Hoots, Howls, and Hollers
I can’t count the number of times, over the past nine years, that Megan Mosby and I have locked horns over this issue. But since she is taking the holiday weekend off, this is my chance to have her readers decide the issue once and for all!
Megan regularly annoys me by saying, “Thank you!” for something I have done at Liberty Wildlife. My answer is always the same, “I get more out of Liberty than Liberty will ever get out of me!”
To prove my point, I asked some other volunteers at Liberty, “Why are you here?” Putting this question in context, picture a 61-year-old lady, gutting hawk food (don’t ask) for four hours on a 110-degree day. Or a petite young lady armed with tweezers delicately feeding live crickets and meal worms to a baby nighthawk. Or a group of Education Volunteers driving 8 hours roundtrip to spend 1 hour with a group of students who have never seen an owl. Or a rescue volunteer who, on her first rescue call, sees a bird stuck high in a tree. Instead of shrugging and going home, she heads over to Home Depot and rents a cherry picker to make the rescue. These people are crazy dedicated. Why? What are they getting out of it?
The consensus of the Volunteers I talked to was their reason had evolved over time, just like mine. Let me explain….
I’m reluctant to admit that my initial interest was the thrill of rescuing injured raptors from trees, building ledges, and cliffs. I felt like an instant hit at parties, trumping golf games and movies seen, with my tales of dangerous wildlife rescues.
Other popular themes – loving animals in general, and birds in particular, or “giving back” to the community, or getting away from technology, or getting closer to nature – all resonated for me, but weren’t entirely it.
Before long, I began to realize the impact my work was having on people, not just animals. Good people. People who care enough to call the Liberty Hotline, and wait until a Rescue Volunteer arrives. I learned that, to these people, I personified a way to help a helpless yet beautiful creature survive. They considered me, as a Liberty person, to be an expert, and asked me, “What species is she? Will she make it? What could we have done to prevent that?” The more they asked, the more I strived to learn. Soon I was feeling tremendous pride in being the “expert” on the scene.
From there, I added Education to my list of Volunteer roles. The classes for certification and the time required to check off on each education species and animal humbled me, as I learned more, yet realized how much more there was to learn.
This work required spending a huge amount of time with other Volunteers, and I found a common thread, the love of animals, and a compassion for nature and other human beings that is unsurpassed by any group of people I have ever met. When a personal tragedy nearly crushed me in early 2013, it was another Liberty person who brought me food to eat and arranged for a dozen Volunteers to come and pack my belongings so I could quickly (in 2 days) move to new surroundings. And none of them ever asked for anything in return.
Around the same time, I came to realize how much Liberty was adding to my life. I was doing things every week that few people will ever experience. Imagine a majestic bald eagle stepping willingly onto your arm, and taking her food from your hand!
And then, the most important realization of all. It happened when I turned my attention away from me, and toward the audiences that we encounter. These are the moments that I will never forget.
Every year I take a peregrine falcon to a neurological rehab facility where young people are struggling with life-altering head injuries. After one of these programs, a mom came up and said, “Hearing how Maverick [the falcon] has a new job educating people, since his injury took away his ability to fly 270 miles per hour, touched my son. He was a star athlete before, and lost hope. Today he realized that he can have a productive and amazing life doing different things! Thank you!
Or the third-grade program where a mom was sitting on the floor next to her blind son, describing the animals to him during our presentation. My fellow educator, Max, realized what was happening and took Phoenix, our wonderful golden eagle, to where they were sitting. He had Phoenix flap his enormous wings. That little boy will never, ever, forget the wind from the eagle’s powerful wings blowing through his hair. And I will never, ever, forget the expression of joy on his face.
So when Megan says, “Thank you, John, for all you do,” I will continue to tell her that my experiences, my friends, my pride in our work and people, and my feelings of absolute joy, are all the thanks I will ever need. Case closed.
P.S. Megan, thank you for all you do!
This Week at Liberty
The intake total for the year is now at 3458.
Non-raptors released on 7-03-2014: 10 doves (various species), 2 mockingbirds, 1 flicker, 1 woodpecker, 1 curved-bill thrasher, 6 LBB’s (various species)
We sailed through the 4th of July with a steady stream of intakes including a couple of bats and some additional orphans of varying species. One of our recent bald eagle intakes got some attention from Jan and Kyle from AZGFD prior to his impending freedom, and a couple of kestrels got released by some really nice folks in Scottsdale. Then there was the 4th of July parade where we met a new friend and neighbor! Have a look…
Bats suffer from a bad image, especially here in Arizona. It is true that they are number one on the rabies vector species list, but that may be somewhat misleading. Just remember if you find a bat doing anything out of the ordinary, you need to do three things: 1) DON’T touch it 2) Call the Liberty Wildlife hotline, and 3) DON’T EVER TOUCH IT! Just for the safety of yourself – and the bat (bats that have been touched are required to be euthanized). There are close to 1,000 species of bats – almost 1/4 of all mammals on Earth, and are absolutely necessary to the environment. This little pipistrelle probably just didn’t make it home when the sun came up and was hiding close to an apartment with kids playing all around. Rebecca is our bat expert and took this little guy for observation and any treatment required.
The orphans keep coming in. We were actually a bit surprised to get three more hummingbird nests last week. It seems that tree trimming is progressing unabated. The OC staff is still working throughout the daylight hours to keep tiny (and sometimes not-so-tiny) mouths full and nestling and pre-fledgling hawks and falcons are still showing up into the summer. Hopefully the onset of the monsoon won’t bring in a bunch more late babies…
Last Christmas, Linda Willis coordinated a large donation of wonderful equipment and cards from the Scottsdale Insurance Company. Their employees had a special Christmas tree just for Liberty and the donations filled my truck. Last week, Linda and Jay Rine got to release two kestrels that went through our rehabilitation process. The birds did well, as did the two releasing volunteers. Thanks again for all you folks did for us!
The last little bald eagle we took in got a visit from Kyle at AZGFD on Tuesday. The bird had his locating transmitter inspected and the attaching harness adjusted while Jan held the bird. They are keeping track of the eagles in Arizona to better understand the movements of the species in the desert. Hopefully this will allow for better protection of their habitat which is critical for their long term survival.
A first year red tail hawk was found in someone’s back yard on the south side of Maricopa last week. After a 120 mile round trip, he was dropped off for assessment by Stevie in Med Services. He looked quite “down” and I had fears for his survival, but the next day, after fluids, food, and time to de-stress, he was looking much better! Hopefully he will continue to improve and be released for another shot at being a productive RTH!
The July 4th parade of decorated bikes, golf carts, horses, dogs, kids and people is a tradition in our Scottsdale neighborhood. It’s a really nice, old-fashioned family and neighbors get-together to celebrate our country’s birthday that Liberty loves to join in on by displaying some of our Education birds who stand out front and do some homespun educating as the people and decorations pass by. This year, our new neighbor Luis Gonzalez offered his truck to Liberty for Aurora and Joe to ride in as they lead the caravan through the local streets. Thanks to them and all who helped to make this a memorable event!