My internship at Centre Wildlife Care has involved caring for a lot of rescued wildlife but today I got to experience something completely new. I was able to see the releasing process with some of our Red-tail Hawks and our Chimney Swifts.
In order to release the swifts, we needed to find an existing flock that they could join so that they could learn to act like wild birds. This involved driving around Port Matilda scanning the skies for a telltale black streak resembling that of a bat. This little adventure landed us in the back parking lot of a lodge that doubled as a Tavern.
Any questions about the atmosphere of the lodge were immediately answered by the giant sign boasting a deer head and HUNTERS WELCOME in bold font. It was a pretty nice rack if I do say so myself. The parking lot held nothing but camouflage pants and jacked up trucks. The finishing touch was the picture of a beer mug plastered dead center in the Patrons Only parking sign. My boss was quick to mention the establishments fantastic food (it was clear she though we wouldn't like the place and wanted to give it a push in the other direction). She did make quite the face when she told us about the "heads all over the walls." I didn't really expect anything less and am pretty used to people displaying their prizes on the walls. I grew up around a hunting family, so deer heads hung lovingly on a wall was something I wasn't really bothered by. Anyway, back to the birds.
We needed to see if the birds were capable of being released by doing as a mother bird would (minus the pushing them out of a nest part). We opened up their portable flight cage and let them loose. Four of them flew straight up in the air and began to explore their new world. One little guy hovered a few inches above the ground in a valiant effort to join his brothers but quickly grew tired and landed on the gravel of the parking lot. It became clear that this little guy wasn't quite ready to leave the nest, so to speak. The challenge then became to catch him again. He wasn't too keen on leaving the safety of the ground for the unknown. He did this weird little hover/hop/baby flight around the lot until he landed....underneath a giant truck. My fellow intern and I began searching under the base of said truck, probably looking extremely suspicious to any passerby. We couldn't seem to find him, until I saw a tiny glitter against the front tire. He was flush against the rubber, pretty much hanging sideways, on the inside of the tire. So here's me, halfway under a truck, talking to a bird, trying to convince him not to fly away as I reached out to grab him. Thank goodness no one was in the parking lot or that would have been quite a sight. He was placed safely back into the flight cage and taken back to the center to grow up a little more.
It was probably one of the most rewarding experiences of my internship thus far. I got to watch healthy birds be let back into their natural habitat. It kind of put everything I've been doing this summer into perspective. It was pretty cool to watch everything come full circle like that.