Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Birds of Prey

I have been a lazy blogger over the past few weeks. In my defense, it was icky and wet and rainy and cold, which means that we were basically at home and hitting the books pretty hard – so nothing really blog-worthy happened for a while. Then the weather got better and we’ve been outside and by the time we come in, I’m too tired to blog. I know; excuses, excuses. You’ll be thrilled to know that I do have a couple of things to talk about this week, so keep your eyes peeled for more verbose goodness from yours truly.

I admit, I am not much of a bird fan. They kinda scare me a bit – I think they’re pretty, but I’m not all about the pointy beaks and sharp talons. The phrase ‘raptor gaze’ is apt; they always seem to be sizing you up for a bite. That said, I try not to pass my phobias down to my kids, so when I heard about SOAR coming our way, I put on my big-girl panties and braved the birds ‘for the sake of the children’.

Save Our American Raptors, Inc. is a non-profit birds of prey environmental education organization founded in Florida by ‘The Eagle Lady”, Doris Mager, in 1983.  I looked for a link, and there are several SOAR organizations, but there doesn’t seem to be a main organization. I’ll let you Google and decide which link to use if you’re so inclined. The outline seems to be similar throughout – SOAR is both an educational and rescue/rehab organization for birds of prey.

We were privileged to have Doris was in Southeast TX a couple of weekends ago with her fabulous feathered friends. We got to meet ET, the Great Horned Owl, a tiny Eastern Screech Owl, a Kestrel (Sparrow Hawk) and a Crested Caracara (Mexican Eagle). Loverly Husband volunteered to help and ended up with Cara on his arm for half of the program. I think that one of the coolest things about this program is Doris’ obvious love of her birds. It’s amazing to see someone who has a palatable passion for their subject speak about it. Their enthusiasm and interest in their subject carries over and gets your attention in a way that reading just doesn’t. Since I’m not a particular fan of birds, I really appreciated the opportunity for the boys to learn about them from someone who truly loves them.

Doris mentioned that she’d traveled all over the world on rescue calls and has had numerous birds in her care from one moment to the next for the past 30 years. She talked quite a bit about how she got started. Her story is unique in that her qualifications came more from being interested in the subject and being willing to volunteer. Now, of course, she receives grants from different agencies (including the government) to do her work, but she didn’t start out in academia. With an ADHD kid under my roof, and one who may not opt for traditional career paths, I think that her story and ones like it are essential to helping my son form mental paths to reach his goals.

Doris was a joy to listen to. Unlike some people who lecture often, she related very well to every age group. Her audience ranged from babies to the elderly, and she definitely had a message to get across to her audience, namely, that birds of prey are to be respected and treasured. I think she did a fantastic job of conveying that message. She also gave the kids a chance to hold the birds, which puts them up close and personal. I think that was a key element to reinforcing that message.

That evening, Doris teamed up with Village Creek State Park’s Mistress of Education, Amanda Adair, to organize a night hike to look for owls. We had an entire troupe of Boy Scouts join us for the hike (the boys were all in the 8-10 age range and it was like having my own boys times 12… which was reassuring. My boys are most assuredly NORMAL) and Doris gave us all some guidelines to follow: no flashlights, no talking, no walking sticks. All of the boys had sticks and when she banned walking sticks on the trip they were visibly disappointed. I thought was a little odd, but when one of the kids questioned her she was happy to explain: the kids will drag them, which is noisy. I laughed at myself at that point because she was dead-on right. That’s exactly what would happen no matter how much you reminded them not to drag the sticks.

PeaGreen and I went together; it was quite a long hike (or maybe it seemed longer since it was in the dark) but it was a lot of fun even though at one point my mind wandered into ‘this is what it would be like if we were a group of refugees trying to travel without attracting the attention of the walking dead after a zombie apocalypse, only with more mortal peril and hysteria’ territory. He got tired about halfway through – there’s only so much walking in the dark, silently that a 7 year old boy can handle, but he was a trooper and he was glad that we went. LBB elected to stay home with Dad, so it was nice to spend some time with just my youngest, especially doing something that was new and different. We heard a couple of owls that were far off – Doris said not to expect to see or hear one, so we weren’t terribly disappointed. She did have ET with her, so the kids did get to see at least one Great Horned Owl at the end of the hike. If you ever get the chance to do something similar, I highly recommend going for it!

A couple of nights after all this LBB comes flying out of his room, well past bedtime, to inform us that there is a great horned owl calling right outside of his bedroom. Sure enough, there was. I LOVE seeing practical application of something that we’ve been learning about. Even when I don’t think they’re paying attention, they’ve shown time and again that they do hear and they are learning.




2 responses

  1. Amy R

    Way cool! If you ever have a chance to visit a MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) station that offers public programs, give it a try. The tweeties are typically small warblers, very not intimidating :). Much of the research concerns migratory species – and we happen to live in a major migration flyway. In a past life, I worked at MAPS station in Alaska collecting data on birds and doing public education. A wonderful experience!

    March 1, 2011 at 9:10 pm

  2. That sounds pretty cool, Amy. I found their site: I’m bookmarking it for future reference. I never knew that this was such a popular bird-watching area until a friend of mine started writing for the visitor’s guide – there are a TON of resources dedicated to it here! It’s been really interesting learning about what all there *really* is to do in SETX, lol.
    Thanks for commenting 🙂

    March 1, 2011 at 10:44 pm

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