#55: Denise Lewis – Raptors of the Raptor Woodland Refuge

#55: Denise Lewis – Raptors of the Raptor Woodland Refuge Nature's Archive


My guest today is Denise Lewis, Director of Programs and resident raptor expert at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, Nebraska. Today Denise gives me a tour of the Raptor Woodland Refuge, which is an incredible public facility at the forest. Just envision this – a densely wooded hillside with an elevated boardwalk. But every 10 or 20 meters, there is a structure, almost like a cabin, each housing incredible owls, hawks, vultures, and eagles!

Denise Lewis

Denise and I discuss each of the species of birds at the refuge, including Swainson’s Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures, Gyrfalcon, Peregrine Falcon, Eastern Screech Owl, and more. You’ll learn a bit about the natural history of each of these species, and get some behind-the-scenes insights into how they are cared for.

All of these incredible raptors have been deemed un-releasable due to the injuries they sustained. But the wonderful people at Fontenelle Forest have given these birds a second chance through this wonderful education space.

This is the second episode I recorded “in the field” at Fontenelle Forest . So as we walk through the raptor refuge you’ll hear some wonderful vocalizations of these birds. You may also hear some vocalizations of some of the visitors, especially early in the episode.

Raptor Woodland Refuge at Fontenelle Forest

I hope you enjoy this tour as much as I did! I’m posting some photos and videos in the show notes at podcast.naturesarchive.com, as well as in my stories on my instagram, @naturesarchive, so please check them out!

And be sure to follow Fontenelle Forest on twitterinstagram, and facebook.

And if you missed it, check out episode 53, where Michelle Foss and I walk the forest and discuss the habitats, management and stewardship practices, and some of the species and ecologies on the western extent of this eastern deciduous habitat.

So without further delay, Denise Lewis and the incredible educational raptors of the Raptor Woodland Refuge.

Did you have a question that I didn’t ask? Let me know at naturesarchivepodcast@gmail.com, and I’ll try to get an answer! I’ll add these Q&As to my monthly newsletter, so if you aren’t already subscribed, go here. I promise, no spam. I share the latest news from the world of Nature’s Archive, as well as pointers to new naturalist finds that have crossed my radar, like podcasts, books, websites, and more.

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While you are welcome to listen to my show using the above link, you can help me grow my reach by listening through one of the podcast services (Apple, Google, Stitcher, etc) linked on the right. And while you’re there, will you please consider subscribing?

People and Organizations

Cornell’s All About Birds – comprehensive and free resource covering all of the birds of North America

Diane Guinn – Educator at the Woodland Raptor Refuge who made an appearance in the podcast.

My Podcast Episode with Michelle Foss – all about Fontenelle Forest’s habitats and land management

Note: links to books are affiliate links

Photos from the Refuge

Baron the Barn Owl

Taiga the Merlin
George, An Eastern Screech Owl with a bad eye (and molting!)
Another View of the Refuge
Diane Guinn checking Taiga’s weight
Diane with Baron the Barn Owl

Music Credits

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Spellbound by Brian Holtz Music
Free download: https://filmmusic.io/song/9616-spellbound
License (CC BY 4.0): https://filmmusic.io/standard-license
Artist website: https://brianholtzmusic.com

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/


Transcripts are automatically created, and are about 95% accurate. Apologies for any errors.

[00:00:00] Denise: This is a nice view of this area called the Raptor Woodland refuge. We put this in probably about seven years ago now, and it’s a two and a half million dollar exhibit. I would. Ask anyone in the country to go to other nature centers and find a nicer one than this. So we are very proud of this.

[00:00:22] I was

[00:00:23] Michael: amazed to see it when we came back for a visit a few years ago. Nothing like this was here. The last time I had visited. Huh. And this is very accessible. It looks like I’m seeing you have a boardwalk and smooth, flat concrete

[00:00:35] Denise: into the space. Absolutely. Every inch of the refuges ADA accessible and of course these birds are not owned by Fontenelle forest. They are owned by us fish and wildlife. So all the birds that we have in here are permitted through us fish and wildlife all the birds on display.

[00:00:53] And in fact, any bird that we have on the premises is non releasable for one reason or the other. A lot of times it’s. Injury caused by man, but then some of these birds were hatched in captivity. Okay. And so they don’t have the street smarts I guess you might say to go out and be a wild bird.

[00:01:12] Michael: So maybe step back for a moment and tell me about how this came to be and what is the mission of the Raptor

[00:01:19] Denise: refuge?

[00:01:20] The Raptor refuge’s mission is to promote . Conservation of these spectacular Raptors or birds of prey. Not only through walking through here and, looking and reading about the static display birds or through our traveling programs, we travel throughout the state of Nebraska, into Western Iowa and do type on the go Raptor program.

[00:01:43] So we reach a wide variety of audiences from toddlers on up to senior citizens. We are open All, but I think just three days a year. So this was always a pipe dream. The land was here but the process didn’t start until probably, oh gosh, maybe 10, 11 years ago.

[00:02:07] I’ve been with the forest for going on 11 years and I’ve worked with Raptors for going on 23 years.

[00:02:13] Michael: These enclosures, I’m sure you’re gonna talk about them. They look like they would be very comfortable. Cabins for a person they’re that big.

[00:02:23] Denise: And they almost do. And especially when they were first put in, I thought, holy cow I could almost move in so it might get a little loud now, which is good. This is what it’s all about is to teach this next generation about how cool Raptors are that But yeah, each of the enclosures in here is is a little bit different different shape, different size us fish and wildlife is really picky on the size of enclosures you have for each species. All the enclosures that we have are built bigger. Even the Eagle complex that enclosure is big enough for two fully flighted Eagles and neither of those Eagles can fly.

[00:03:07] Michael: Two in there right now.

[00:03:08] Denise: Other one? Yeah, there’s two in there right now. And there are just best buddies. It’s really kind of fun to see. And there are long little species hopefully they’ll be best friends for many years.

[00:03:17] Michael: So Barred owl.

[00:03:19] Denise: uh, We have TJ and Tovi and the only way really to tell them apart is one of them has a little band, a plastic band around his legs.

[00:03:28] And when you look at ’em right here, they just look like perfect twins. And I’m sorry, I couldn’t tell ’em apart. Yeah. But a lot, I think both of these guys suffered from vehicle collision. You know, Especially with owls it’s really hard to repair the wings well enough.

[00:03:45] So they maintain that silent flight. Because they’re not fast like a Falcon. They need that stealth about them. so unfortunately these guys went through a rehabilitation process and were deemed non releasable. This is more of an Eastern species.

[00:04:01] We’re on the extreme edge, of their other territories. Now these are the guys that really love water, so they love the toads frog, salamanders fish but they’re kind of an all-purpose eater. But they’re cavity nesters. They need old growth. They need old growth and unfortunately, a lot of people.

[00:04:19] On their property, they don’t like the looks of those old snags they’re dangerous. So they cut them down and it really affects Barred Owls and some of the other Raptors. So

[00:04:30] Michael: the one on the left is of vocalizing by snapping it’s spilled together. Do you know what that signifies?

[00:04:36] Uh,

[00:04:36] Denise: Yeah, that’s like a warning what are you doing? Why are you this? Close to me? Okay. Owls do that with their beak Hawks and Falcons and, any other species does not do that. And these guys yeah. Have the big dark eyes. They’re. They’re very vocal even during the day. And these are the who cooks for you, who cooks for you all owl.

[00:04:56] And I’ve had quite a few sportsmen come up to me and tell me stories. They’ve been in a hunting blind, or they’ve been out at night and heard a cat walling owl, and it scared him. Boy, it really scared him. I said, yeah, that’s probably, that’s gonna be a bared owl.

[00:05:14] Michael: Yeah. These are big owls too

[00:05:16] Denise: well, but they look bigger than they actually are.

[00:05:18] I mean, how big, how, do you, they weigh. Those

[00:05:21] Michael: feathers, probably double the side. Absolutely. Let’s see. I’m trying to remember my it’s, they’re probably like 1.2 to

[00:05:29] Denise: 1.5. Yeah. How about that? Yeah. About that. But people, lot of the public think, oh, that burden mess weigh five pounds, 10 pounds.

[00:05:37] Yeah. And they’re kinda like the wet poodle story, when you get ’em wet there’s really not too much to them, but yeah. So these these are very unique species. Once again, when you get out into Western Nebraska, you don’t see them. So we’re lucky enough.

[00:05:53] Michael: Yeah. And I think you have, I think you have a Swainson Hawk

[00:05:56] Denise: here we have,

[00:05:58] Michael: and that’s the opposite.

[00:05:59] And this is like the far Eastern edge of its

[00:06:02] Denise: range. Correct. Correct. And Swainson’s Hawks. In fact, we have two educational Swainson’s Hawks, and then we have one on display and lot of old timers will call them grass, hopper, Haws. Oh, because that is their favorite food of all.

[00:06:17] Now they will not feed their hatchlings grass hoppers because there’s too much of that hard outer shell. So they feed the babes mice. But a lot of Raptors eat to insects also as part of their protein diet. And I don’t know if a lot of people really realize that. Yeah.

[00:06:34] Michael: I think I first really learned about that with Burrowing owls and Swainson’s Hawks. Those were the two and I, we have some Swanson’s Hawks back in the county that, that I live Santa Clara county and there used to be many more and they experienced a steep decline. And I think it was tracked down to pesticide use in south America.

[00:06:53] The other end of their, you bet, migratory route, you bet. Is it the same for the planes Swainson’s

[00:06:58] Denise: Hawk? Yes, even though the United States is outlawed DDT for what? Since 72, something like that. There are other countries in the world that still allow D D T and a lot of these species are.

[00:07:12] Migratory species, they’re just not north American. So they maybe wanna feed on some grasshoppers that are poisoned and they don’t make that return journey because they get poisoned. That, yeah, I read somewhere a long time ago that a healthy Swainsons Hawk might eat up to 50 grass hoppers per day.

[00:07:30] And you look at that number and, and multiply that by, the kettles of Swainsons that you see. That’s quite a service they provide.

[00:07:38] Michael: Well, Yeah it’s not uncommon to see hoards of grass hoppers crossing a road or in a field Uhhuh whatever. And then you realize yeah, there’s so many grass hoppers and then, now it makes sense why, how could there be that many and why are there so many now?

[00:07:50] You don’t have the same, right. Predatory pressure on them.

[00:07:53] Denise: But yeah there’s a lot of species, maybe people don’t realize that our insect eats but also expert mouthers Uhhuh.

[00:08:01] So. Also helpful. very helpful. Holy cow, very helpful. The best Mouser that we probably have in our stable of Raptors we have Baron who is a a barn owl they like to call those type of owls flying stomachs because of the fact that, if they can find it, they’re going to eat it.

[00:08:19] And they eat, four to five mice per night per one L and they tend to have big brews. So all the babes are going to eat maybe one to two to three. When you do the math, I mean, it’s it’s almost preferable, I think, to most people that have a Barn Owl on property than maybe a house cat And in fact, I know in California, a lot of vineyards are putting up Barn Owl boxes, to, keep the mice out of the field. So that’s a cool thing. Do

[00:08:45] Michael: they stray beyond mice as part of their, no, they’re really, I assume like a rat might be on

[00:08:50] Denise: the table though. Maybe yeah, maybe a smaller rat, but but boy, those guys are once again, just expert mousers, Uhhuh.

[00:08:57] Just love them. And they’re beautiful birds. Yeah.

[00:09:00] Michael: We’re lucky to have a community garden in our neighborhood and they put up a barn owl box and. They’ve produced a brood every year for oh, good. For quite a while,

[00:09:10] Denise: Oh, good. Yeah. . Yeah. And they’re not the prettiest babes. And of course their sound is is like a screaming ban, she or a ghost so one of their nicknames is the ghost owl.

[00:09:20] But then you talk about rodenticides and the fact that people still want to poison the rats and mice on their property. And I’m not sure a lot of them realize.

[00:09:32] The depth of the secondary poisoning that it causes not only dogs and cats, but Fox and coyotes and of course Raptors and , you still see it throughout Nebraska, throughout the great Plains.

[00:09:47] Michael: and it’s hard to measure because when an animal gets sick, they often will go find a place that’s in solitude and, that might be where they die.

[00:09:57] Denise: And birds are famous for that. Whether it be a perche or a wild bird, they they don’t wanna let any other species in the forest know that they’re not feeling good. A lot of people just might not realize the depth of the secondary poisoning that, that happens.

[00:10:12] And the one out of Berkeley, California Raptors are the solution. Yeah. Spells rats. It spells are at, so they really do. They really do a good job. Mm-hmm In And trying to educate the public. Then you think of the marketing employee, for these, decon and those type of programs, because most people, they don’t wanna touch a yucky mouse or rat that might be in their house.

[00:10:34] So, You just put the trap out and the rat or mouse goes somewhere else to drink water and die. That way people don’t have to get their hands dirty.

[00:10:44] Michael: Oh, I understand that. I had to go through that evolution myself. Yeah. And before I realize that yeah. There’s better ways.

[00:10:49] Yep.

[00:10:49] Denise: Do the old fashioned Snapchat it’s quick. It’s efficient. And then what you can do is throw the carcass out on the yard and somebody’s gonna get it. They won’t go to waste.

[00:10:59] Michael: That’s another thought I hadn’t, considered. And as we were talking, speaking of a carcass and somebody’s gonna get it, there was a Turkey vulture that you pointed out flying overhead.

[00:11:08] . And I think you have some Turkey

[00:11:10] Denise: vultures here, or maybe one, do we have a, we have an educational Turkey vulture, and we have a display Turkey vulture, and I can introduce you pretty close up to our educational guy. His name is Sundance and he’s been in captivity since 2003, and there aren’t too many folks around that are really Turkey vulture fans which is too bad.

[00:11:37] If you understand what they do for the environment, a lot of people, they might not be fans, but if they’re educated about what they do and why they do it, at least they can understand

[00:11:49] so the bird that got me hooked gosh, about 50 years ago. Yeah. I’m old were the great-horned owls Uhhuh . And I remember as a young girl looking out my window and I saw the silhouette on the garage and I looked away and I looked back and it was gone. So that’s what kind of fueled my interest in Raptors, just silently.

[00:12:13] Departed. It just, it was just gone. It was just absolutely gone. These guys are, truly nocturnal. If you see one during the day there’s probably a problem. And If they can catch it they’re gonna eat it. So favorite food or skunks? And, none of these Raptors except for the Turkey vulture has a sense of smell.

[00:12:34] The skunk sachets by, you know, is very confident and bold and the great horned owl pounces on the back of him, he didn’t see the owl coming. He didn’t hear the owl coming and they’re able to dispatch their prey very efficiently.

[00:12:49] Michael: Yeah I did not know that as many times as I seen a great Horne, I didn’t realize they were his skunk.

[00:12:53] Oh. They love skunks.

[00:12:53] Denise: They absolutely love skunks. Rabbits, rats, snakes ducks they’ve also been known to eat a lot of crows and Crow babes. So that’s one of the reason. That if you see crows really having a fit during the day and really mobbing something in a tree is probably going to be an owl.

[00:13:14] Michael: Yeah. Yeah. And then the other birds join in when they get

[00:13:17] Denise: oh, yeah. And the blue Jays and yeah. And depending on who’s around. And that’s

[00:13:21] Michael: actually a great tip for wildlife observers. They pay attention when they hear the Jays or the crew mobbing and, try to find out where it is and you might find

[00:13:29] Denise: an owl.

[00:13:30] And you might find an irritated owl that was just trying to take an, to take a snooze. But but yeah, WLS everybody really, if you like Raptors they’re awful lot L fans , they look cute and cuddly and soft and they are soft, but, and the big eyes and the big eyes so they have big eyes like we do in their front of the head, like are so gosh, they must be smart.

[00:13:53] And they’re really not that’s such a big wife’s tail. Their brains are gosh, probably the size of a shelled Walnut. It’s their eyes and their skulls that are, that take up much, most of the space. Yeah. Why don’t

[00:14:07] Michael: we talk about that a little bit, because I’ve seen, I don’t know if this is true for all owls or just some how the, their ears are offset a little bit and there’s like a bigger, like bony dish that.

[00:14:17] Helps

[00:14:17] Denise: too. Oh yeah. It’s amazing. So yes their ears are a little offset so they can hear almost in 3d . If you see the owl, like in nature shows twirling its head around and doing gyrations with their head, what they’re trying to do is pinpoint exactly where that sound is coming from.

[00:14:35] So the sound will come up. It will hit that facial disc the very unique feathers on their face. And then that is funneled to the ears. and if you ever see an owl’s ears they’re almost kinda alarming because they look like just big pink commas that are covered by feathers.

[00:14:53] They’re really amazing in their depth of hearing and their eyesight. Once again, the only thing that they don’t have is a good sense of smell.

[00:15:02] Michael: And when you look at a great horned owl or a long eared owl, or even a short eared owl those little toughs on their head that’s those are not ears.

[00:15:08] Denise: Those are, yeah, those are not ears. And, there is a science word for that. I’m sure you might know a plumicorn and it’s pluma, which is feather and corn. I always think like maybe unicorn. And so those sets of feathers called plumicorn Are there’s muscles that are attached to those, so they can go up or down depending on what the WL wants to signal.

[00:15:32] Actually that’s just part of an owl’s camouflage. . So if you see a silhouette, like out in the forest here and that owl’s gonna be really still, he’s not gonna move around much, those eyes are closed, those tubs are up and that might look like, oh, maybe some leaves in that tree or a branch or something like that.

[00:15:51] So that’s all it’s for, right?

[00:15:53] Michael: I can’t see cinnamon’s head very well. I can crouch down just in the wrong position, but the illustration here, it’s, that’s a really good point because you can tell on the sign. That could look like a leaf adapted, leaf and DED sunlight or something like that.

[00:16:07] Denise: Mm-hmm .. And these two owls too, are a little different color. Owls are like people, in fact, Raptors are like people, some might be a little darker, some might be a little lighter. So there is a variation.

[00:16:19] Michael: So as much as I love owls, I’ve been eyeing the ferruginous Hawk over here, which is probably my favorite Hawk. So I’d love to hear its story. She

[00:16:31] Denise: is just magnificent. And of course her Latin name Buteo regalis should speak volumes about her. So this is the biggest talk in north America and ferruginous you know what Faru is, it’s like, like iron, iron.

[00:16:49] Yeah. There you go. So she is rusty colored, kind of like iron and a couple things you notice between ferruginous Hawks and then your red tails, which are much more common. So first of all, she has her pants on. Yep. So she has feathers down her legs. Why do summer Raptors have feathers on their legs?

[00:17:08] Owls have them to maybe cut down on the noise. So that makes them more silent on these guys. It’s protection from the food that they eat, because a lot of times food will fight back. Their favorite food items are Prairie dogs. And Prairie dogs can get up to five pounds and they can pack a pretty good bite.

[00:17:30] The other thing that you would notice is she has a huge mouth, which is called a gap that helps her eat bigger chunks of these big Prairie dogs. She is probably pound per pound. The strongest. Raptor that we have here at the forest.

[00:17:46] I have to physically have my hands on all of these birds, at least once a quarter for wellness visits and vaccinations and things like that. And she has the strongest legs at any of the birds here,

[00:18:02] Michael: and I see that Mesa’s right wing is

[00:18:05] Denise: missing. Correct. And unfortunately that wing will never grow back. She came through a rehabilitation group here in Nebraska. And we’re very fortunate to have her cuz once again, this is more of a west coast type bird.

[00:18:19] We do see them out on Western Nebraska. Yeah.

[00:18:22] Michael: I see this one came from McCook, Yeah. I’m lucky that we do get some of these in our area in California as well. And I’m guessing that they, they must eat the California ground squirrels Uhhuh they like those open habitats.

[00:18:34] Denise: They yep. They really

[00:18:35] Michael: do those ground squirrels are big as ground squirrels go.

[00:18:38] Denise: yeah.

[00:18:39] To see these guys in air, you’ll look up and you’ll go, I know it’s Hawk just by the silhouette, but you can really tell by the underneath pattern on them. And then just once again, they’re virtual size.

[00:18:51] They are just big birds, beautiful tail, but lots of really good adaptations to make these guys successful. .

[00:18:59] Michael: When she looks at me like this, it almost looks like she has spectacles on too. Those eyes are

[00:19:04] Denise: so big and of course, then all the diurnal birds have their, have the heavy brow ridges to help with sun.

[00:19:12] But I think that’s another reason that I’ve always loved Raptors is everything. Is there for a reason, they don’t have an appendix, like we do, they don’t have wisdom teeth, they don’t have anything that that they really don’t need to survive streamlined. they’re very streamlined, but streamlined.

[00:19:29] Then you talk about the Falcons. These guys are more like the, maybe the pickup trucks.

[00:19:35] Michael: At the Raptor, not as aerodynamically,

[00:19:37] Denise: not as aerodynamic, but boy, are they strong before I

[00:19:40] Michael: forget you were talking about how those barred owls are 1.2 pounds. Yeah.

[00:19:44] Denise: She’s pretty close to four pounds. Oh, four

[00:19:46] Michael: pounds.

[00:19:46] Denise: Much higher than I guess. Yeah. Oh yeah. Yep. And she’s a female. So of course all the females are generally about 30% bigger than the males are. So yeah, so she’s a big girl.

[00:19:58] She’s a super good ambassador. All of our display birds have to be used to people walking by they have to be used to visitors, so she she does pretty good. We should talk about the Gyrfalcon. Oh yes,

[00:20:13] Michael: I have never seen a Gyrfalcon in the wild or in captivity. So this is, a first for me.

[00:20:19] Denise: Yes. And she is so new to us that we don’t even have a sign made for her yet, but her name is Freya and Freya is a Gyrfalcon that was hatch in captivity.

[00:20:30] So this is the largest Falcon, in north America. And these guys are found like in Finland, Iceland, Greenland, Russia but also into Canada and into the United States. She is probably around four pounds. So she’s another very big girl. And they’re just full of stamina.

[00:20:49] They’re not as quick and dynamic as a Peregrine Falcon is, but , they can out fly a Peregrine in length any day. She’s got these in the horn dos have about the best view here.

[00:21:01] Michael: yeah. Do what what type of food does ager? uh, a gyrfalcon

[00:21:07] Denise: Gyrfalcon, mostly your Falcons really focus on other birds.

[00:21:11] She can eat many kinds of ducks, many kinds of sea birds, shore birds ptarmigans almost any bird that she can catch. She’s going to do it and just an open country. Bird. These guys in the wild are hard to track because they’re nomadic and a lot of the population does not live up there.

[00:21:34] And there’s not a whole lot of tourist and bird Watchers that go up. Around those parts to look for Gyrfalcons. So they have that mystique about them.

[00:21:43] Michael: It’s probably less known in terms of population size and stability

[00:21:47] Denise: And absolutely, but the good, but the, yeah, but the good thing is their threats are limited when they’re up there away from people and, industry

[00:21:55] She has those huge Falcon feet. Those long skinny toes Falcons Al always have that not turn their, be the toil tooth. That kills their prey. Falcons are almost like the hyper little brother.

[00:22:09] They’re always moving around. They go out and actively catch their food where some Hawks will just sit around and maybe wait for something to get hit on the road and then little scavenge. So just totally different personalities between the Falcons and the Hawks.

[00:22:25] Michael: As Freya just did her business there in the enclosure makes me wonder how often do you have to go in and clean the

[00:22:32] Denise: enclosures?

[00:22:33] Oh, the cow husbandry is huge area that we deal with every day. We get food prepared in the morning. We come out and feed. Of course we’ve got eyes on these birds all the time, but the big thing is picking up food that they’re not going to eat because it attracts yellow jackets at this time of beer they’re out looking for meat.

[00:22:54] She eats about 220 grams every day and she eats quail we buy quail for her in the other Falcons. and we do have to prepare it for her.

[00:23:04] So she gets room service. We go in and clean water pans. We pick up food we rake the Sandy surfaces for waste. On one hand it’s of course it’s terrible that they’re not out in the wild, but they are pampered and they do teach the public a lot about their species and why there’s so important.

[00:23:25] Michael: Are there ways to enrich their lives in the enclosure? I think about how Henry Doorly zoo they’ll put toys in for some animals or they’ll change things up a little bit here and

[00:23:35] Denise: there. And we do we will change perches up but as far as toys and. Balls that make noise and things like that Raptors are pretty serious and solitary birds, and they don’t play around.

[00:23:50] They don’t play around the only ones that really enjoy a puzzle or a phone book or the Turkey vultures. Oh, interesting. So they’re a little more curious and interactive

[00:24:03] she sees visually, she sees a lot of different things. Of course people, she hears different insects in the forest. She sees different things in the forest they do get stimulation, but it’s just different than the than zoo animals.

[00:24:17] So we should go and talk about a Peregrine.

[00:24:20] Michael: I do wanna go back and find the the Turkey vulture too, when that

[00:24:23] Denise: times, right. and we absolutely.

[00:24:26] There’s different subspecies of course, of all these birds, but she is a different subspecies called a Peale’s. Okay. And Peale’s peregrines are usually found central California on the coast on up to Alaska.

[00:24:40] Of the three different subspecies Peale’s are the biggest and the really neat thing about these guys is they don’t migrate. They don’t have to, because there’s so many birds. Off the coast, off the water, they, it is just a smorgasboard year round. So they don’t migrate like the other subspecies.

[00:24:59] So the really cool thing about her I love this is she can travel up to 50 miles offshore open ocean. She might catch a bird out 50 miles off the shore. So she has a decision to make either she dispatches and eats that bird on the wing. When she’s flying mm-hmm or she has to Hightail it back to land 50 miles away before she settles on the ground to eat that bird.

[00:25:26] But just the tremendous endurance in speed and just that’s just the neatest thing ever to make. So if I

[00:25:33] Michael: tried as an amateur to connect the dots of what you just talked about, they’re non migratory and they’re bigger and they can go 50 miles and take a bird 50 miles that all seems linked. Like maybe they’re bigger to, and that gives them the endurance to you bet.

[00:25:46] Allow them to do what you just

[00:25:47] Denise: described. You bet. You bet. . Yeah.

[00:25:49] Michael: Here in Omaha, there’s a peregrine. Oh, the

[00:25:52] Denise: para Fs, Uhhuh Woodman tower at Woodman tower. There’s one also at there’s been a nesting pair at mutual of Omaha. There’s a pair up north of here at one of the power stations.

[00:26:03] Are

[00:26:03] Michael: those all helped or managed by people or some

[00:26:07] Denise: of those are wild. Some of them are semi wild. Especially when COVID came around. There’s rehabilitation group along with Nebraska gave parks that like to band all those guys. When COVID came around, they quit doing.

[00:26:19] Due to closeness of people , but they do try as much as they can to ban these guys for, for research purposes, see how far they go. They try to put up a family tree, which is interesting. And and it’s just amazing on, on how many folks will follow these cams.

[00:26:39] Michael: Yes. These, my mom is one of those

Denise: the Falcon cams, there’s owl cams, there’s Eagle cams it’s very fascinating. And, I also noticed when COVID hit, where a lot of people were working from home, I would get more phone calls saying yeah, there’s a Hawk in my yard, then I’m like that’s good.

[00:26:59] Yeah. And people didn’t, people, working in an office all day or, on public transportation, maybe they didn’t get to see some of these things that are out there every day. Oh, I, so I think that opened up a lot of eyes too.

[00:27:12] Michael: I hope so. I know, even for me already somewhat connected to nature when COVID hit, I started going out every day, looking at birds to start, but before long I was looking at all the spiders and.

[00:27:23] Surf flies and everything else. And like you have a wild kingdom going on right underneath our noses all the time, just in miniature scale too.

[00:27:32] Denise: and absolutely. And there’s a Turkey vulture that is sunning.

[00:27:35] So this is our display guy. This is Helios.

[00:27:39] Michael: I remember Helios from last time. I remember the

[00:27:41] Denise: name. Yeah. Yeah. And Helios is Greek for sun. He’s got a bad wing where he cannot go back to nature, but these guys are really fascinating. There’s a lot of ornithologists in the world that they say they’re not even a Raptor.

[00:27:57] Yeah, to be a Raptor, of course the fine senses, but especially the the feet and the talents and, Raptor in Latin means to Caesar, to grab or to plunder, which I love that’s a pirate word, but these guys, when you look at ’em they don’t have big, strong feet, their feet of look like chickens.

[00:28:14] Of course, yeah. They

[00:28:15] Michael: look to me like to an amateur they still look big. So it’s always surprising to learn how weak those

[00:28:20] Denise: feet really are, how those feet are. Yeah. So they don’t have the strong Raptor feet. The boy is at beak sharp, and these are the ones though that have that wonderful sense of smell so they can smell that carcass for miles away.

[00:28:34] They’re just fantastic to have around, but a lot of ornithologists say that they’re. More closely related to storks and should be in the stork family. And then there’s some people that say, nah, they’re a Raptor. We count ’em as Raptors. Yeah. Here in the refuge. They’re just really, they’re cool birds.

[00:28:51] They’re fascinating. With the white legs and the white feet, of course they should be pink or red. They poop on themselves to keep themselves cool. Anything that they eat that has E coli or any kind of really nasty. Virus or bacteria, they eat it stomach disposes of it.

[00:29:10] And they poop out just perfectly clean. There’s no traces of the, of anything in their droppings.

[00:29:18] Michael: So when we walked up, it was it’s, wings were outstretched and it was sunny itself. And that’s a common behavior Uhhuh in Turkey vultures. Tell me more about what they’re doing

[00:29:27] Denise: and what they’re doing.

[00:29:28] You know, Of course the sun feels good. We all love the sun, but actually that sun can help keep them clean. It can kill some of the bacteria that they might get into when they’re head and some of their body is inside of carcass.

[00:29:41] That’s why they don’t have feathers on their heads. It’s easier to keep your head clean once again, if you’re Neck up in a Carcas, but very curious, these guys are curious I’ll come in with with tennis shoes, with laces, and if it’s not laced they wanna know what your shoe is doing and why that lace is not lace.

[00:29:59] So these are the ones that will freeze like a rattler. In an ice cube in the summer and put it out and it just drives them crazy because they can’t, ah, get to it right away. We will put phone books and nobody uses phone books anymore. Everybody hopefully recycles them. We take phone books because we will put a dead mouse in some of the pages.

[00:30:22] So it’s almost like he’s looking through the phone book, he’s he? Because he can smell that mouse. So I have no idea what he’s picking up. There is drama all around us.

[00:30:36] Michael: And meanwhile, we have an Osprey over here trying to get our attention.

[00:30:39] Denise: Yes. And so we also have a fish Hawk or an Osprey. We do find Osprey in, Nebraska. And in fact, they even nest in Nebraska now, which is oh, which is a pretty neat thing. Yeah. Yeah. Ozzie is just a very vocal guy. He had some salmon today they’re so clumsy on the ground. Their talons of course are like fish hooks.

[00:31:01] They’re just highly curved. And then they have SPS on the bottom of their feet that help them hold onto those slippery fish. But they’re beautiful in the air. They are just so dynamic in the air, and you can always tell these guys they’re there’s eye Stripe, and then they’re wings.

[00:31:19] When they’re flying. They almost have a crook in them, right? So their wings are very different. So these guys are really pretty easy to identify when they’re flying.

[00:31:27] Michael: my first Osprey experience was at worse span lake here in, in Sarpy county, Nebraska. And I was looking for whatever bird I could find.

[00:31:36] And I saw this Raptor coming in, I trained my camera on it. And of course, just then it decided to go down and get a fish. Oh, it was like perfect conditions. It went down, it grabbed. Some small fish uh, the lake flew off with it in its talents. Oh. And it is, it’s an amazing first experience to have with an Osprey.

[00:31:51] Yeah.

[00:31:51] Denise: So yes he’s very vocal. A lot of these birds in here their populations are good. There are some that, are a little less prevalent and are species of special concern here in Nebraska. And the Burrowing owl is one Short-eared owls.

[00:32:08] So we do have some birds that their numbers just aren’t quite as good. Let’s go in and I’ll show you the Turkey vulture.

[00:32:15] Okay. Come on in. So this is behind the scenes. I have an employee that lives upstairs. He’s a Raptor care specialist, so he makes sure that all these guys are alive and fed and watered and helps me with veterinarian things.

[00:32:30] We have big whiteboards, on things that are going on. Here’s our permits that we always have just in case anybody whatever wants to see them. We have our program schedules for the week. So I’ve got three of my big birds are out today a great horn out a red tail and another para grand Falcon.

[00:32:48] Yeah, we’re just, we’re really, we’re busy almost all the time, but of course, summer is when it really gets crazy. So the birds and

[00:32:56] Michael: the enclosures that we just saw, those are here permanently, and then there’s a separate set of birds that you will

[00:33:01] Denise: take to, and they’re also here, permanently.

[00:33:04] So when you look at this list These are all the display birds that we have, all the education birds that we have. And we feed everybody in grams. I think some people might think that we just go out and throw a dear leg to the bald Eagles or whatever, but it’s a little more scientific than that.

[00:33:22] We have a range and a food type, and of course this is funny because Turkey vultures will eat anything and then there some individual birds, like a red tail, and they will eat birds, coil and other birds out in the wild. You, he just will not eat a quail.

[00:33:40] Oh. So that’s why there’s no quail on that. So that’s unique to rusty. So that’s just unique. That’s very unique just to rusty. So that’s really funny, but yep. You know what Diane, in fact, if you would love to talk about this dynamic little Falcon, real, Michael I’m Diane Guinn.

[00:33:58] Michael: Nice to meet. Nice to meet you.

[00:33:58] Denise: this is Taiga, a Merlin, a type of a Falcon, and Taiga was injured, had a broken wing and broken leg. So obviously could not be released back into nature. A lot of times with wing injuries, they can have. Situations.

[00:34:15] And if I turn around, you can

[00:34:17] Michael: see how those yeah. The wing is not mm-hmm . . Yeah.

[00:34:20] Denise: So these are consumers of other birds and very quick, but of course not as quick as like the P Falcon and they’re hunting methods are a little different. So when Merlin is hunting, they’re gonna chase a bird upward, whereas a peregrine will go into a stoop or a dive, and that’s where they get up to over 200 miles per hour.

[00:34:42] Taiga has been with us, I think about 2013. I believe. Haah was already an adult. When she was injured, we don’t know how old she is. So once they had their adult feathers, we don’t know red tailed, Hawk we’d know, eh, takes about three years for them to get that rusty red tail and their eye color changes a little bit bald Eagles, about three to five years to get the white tail in the white head.

[00:35:09] Michael: And I’ve never seen a Merlin so close. I’ve seen them in the wild. Yes. Yeah.

[00:35:12] Denise: And even in the wild, they’re hard to see,

[00:35:14] Michael: yeah, they’re small.

[00:35:15] Denise: just,

[00:35:15] And just non-descript. I mean, they don’t have that huge malar Stripe and their color, is just not as dynamic as a castl . And a lot of times these guys who used to be referred to as pigeon hawks. Yeah.

[00:35:29] And I’m just going get a weight. We weigh every two weeks we weigh birds.

[00:35:33] . So see, we weighed the education birds. We weigh the display birds because everything is based on, what their weight range should be. . And so if you see a trend going in the wrong direction, if we see a trend going in the wrong direction. Absolutely. And we use a computer program called Raptor.

[00:35:49] and so we enter all their weights whatever they, and I’m just gonna show you, we weigh their food of course, and look, and everything’s in little, yeah, little bento boxes. So we weigh this and then tomorrow if arrow doesn’t eat all of this, and then we weigh that also, and all that goes into this computer program.

[00:36:10] . We vaccinated for west Nile virus not too long ago. We have one more vaccine to go. We save feathers and especially the Eagle feathers of course, because those have to go to the feather depository in Colorado

[00:36:24] One thing I really wanna point out is the price of food. Now, everything has gone. Price of house is price of cars and everything, but really even the price of a mouse over the last couple years has gone from about 69 cents.

[00:36:41] Now up to a dollar 39 for an extra large mouse. And if you do the math on all my guys that are mouse eaters, all my guys that are rat eaters, coil eat this year I budgeted for about 20, maybe $22,000 on food. I’m gonna spend probably around 35,000. Oh, price, once again, the price of everything has gone up.

[00:37:03] And I buy from one of the biggest suppliers in the nation and

[00:37:08] it’s okay. She’s chatty it’s okay. Don’t mess with my Falcon feet.

[00:37:14] So these are some of the educational areas, few of these birds are out but in here we would have Jamaica or red tailed Hawk. We would have a another subspecies of a peregrine Falcon arrow, and she’s an anatum subspecies. So she’s a little bit smaller. And here we have this cute little guy.

[00:37:35] And in fact, we can go in if you wanna get just a little bit closer to him. , so this is George in Eastern screech owl. and he’s being very vocal right now, too.

Michael: Yeah. They don’t like me.

Denise: He’s like, well, you know, I’m just, I’m just being bothered. So he is going through a molt right now. So that’s why he’s not as handsome as he could be right now.

[00:37:58] You can see. So that’s tough to feather his head. His one plum corn is a little tatty looking. But he’s he’s just a great ambassador for his species now, his right

[00:38:09] Michael: eye is darker than the left eye. Is that an injury

[00:38:11] Denise: or? Yes. So that’s an injury. He went to rehab when he was still an owlet something poked him in that eye.

[00:38:19] where it does not it does not dilate anymore. we don’t know exactly how much vision he has, but that binocular vision of course is essential to any Raptor. Even though he can fly, he would start to death . Like our other birds, he does a lot of educational programs.

[00:38:36] He’s cute. He is really, yeah, he is really

[00:38:39] Michael: cute. It makes you realize how small screech owls really are.

[00:38:43] Denise: And the alphas are the smallest ones. Of course, and saw-whets are a little bit smaller too, but so yeah, Raptors come in. What I like to say, t-shirt sizes small to extra large and he’s one of our smaller guys.

[00:38:56] He eats about 20 to 25 grams of food per day, which is about a small mouse

[00:39:01] there’s your guy right there. Oh

[00:39:03] Michael: yeah. Curious.

[00:39:05] Denise: Very curious. Yeah, so this is Sundance and lots of times when I’m in here doing husbandry chores, I will prop his door open and he will walk up and down if I miss any little bitty thing on the floor or in the drain, something that you and I would be revolted about, he will pick it up and eat it.

[00:39:27] So he is doing a service for you. So he is, you know, he even does a service for us in here. And once again, these birds just have wonderful views. And I

[00:39:36] Michael: didn’t mention, this is a Turkey vulture , for people listening, Uhhuh, we just started talking about it, but.

[00:39:41] Denise:

[00:39:41] Sundance is just a handsome fella. And yeah, he’s he’s quite sociable. So I think Diane is going to try to go in and get another bird to weigh, we’ll wait out here while Diane does that. But yeah, so lots of cleaning, lots of water pan changing. If you’ve ever had a parrot, Or cockatiel or any kind of bird they’re quite messy and especially around molting times. So there’s always a lot of little fluffy

[00:40:08] Michael: feathers. Yeah. And I see all the cleaning devices all around here.

[00:40:13] Denise: And then next to the bird closures out here, we have all their equipment. All Raptors have to have some kind of leather straps called dresses around their ankles and by law, that bird has to be attached to us.

[00:40:27] And it’s mainly for not the person’s safety, but the bird’s safety, because if a bird would get away from one of my handlers, it would probably pick the furthest corner and go and hide. But so that’s mandated. Everybody has their own equipment. They have their own water brushes. You have to keep things spotless and these brushes are dedicated to different birds. So you don’t to different birds? Yes. So you don’t wanna cross contaminate we use simple green.

[00:40:54] We Clorox Prep areas, water bowls. Once again, cleanliness is is a big issue when it comes to Raptors.

[00:41:01] Michael: So I think I saw the sign. That’s a, I didn’t see the bird, but that’s a, Swanson’s talk in there.

[00:41:06] Denise: Yes. And she’s gonna bring her out. Yeah. And so this is I think this bird’s 19 years old, of course Raptors have long lifespans if they make it through that first year. And that’s their, that’s the very, very tough year.

[00:41:19] Back to the

[00:41:19] Michael: rodent side conversation, that’s another tragedy of rodent size. We say long lifespans, but also smaller breeds, less frequent success. So it takes a long time to, to get that back.

[00:41:33] Denise: Absolutely. Say swainson’s hawk has four chicks. Generally only one out of four is gonna survive either poisoning, shootings, illegal trappings all kinds of really bad things.

[00:41:46] And they only have one brood per year. So if something happens, if somebody goes and cuts that tree down, there’s an nest in it. Somebody legally shoots one of the parents all kinds of really bad things happen. These guys are on top of the food chain, of course we’d want them around. This is a dark morph Swanson’s Hawk.

[00:42:05] And her name is grass hopper and grass hopper appropriately named grass hopper grasshopper. Yes. After a grass hopper Hawk. And she’s what they call a dark morph. Summer, the typical brownish type colors only about 17% of the world’s Swanson’s hawk population are our dark morphs. Okay. So she’s missing most of her wing, she was involved in a collision.

[00:42:30] Okay. And one really neat adaptation. There she is. She’s on her scale. What does she weigh? Diane? 7 7 5 7, 7 5. And that’s gram. It’s a weight scale with a special block with the AstroTurf on the top of it.

[00:42:49] And they are trained to step on that and stay on that for the few seconds in order to weigh them. Okay. But when you look at Swanson’s Hawk, FES, look how small they are for such a big bird. You don’t need a big multipurpose foot to go out and eat grass hoppers, but their feet are very fast and they’re very small.

[00:43:11] So what is

[00:43:11] Michael: their hunting style? Are they searching in vegetation for grass hoppers or are they seeing

[00:43:17] Denise: one from afar? These guys will co over a field or a Prairie and look down. If they see one, they’ll go down, grab it with one foot, keep flying, eat it on the wing. And then they’re off looking for more.

[00:43:30] These guys are also really speedy on the ground and I don’t think a lot of people realize but I’ll tell you what Swanson’s Hawks can run. In Western Nebraska, that can be migrating. And they will be seen behind the farmer as he’s harvesting with his combine. And of course he’s stirring up a lot of insects. So the crickets and grass hoppers. So mainly they’re eating the insects when they migrate.

[00:43:56] And then during breeding time they changed their diet. Yeah. To mice and rabbits roads. Yep. She’s an old girl.

[00:44:04] Michael: Yeah. I’ve never seen the dark. Before I’ve Uhhuh only seen yeah. The standard typical the Uhhuh.

[00:44:11] Denise: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We’re pretty lucky to have her. Yeah. And every now and then you’ll see a really darker, light, more Fred tale in town.

[00:44:20] She’s quite the diva she’s been doing programs. For many years and, uh, plus, yeah, Thank you. Miss grass hopper, miss diva. Cool. That’s it. It’s okay. It’s okay.

[00:44:36] It’s okay. Yeah. And everybody is molting. So everybody is growing their tail. Yeah. Out on the wild now their babes are done. They’re out of the nest. And so now it’s it’s time for the parents or the adults to grow some new feathers and rest and relax mm-hmm and if they migrate, they wanna grow those new feathers and rest and relax and get fat before they go on their journey.

[00:44:57] Yeah. Beautiful bird. She really is. Yeah, she really is. I could say that about

[00:45:03] Michael: all of them, even the Turkey vultures

[00:45:05] Denise: They are just special. So we will head back out and we’ll talk about the Eagles. that we have

[00:45:13] and as we come out the Barred Owls they just don’t miss anything. Yeah. They’re both looking at us Uhhuh. uh, What are you doing? And why are you here? And clacking that and everything else. So we’ll come and look at our two male bald Eagles that are on display. We have Fisher and we have freedom.

[00:45:32] Bald Eagles have made just a tremendous comeback throughout north America. I remember as a kid in the late sixties and in the seventies, you just, you did not see these guys. If you saw an Eagle, it was just a really rare occurrence. Nowadays in Nebraska, people will look up and the kids will go, oh, there’s an Eagle.

[00:45:51] They don’t realize that we almost lost the species due to D D T. So they’ve made a wonderful comeback. In fact, our Nebraska game and parks division does not even count activeness anymore in Nebraska. There are that many. But you know, it used to be D D T and now it’s lead poisoning.

[00:46:10] Okay. So that is the the modern threat that they face, just like the condos and just like the condos are vultures susceptible. You bet really any Raptor is especially anything that will eat a carcass. There are some states that, that, I think are a little more successful at pushing nontoxic ammunition.

[00:46:32] Some states it might take a few more years or maybe another decade. But there’s nothing worse than seeing one of these guys suffer with lead poisoning. It only takes one piece of lead about the size of a grain of rice, to kill a full grown ball legal. So it does not take much.

[00:46:51] Michael: Yeah, I I had the misconception that it took more than that or repeated exposure.

[00:46:56] Denise: No. Wow. Nope. And yeah, it, it does not take much, these guys, if they’re found they can go through a rehabilitation process and sometimes get nursed back to good enough health to release them, but exposure to lead just like in children, it causes neurological damage. Vision damage liver damage, just all kinds of all kinds of bad things.

[00:47:21] So unfortunately lead is now the new DDT.

[00:47:24] Michael: And these ones here as just reading their profiles one of them had lead poisoning. When it came in.

[00:47:30] Denise: Most of them are going to have some kind of amount of lead in their system.

[00:47:36] They might have mercury also from fish. And once again that all the poison that we put out in the environment, it just gets deposited in fatty tissue and it just keeps traveling along along the food chain. Mm-hmm So never goes away. Once again, education is our best defense against some of these issues.

[00:47:56] I’m

[00:47:57] Michael: impressed with this enclosure in both the size and the fact that there’s a water feature, Uhhuh. Why why do you have a water feature?

[00:48:05] Denise: First of all, the Eagles and the Osprey that is housed pretty close to the water feature, they love that sound of water. Of course, Eagles are most commonly found around water lakes rivers, things like that.

[00:48:20] So it’s just, it’s a little calming and they do go in there and take a quick bath every now and then we also give them a little kiddie pool to go in, which is not as nice looking as a waterfall, but they even love their kiddie pools. And this Eagle enclosure, once again is much bigger than it really needs to be by law.

[00:48:40] They like to loaf and what loafing is laying down, they will lay down on their breasts another bird would lay down like a chicken when they’re laying an egg. So we have loafing purchase in there.

[00:48:52] Michael: Now that reminds me, I, I saw a ferruginous Hawk one time in a field laying down Uhhuh.

[00:48:58] So I guess they do it too. They do

[00:49:00] Denise: it. They do it too. Yeah. So that’s called loafing. So if you see a bird laying down yeah. Boy, lazy bones.

[00:49:07] So they’re really acclimated to all climates especially the Eagles and some of the owls, the hotter or the colder, the better they’re.

[00:49:16] They like the cold better than the heat. In almost all these enclosures, we have a mister system. So if it gets above a specific temperature, then we turn the mists on and it lowers the the ambient temperature. And we spray these guys too. Yeah. With water hoses and they quite like that.

[00:49:34] Michael: How do

[00:49:35] Denise: they thermoregulate they pant, they don’t sweat like we do. A lot of it is through panting. And also if you wet down their legs, they’re their captors and their veins are very close to the surface on their legs and their feet. So a lot of times, if you keep their feet cool and wet and provide some shade and plenty of water, they’re gonna be just fine.

[00:49:56] Michael: So they the spraying helps not only do they enjoy it, but then the temperature of the water is cooler than the air Uhhuh absolutely cools down their

[00:50:03] Denise: legs. Absolutely. So everybody out here except for the owls, they’re kind of like cats. They don’t like to get wet that much, but in some of our Nebraska temperatures and fortunately they have to get hosed down just a little bit too.

[00:50:17] , do you have

[00:50:17] Michael: any success stories related to this

[00:50:21] Denise: refuge

[00:50:22] we have many success stories. It seems like every day out here. So to see the kids with their families they’re able to see these birds up close and they’re able to read about their stories. They’re able to share that bit of information maybe to other family members or their friends.

[00:50:42] you know, Our job once again is just to continually educate the public. Not only about Fontenelle Forest as a whole, but some of the subsets, like the Raptors, like the insects some of the trees and invasive species. But I’ve been doing educational programs for a long time.

[00:51:01] And kids would come up to me maybe five years later. And of course they would remember me because I’m the bird woman and come up and say, gosh, I remember seeing you at, such and such program and how such and such bird that remember the name and the species of the bird.

[00:51:18] And so when you make that connection it’s really special and it doesn’t even have to be a young person. Sometimes it’s a 30 year old Somebody who’s super busy. Has kids has a career. Doesn’t pay too much attention in nature. They see either a static display bird here, or they go to a Raptor program where they’ll see a red tail up close, and then I might run into them maybe a year later.

[00:51:46] And now they’re seeing them all over where before they had blinders on. So when you open up the world to and there’s the barn, oh, there’s a, barn owl walking by and now there’s a Barnell. Thank you, Diane. And Diane is one of our long time handlers. And now she’s walking up with Baron, the barn owl who I tell you what pictures of barn nows.

[00:52:10] And until you see them in person yeah. They’re coloring in their markings. They are just beautiful birds. Okay.

[00:52:16] Michael: I’ll get a photo with the camera too. Oh, yes. Yeah, that facial disc on the barn owl is just so prominent. It is. And now okay there. And I just gave

[00:52:26] Denise: little squirt

[00:52:27] oh, a little mist. Yeah. A little mist

[00:52:29] Michael: Uhhuh. Yes. Aaron was turning his head all the way around when I went to take the picture and looking me opposite direction as owls

[00:52:35] Denise: can do as ALS can do, but they have that very flexible neck. They have 14 vertebrae where we only have seven, so they can’t turn it all the way 360.

[00:52:46] They do about 270. But he’s yeah, he’s doing it again. It’s always fascinating for groups of students to see, to watch that. And Baron is a youngster only a little over a year old. So Baron is still learning proper etiquette. Yes. . He is a youngster, but you can see how long their legs are.

[00:53:07] Yeah. And I’ve

[00:53:08] Michael: seen some

[00:53:09] Denise: of some of the images yeah. That, when you pull up the feathers or whatever very varied long-legged species. They also have a special Talon called pectinate claw. And that’s what they use. Let’s see, to comb their feathers on their facial disc to make it just so it’s that middle one and it’s that middle?

[00:53:27] That’s that middle talent. Hi. So here comes some people. So Diane. Yeah. Be sure. And talk to this family about Baron, how you coming today, how you doing

[00:53:40] absolutely. So once again, that’s that’s what it’s all about. Hi, beautiful girl. R N. You are a big, beautiful girl, those big dark Falcon eyes.

[00:53:51] Michael: She is staring you

[00:53:52] Denise: down. She is, I have no food for you. I have no food. So the birds that were hatching captivity, they have a metal band on them. I see that. So Baron had a metal band and the gyrfalcon also has one and

[00:54:07] she came from a falconer. She came from a breeder. And was not going to be used. So she was offered to me if I gave her a good home and used her for education this person was more than willing to share which I was very thankful

[00:54:22] Michael: for. I wasn’t an amazing opportunity.

[00:54:25] It is.

[00:54:25] Denise: Yeah, it really is.

[00:54:27] Michael: So in terms of the general state of Raptors in Nebraska, or here in the forest con, from a conservation point of view, how would you characterize current conditions? Because we’ve talked about stable Turkey, vultures and increasing bald Eagles, but I, and then threats that exist at the same time.

[00:54:45] Is there a way to summarize it?

[00:54:47] Denise: Yeah. That’s that’s a tough, that’s a tough thing. Generally if you’re a cavity nester, once again, like a kestrel or a barred owl, your numbers might not be as strong. If you’re a ground nester like the short eared owls they nest on the ground habitat destruction is a big thing for them.

[00:55:04] We get rid of a lot of the prairies where a lot of these birds rely on not only to nest, but to hunt some will take the agricultural lands and they will use that, but there are some species that are just really Prairie specialists and unfortunately they’re, their numbers also are going down.

[00:55:24] Michael: Yeah. I mean, the varies among the most. I guess developed or destructive that they are that’s yeah, right up there

[00:55:33] Denise: with wetlands that, that they are. And but I think there, there might be a, it seems like there’s more protection for wetlands than there is for prairies anymore. But but yeah, it’s all about Raptors and, in their habitat a lot of people will ask is there anything that I can do, to really help them?

[00:55:50] And I always just say, provide a good habitat. Raptors are a great indicator species. If you have Raptors around on your farm or your ranch or in a park that’s a good sign that things are going well when you don’t see Raptors and you see the other pest populations going up then you’ve got something a little off balance.

[00:56:12] Just the fact that you were still seeing them, you know, in this day and age it’s just a great reminder of the majesty of nature that these guys are still around and the kids are able to see them. And the older generations are able to share their knowledge about Raptors to that generat.

[00:56:30] Michael: Do you have any programs or events or anything of interest that you want to promote or talk about? I mean, you have annual

[00:56:37] Denise: events or we always have events here at Nell forest. I always tell people, just look at our website. There’s always things going on. We like to say that we educate from three to 93, so we have programs for preschoolers nature programs.

[00:56:54] And we also do some senior citizen programs. We do those free for members. We’re gonna have nine of those next year. It’s once again, just sharing the appreciation of nature. It’s just there. There’s just nothing. and do you have

[00:57:08] Michael: recommendations for people that are just like Raptor enthusiast and they wanna learn more about Raptors?

[00:57:12] It could be books or documentaries or rap other organizations. Oh, Raptor

[00:57:17] Denise: nerds. I would tell , I’m such a Raptor nerd. I would tell anybody in any state to Google what offerings, Raptor offerings there might be in their state rehabilitation. People always need help and they always need money because to save one of these guys and to feed them properly and get the proper vet care for release takes a lot of money.

[00:57:39] There might be some volunteer opportunities too in states with local programs but just make yourself familiar with the resources that are out there in your community and try to try to get involved. Just try to get involved. And there’s a lot of really good information out there. We use Cornell all about birds for most of our information because we think they’re the best and probably the smartest Raptor folks out there.

[00:58:08] We get all of our information from Cornell. We don’t just Google something on like Wikipedia and go, oh, that looks like a fun fact. So just watch where you get your information. Especially on Facebook, just get familiar with who’s in your area, the experts in your area and get involved all these years ago. I saw my first Raptor then in college, I got involved in banding Raptors a little bit.

[00:58:33] And then, now I work with these guys and there aren’t too many folks that have the type of job that I do. and, when you work for nonprofits, you don’t make a whole lot of money, but it doesn’t matter. Mm-hmm When you work around these guys, it’s what an awesome thing.

[00:58:47] Michael: And I think you brought up a good point too, with the rehabilitators, oftentimes they often, not only do they need money, they need help.

[00:58:54] Denise: I spent many years in, in the rehab world with Raptors and it’s yeah. It’s boy, do they work long, hard hours?

[00:59:04] Birds come in injured when it’s not convenient. They come in Christmas. They come mother’s day. I saw one here.

[00:59:10] Michael: I forget which one was

[00:59:11] Denise: Christmas Eve. And that was a ferruginous hawk. Okay. So there are these wonderful rehab people throughout the country that answer those calls and go get those injured birds.

[00:59:21] And once again it’s expensive. Food is expensive. So yes, I would always tell people, find out who’s around you and go get involved.

[00:59:31] Michael: So thank you so much for all your time today, and I appreciate the work that you do and that the forest does.

[00:59:37] And just thank you. Oh, good.

[00:59:39] Denise: Good. Thank you for having me. And I I hope you enjoyed it. Oh, I did.

[00:59:43] Michael: Thank you.

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