I Kissed an Owl (not!)

Ann Zepke

I Kissed an Owl  (not!)

The adventures and misadventures of a rookie volunteer at Soarin’ Hawk Raptor Rehab. Check in every week for the next installment.

by Ann Zepke

Copyright ©2013 by Ann Zepke

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission

A Forward

Several times over the years, I have read newspaper articles that mentioned Soarin’ Hawk Raptor Rehab. I always thought how neat it would be to work with the “big birds”, nurse them to health and release them back into the wild. I thought I would like to volunteer, but figured they were probably based in a distant county making that impractical.

Then I went to Eagle Marsh (in southwest Fort Wayne) on Earth Day to take a hike and to participate in their special events. In the barn, I discovered that Soarin’ Hawk had a set up and had brought several birds with them. The first bird I came to was an owl. He was so small and darling and I asked whether he was a baby. I was told “No, this is an adult Eastern Screech Owl.” (Shows how much I know!) Well, it was love at first sight.

When I asked where Soarin’ Hawk was located, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was based locally in Allen County. Asking about volunteer possibilities, I was told there were many areas where volunteers could help including cleaning pens and feeding, doing educational presentations, clerical and grant writing for examples. That’s when I made up my mind that “someday” I wanted to volunteer.

I told my husband, Walt, about my experience that day and said that this was on my “bucket list” of things I wanted to do before I get too old. His response was, “Go for it!”

So, in July of 2012 at age 65, I began my adventure with Soarin’ Hawk. After my first email to friends and family telling them of my new endeavor, several said they wanted updates. As a result, here is my tale of adventure as told through emails.

List of Characters (literally)

The following is a list of people who have been mentioned in my story. They are my mentors, teammates and, ultimately, my friends.

Dr. Pat                        Patricia Funnell, DVM

Bob                             Bob Walton

Barbara                      Barbara Hathaway

Floyd                          Floyd Jimison

Dennis                       Dennis Oliver

Lauren                       Lauren Johnson

Rick                            Rick Farrant

Sandy                                    Sandy Moore

Pam                            Pam Whitacre

Angie                         Angie Geiger

Jordan                        Jordan Adams

Ted                             Ted Geers

Brian                          Brian Wood

Sara                            Sara Whitacre

Phil                             Phil Hackworth

Jacob                         Jacob Lothamer

Tom                            Tom Volz

Aimée                         Aimée Nelson

Ed                               Ed Pliett

First Day: July 27, 2012

Hi all,

Exciting news! I have started volunteering at Soarin' Hawk Raptor Rehab (SHRR, for short). My first day was last Saturday which was designated a "work day". First I was shown the facilities, two buildings each with several pens. The pens are large enough for the birds to fly a little. We have 2 Bald Eagles. The male, Jefferson, can never be released to the wild. He has an elbow injury which makes him non-releasable. The female, unnamed, can be rehabbed. We have about 10 Cooper's Hawks, orphans from the severe storm we had. As soon as we're sure they can hunt for themselves, they will be released. They put live mice in a trough for them to hone their skills. We have 2 vultures and several Red-tailed Hawks (one is "Ruby") and a Broad-winged Hawk with an injured foot. She will be rehabbed. Then, we also have Kestrels and owls. We have about 5 Screech Owls. They are so-o-o cute! Two are rufous-colored (Peanut I and Peanut II) and one is named Houdini because he is an escape artist. Two of the Screech Owls are blind in one eye and are used for educational purposes as are some of the hawks. So, anyway, I helped clean pens with a couple of ladies. The men were in one building subdividing a pen. They had to pick up some Kestrels that day and had nowhere to put them.

Ruby, I was told, is far-sighted. When they have her out, she sees other hawks hundreds of feet up just fine, but can't see food laid at her feet. I asked if this was somehow verified scientifically or was just by observation. Then Dennis, a volunteer who had been listening to us, piped in and said the bird was tested at the BMV and flunked the eye test!

Friday, late afternoons, is my assigned time to help with feeding and cleanup. There will be 4 of us working together. Mostly the birds are fed dead rats and mice. Sometimes the small mice are cut up into pieces and placed on a platform. The larger mice and rats are put up whole on the perches. I'll know more after I actually do it.

Last night they had a delivery of dead rats and mice, so I went to help bag them. They are then frozen and thawed as needed. The men were handling them with NO GLOVES. The women used thin plastic gloves, and then there was me who had purchased thick yellow rubber gloves!! It really wasn't too bad, except it was hot and stinky.

Next on things to do is order some special gloves for handling the birds, something that is puncture-proof. When I start handling the birds, I will be able to help with the educational aspect and take them to schools and groups for show.

Dennis grabbed a hawk and demonstrated how to handle a bird if I should go out on a rescue. Laying the bird on its back, you get each leg between your fingers (the talons have to be under control). Then you slip a hand under its back and raise it to an upright position. With its back first, you then bring it towards your chest. “But, be careful”, said Dennis.” A bird may turn its head and bite you on the nipple!”  Ouch! Warning noted!

Well, I've gone on and on, but I really am enthused. Actually, I skipped the grandkids’ dive meet last night to sack rats!




Check in every weekend for the next chapter!