Helping Wildlife and Bettering the Habitat

Got a Treat? Give me a treat.

Great Horned Owl

I want a treat or else…

Paul, the handler and property owner.

Paul and his wife run Wild Spirit which was formed in 1995 as a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Wild Spirit became one of the premier Wildlife Rehab Centers in our area, but now they are more into educating individuals about the natural world.

Look Into My Eyes. You are now getting sleepy.

Snowy Owl

Many of the birds at Wild Spirit had injuries which brought them to the facility and prevented them from being released. The Great Horned Owl at the beginning of this post has only one eye for example.

This is where the wildlife lives. There are acres and acres of meadows, filled with naturally occurring wildflowers as far as one can see. Now these are meadows in the best sense of the word. The blurred background of each image of the birds is meadows on all sides.

A very long, dirt and stone drive leads to the place. Parking is in a small mowed area.  The buckeye above was sunning on the driveway. The pretty pond below is filled with frogs and dragonflies.

Our photography group was invited to Wild Spirit to photograph the birds on Sunday. It was a wonderful opportunity for many of the group not accustomed to shooting wildlife. We are required to submit images to a private Flickr account for Wild Spirit to use in their promotion, and the ones I am submitting are different images than I posted here.

I am guessing many GWGT readers are very interested in the property, more so than the birds.  The meadows are home to many nesting boxes. Bird life is very much encouraged here, from songbirds to raptors. I did see a few hawks flying overhead, but they were too far outside the range of my lens, even the 400mm.

The pond is a pretty feature in this landscape and is home to water lilies. Notice, I focused on that teeny insect. I cannot help myself.

The Madagascar cockroach below is one of three that were roaming around on logs. I am guessing they are like pets, but they are used in the educational lectures.

I bow to the master.

Madagascar Cockroach

The photographers are letting the cockroaches crawl on their arms.

I am particularly fond of the large birds. The Red Tailed Hawk shown in many images was a favorite of mine. You will recall, I have photographed them in my garden. They come in winter to feast on songbirds. I like seeing the hawks, but not them killing the smaller birds. But they have to eat too, I guess.

Unfortunately, the birds here at this facility could not be set free to fly. No birds were trained to return, but the facility is trying to raise $1000 to purchase a young falcon that will be trained for free flight.

The Snowy Owl in the post was the newest member of the aviary.

Barred Owl, I think. I did see one on Google images listed as an Eastern Screech Owl, but think that may be wrong.

I am Mighty Bird.

Red Tailed Hawk with jesses attached.

I did learn something I had no idea of previously. In talking with the owner, I learned that falconry can be an inhumane hobby. I learned that some, not all, but some, starve their birds to aid in the training and to return to the lure which has food. The thought is that starving the birds aids in making the birds obey. If true, I guess birds would quickly get sick and be too weak to hunt. I found this enlightening.

Barred Owl

Hunger is what motivates a bird to hunt in the wild, so I guess that is on which the falconer depends. I know because I have a bird myself, they eat quite a bit of food. I get amazed at what quantities of food my cockatoo can consume. He loves meat too and will scarf down sizable portions. You think of parrots just eating seeds, but they eat just about anything. One of his favorite foods is spaghetti. Here he is below as “upside down birdie.” This is one of his many tricks.

Creem Cheez, alias Scream Cheez

I also learned there is a creance that can be attached to the jesses, which is a long tether on a reel for allowing a bird to fly up to 100 feet away from the trainer. It is used in training birds. I was really interested in this for my own bird. I am sure he would love to fly outdoors, even though he does not like going outside very much. He gets anxious outside.

The owners may use any of the images submitted by the photographers in their promotional material. While we were there, each of us donated to the facility. So everyone was very generous in giving both time and money.

You all know my catalog of bird photography, especially those from winter; cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, and many other varieties like the summer hummingbirds. I have photographed hawks in flight in the wild and in my garden.

Harley the Scarlet Macaw

I very much like photographing birds of all kinds and am very lucky to live minutes from Niagara Falls, a great place for bird watching. This post is about photography for the most part, but birds, big and small, are a part of every garden. And keeping gardens pesticide/herbicide free and filled with plants that shelter and feed them makes for a garden full of life of all kinds.

Looking Coyly Over My Shoulder Like a Super Model for My Head Shot

I would be very honored if the owners chose some of my images of their birds for promotional handouts. Action shots were pretty much out, so I went for expression. That is one thing birds do well, show their emotion on their faces.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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42 Responses to Helping Wildlife and Bettering the Habitat

  1. Brian Comeau says:

    What a beautiful spot and great work they are doing. I love owls; they are so mysterious looking with those amazing eyes. Fantastic images!!!

  2. Donna, these are some incredible photos!! Love the one of the Snowy Owl with its wings spread…the blurred background with the colors in the meadow really set off the white feathers. I have some pictures of a Barred Owl in our woods. They are such a great find in the wild.
    The hobby of falconry is not one I like….the harsh treatment of these great birds is awful.
    Love seeing your Cockatoo… birds can be such characters.

    • I have seen a few owls at the farm and also one in my neighborhood. One was in the tree out in front of my home one morning. I called local animal control, but by the time they arrived it was gone. I was assuming it was sick being in the city in the day time. Same thing happened with a sick raccoon. Animal control did not get that one either.

      • We are in the woods, so seeing an owl is not a worry. Ours can be heard at night, love it when the windows are open.

        • I know you have woods and the owls are in a safe environment. I kinda envy that. Why it was so strange to have the owl at my house, was that the gorge is 1/2 block away. It had no reason to come into a city neighborhood and additionally, the conservation officer told me it was very unlikely at that time of day. He was sure it was injured or sick to have left the safety of its habitat range.

  3. I worked with, and had the opportunity to photograph raptors up close for years. I never tire of seeing them, in real life, or in photographs. I actually considered becoming a falconer at one point, and was prepared to take the test, and even found a mentor, but when push came to shove, I just couldn’t do it. After spending years working to return birds like this to health, so they could be returned to wild (when possible), the idea of keeping one in a mews didn’t seem right for me. Don’t get me wrong, I know a few falconers, and most of them are people I respect and admire, and treat their birds well, but there are some old-schoolers who I wish weren’t so…well…old school.

    • I never realized that the falcons are not well cared for on purpose too. It is a sport I never took interest in. Sad some train them in this manner.

      I took the course to be certified to be a rehabilitator too. I was planning a move to the country that did not occur, so caring for animals had to wait until I had a place to do it. I would love to build an aviary for the birds.

  4. Donna, I enjoyed every image! I am sure that they will select one of your outstanding shots for their promotional material. What a great opportunity to photograph all this wildlife! Your bird is adorable! I once had a neighbor with two cockatoos and I only remember that they were really loud :O) We went to an insect festival this past weekend and touched one of those hissing cockroaches. That was really something for me since I hate cockroaches. You know what a wildlife lover I am but I just can’t find anything endearing about roaches.

    • I had to laugh at your comment about the roaches. That was my feeling too. I did not pet them or let them walk on me. Like you, I love almost all creatures, and probably would never step on one on purpose, but they kinda creep me out. I remember seeing them in Costa Rica. Insects there are many times bigger than here and there were plenty of roaches.

  5. Lyn says:

    I’d be surprised if the owners don’t use some of your beautiful shots, if these are any indication of the quality. There is just something about raptors. There is a pair of Black-Shouldered Kites that I often see when walking my dog to the local dog park, but I haven’t been close enough to photograph them. They lift the spirits, though.

    • It really is hard to get close enough to the raptors to take photos. They are wary of people and their eyesight is so good, they sense any motion and flee before you have a chance to move in on them. I have tried so often. The eagle at the farm never was close enough to photograph. If I took a photo, no one could tell it was not just a hawk.

  6. Barbie says:

    How amazing are those birds of prey. I am totally in awe of them. We also have a rehabilitation centre in Cape Town for birds of prey. I will share my photos in the next post. The snowy owl is something we don’t see here! What a beauty!

  7. Splendid photos as usual. I enjoyed learning about Wild Spirit. It looks like a wonderful place for the birds and humans.

  8. We have hawks that fly over our property. I love watching them glide overhead. This summer, a hawk hung out on a tree close to the house and close to the bird feeder. I was entranced. We have owls as well, but I have only been able to hear them. One of these days I will get an owl shot. –

    • I don’t get the hawks in my yard in summer. They stay at the gorge, raising young. But being 1/2 block away, the gorge really seems like it is in my yard. I never saw an owl there though. You would think they are there since mice and chipmunks are everywhere.

  9. HolleyGarden says:

    The snowy owl is just gorgeous! And your upside-down-birdie is adorable! That cockroach, though, gives me the heebie-geebies! Interesting facts about the training methods. I had no idea how they could train a wild bird. Hunger is a very powerful motivator.

    • Holley, my cockatoo was wild caught over thirty years ago, before NYS made it illegal to have anything but domestically raised birds. His leg tag has an import number from Hawaii, but most likely he is an Aussie. Since he was an adult when captured, he was no different than training say a hawk. They are very dangerous, just like a hawk, maybe even more so with that beak. It has 900psi pressure when biting and can chomp through bone. Another of his favorite foods is chicken. That says a lot about his character, no?

  10. Flower Pot says:

    The birds are really beautiful…as is the Madagascar cockroach, but, all in all, I’d rather admire the birds.

  11. TufaGirl says:

    I loved all the photos, landscapes and the birds. (Madagascar cockroach, not so much.) Interesting to learn about the training of the birds. I have only been to bird shows at theme parks and never got the behind the scene real story of their treatment. They are beautiful creatures, thanks for sharing.

  12. nicole says:

    What an outstanding place for all of these birds! I really liked your 7th shot of the bird house perched on top of the tree branch…stunning! I hope that your photos help raise awareness for Wild Spirit!

  13. Those owls are amazing! I keep going back and looking at the photos. Just incredible eyes.

  14. What a beautiful post! What beautiful birds!

  15. PS. You are right about the Barred Owl photo.

  16. What Beautiful Birds! Loving your photos:) I could have skipped the huge cockroach though – creeeepppyyy!

  17. I am fascinated by birds of prey. I find it such a treat when I see a hawk or an owl fly overhead or sitting in a nearby tree. These are beautiful photos that truly illustrate the beauty of these birds. I have been to several of these wildlife exhibitions, and they are always fascinating. One thing that amazes me is the size and power of these beautiful creatures. Great post!

    • This was at the handler’s house, so it was a private demonstration for us and one other group. I have been to a number of these at various events. In Spring, I was at our local college’s Earth day event as a Master Gardener and our booth was next to a wildlife rehabilitator. They had a tiny peregrine falcon on display that kept hopping over on my table.

  18. Once again a fascinating post with amazing images…I have been close to rehabbed birds of prey at the state fair…a wonderful experience. We have a barred owl that visits occasionally and lots of hawks…but getting up close and seeing those gorgeous faces is the best….love the meadows and pond as well…and I am not surprised they chose some of your photographs!

  19. Rose says:

    Such a beautiful place–yes, my eye was caught at first by these meadows, but the birds are just amazing. I love the snowy owl–what a beauty! You have really caught the expressions of each of these birds so well; I can’t imagine Wild Spirit finding any better photos to use than yours, Donna.

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