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The Daily Bucket is a place where we post and exchange our observations about what is happening in the natural world in our neighborhood. Each note about the bugs, buds, and birds around us is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns of nature that are quietly unwinding around us.
Tuesday in IA was a lovely day. Melanie and I decided to go out in the morning to the reservoir in hopes of seeing some white pelicans soaring on thermals. No such luck. They must not have liked the hot dry summer here. We saw none and haven't seen any for months.

We went down the road a little farther to the McBride Raptor Project. It is a favorite spot for us.

The Macbride Raptor Project (MRP), founded in 1985, is devoted to preserving Iowa's birds of prey and their natural habitats. The project achieves its goals through rehabilitation of sick and injured birds, educational programs for the public and field research of Iowa's native raptors. The Macbride Raptor Project (MRP) is a jointly sponsored oranization, utilizing staff and facilities at both The University of Iowa's Division of Recreational Services and Kirkwood Community College.

Several species of permanently disabled hawks, eagles, falcons and owls are displayed at the Raptor Project, which overlooks the Iowa River. MRP was founded in 1985 as the University of Iowa Raptor Rehabilitation Center. In February of 1989 it became the Macbride Raptor Center, a jointly sponsored organization, utilizing staff and facilities of both the University of Iowa (U of Iowa) and Kirkwood Community College (KCC). In 1995, the name was changed to the Macbride Raptor Project. This name was selected because it was a better reflection of all of the various agencies and volunteers coming together to support Iowa's raptors.

You drive down a quiet road off the regular highway. It winds around through the trees and comes out on a peninsula that juts out into the reservoir. We made a brief stop and saw this bat house. Then, we moved on toward the raptor center.

Injured birds, or ones that are unable to fend for themselves, are taken in for care and rehabilitation. We enjoy going there because it is quiet and peaceful. There is a large and well stocked birdblind, butterfly garden, prairie restoration, and hummingbird garden. Today, was anything but quiet. As we approached the gate, we heard the sounds of chainsaw and wood chipper machine.

We drove up and walked by this gate wondering what all the noise was about. We had a windstorm 10 days ago. Maybe some trees were down in the raptor center. We started down the path. After a couple of hundred yards, we were there.


The first things we came to were the flight cages. Birds that are recuperating use these large and long buildings to strengthen their flight muscles. The care takers can evaluate their progress. The longest building is about 100' long. The signs says to stay away and especially keep dogs away. They don't want the birds to be unduly disturbed or startled during recovery.






Speaking of disturbed...the chainsaws and chipper were right next door to two small buildings with owls in them. Here is one of the several buildings with some of the permanent residents on display.

The poor birds looked scared to death. We and the owls were greatly relieved when they finished cutting the downed tree and went away. These long eared and great horned owls were tense and breathing rapidly as the saw ran right next door. The great horned had one eye. Of course, it would never look directly at me when I was ready to take a picture.


The next two buildings had owls, too. The buildings were fairly dark. The birds were sitting up and in the back. So, pictures were a challenge. My small pocket camera zoom was not powerful enough to get in very close.

Each building had a sign about the bird. See the example below. Some birds were both injured and imprinted to humans forcing them to be permanent residents of the raptor center for their own protection.



One of the favorites of the center for many kids is the bald eagle. Next door is a golden eagle.

And, there is a peregrine falcon and a pair of red tailed hawks. We thought the one red tailed hawk was a nice specimen.




A feature of the raptor center we always like to visit is this bird blind. There is a long building probably 30' in length with benches inside and a narrow horizontal window. Bird watchers of all ages can sit in relative comfort and enjoy the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and deer as they come and go a few feet in front of them. There is a tablet inside where you can write down some species you see.




There are 3 or 4 feeders hanging from each of 4 metal cables attached to hand winches for lowering and raising the feeders for refilling. A squirrel climbed up a post, got onto the cable, ran along it to a corner, turned and ran along it again. Then, it hung from this feeder of sunflower seeds for about 20 minutes, eating all the while.

We didn't see very many birds. They were probably disturbed by the loud chainsaw and chipper noises. The usual suspects of goldfinch, chickadee, nuthatch, cardinal, woodpeckers, etc, were present. But, nothing unusual this day. It was still fun to watch the comings and goings.




We finished our outing along the same path we entered. As we did, we looked up to the gorgeous blue sky. There were several turkey vultures circling taking advantage of the rising thermal of warmed air. Their flight seemed so effortless and silent. It somehow seemed unfair that these birds were enjoying themselves so much directly above those poor injured birds in the buildings. Some of them would soon be healthy and able to return to the skies, too.


Originally posted to Backyard Science on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 09:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by J Town.

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