Saturday, July 11, 2009

Susan and the raptors

A while back, I asked Susan Williams if she would be willing to awe and dazzle a bunch of kids at Bring Your Kid to Work Day. We always get a pack of rugrats in for this at my place of employment, and do our best to entertain and educate. And Susan kindy agreed to make the trip up I-71 and into the Cowtown to put on a show.

Now, Susan could probably shock and awe the kids all by herself, but she has props. Cool, feathered props. You see, she works for an outfit known as Raptor, Inc., based in Cincinnati, and this group specializes in the rehabilitation of birds of prey. As part of their outreach, Susan gives many dozens of talks and programs annually, and yesterday was our turn.

This may have been the best turnout we've ever had for a BYKTW Day event. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 kids and adults gathered round to watch Susan and the birds.

First out of the box was that charming little whistler, the Eastern Screech-Owl. Visceral reaction from the kids? "Awww, cute!". I'm thinking, you guys wouldn't be saying that if you were a White-footed Mouse.

It quickly became apparent that Susan was going to work up the size scale, progressively bringing out bigger and badder winged terrors. This Barn Owl made a memorable introduction - as soon as she pulled it out, the owl let loose with one of their patented blood-curdling screams, much the the assembled throng's delight. Then it let loose with another stream - sort of a garden hose-like projectile stream of white. Note to self: do not stand directly behind and in close proximity to a Barn Owl that has just been liberated from a small cage after it has endured a couple hour car ride.

During the Barn Owl show, a furious male House Sparrow flew into a tree about ten feet away, and kept up a constant loud scolding. The weaver finch did not like Mr. Owl one iota, and from time to time other birds, including a White-breasted Nuthatch, would drop by to express their displeasure.

Wow! A real live Peregrine Falcon! The general reaction to this one was some low ooohs and general respect for the feathered gang-banger. The crowd was even more dazzled when they learned about the Lamborghini'ish speed that these feathered bullets can achieve, and the utter carnage that they wreak on their victims.

Last, and fiercest, was this male Great Horned Owl. Here he turns his piercing stare directly on me. Sorry, Mr. Owl, sorry! Susan believes that, in his owlish wisdom, he knew that it was I who was responsible for his being crated several hours to a strange city.

The horned owl elicited the greatest reaction of all when removed from the box, and I wish I had captured it on video. The kids went crazy at the sight of this magnificent beast.

This short video shows Susan at work with the Barn Owl. Turn up the volume and listen to the frenzied House Sparrow in the background.

A wonderful time, and a new batch of kids have learned a ton about birds, and surely some have become interested enough to learn more about things with feathers. Susan did a fantastic job, and everyone really appreciated the show.

Go hear to learn more about Raptor, Inc and their wonderful work.


Mary said...

Great, Jim. Never being able to see Susan in action, I enjoy posts like this. Thanks!

Dave Lewis said...

How many people can say were, ahhh, squirted on by an Owl?!

Wren said...

I hope I manage to see Susan and her raptors in action some day. I love the chance to see the birds up close, and Susan's so much fun, the combination has to be impressive!

Susan Gets Native said...

What a fun day, Jim. Thanks so much for asking me! I seem to be traveling to far-flung places lately...starting to feel like a circus.
"Have Birds...Will Travel"

I'm tellin' ya, our GHOW DOES pick out people from the crowd...usually the ones circling, like you were. You are a major THREAT, you Big Bad Man.
(But you can go on thinking that he actually likes you....if it makes you feel better about yourself.)

Heather said...

Just read about this over on Susan's blog - what a cool experience for everyone! It was great to see Susan in action in that little video. In just that little bit of time, I could see in her eyes just how much love and respect she has for Storm (and for all of the birds, I'm sure)!

LauraHinNJ said...

Will someone PLEASE tell the story of the fainting woman?


Susan Gets Native said...

Laura...there was a woman there who wasn't feeling well, and she went down in the middle of my presentation. I didn't cause it, but I'm saying that I did. :)

KatDoc said...

Hoorah for our Susan - star-studded program, and inducing a person to faint. More entertainment than one can shake a stick at!

~Kathi, who has been on the wrong end of many creatures, but never an owl