like glasses shape around their eyes. I know quite a bit about birds, but mostly only birds of the US. This little guy is a very secretive owl from the lower parts of Mexico and all of South America. What a cool bird to see!

This is my parent’s photo of the Spectacled Owl. Sadly I had bumped my camera into a different setting and didn’t realize the mistake until after they put this owl away. Stupid stupid mistake! As a result all my owl photos came out blurry. Thankfully mom and dad let me borrow one of theirs so you could see how cool this bird really is!

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SPECTACLED OWL

At the end of the show they brought out a Golden Eagle and the offered people to come up, relatively close, to get a photo. Oh my gosh I swoooooooon. Dad or mom snapped a quick photo of me seated on the bench with the Golden Eagle behind me. HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY.

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I have only ever seen Golden Eagles twice in my life and both times the birds were very far away. The ability to walk up and be so close to this bird brought me such joy. What a magnificent animal.

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GOLDEN EAGLE

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GOLDEN EAGLE CLAWS ARE DEADLY LONG

Never again will I be able to get such a stunning photo of the Golden Eagle, then again like my parents said... its pretty easy to take a photo of a bird that is so close to you, that is tied to a stand and that is unafraid of humans.

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We all had a fantastic time and I couldn’t be happier that I got to spend the day with my parents here. HURRAH for raptors!

3 comments:

paul peggy zeus said...

Thank you so much for letting us know about this cool place. We often don't venture into cities so much, but this was well worth the trip!

Jennifer Arens said...

I love how your family infected me with the Spirit of adventure!

Jason said...

Boo, I was expecting picture of raptor dinosaurs! j/k

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