Monday, April 20, 2009

My World: Handler Training

Lately My World has revolved a lot around The Raptor Center. The Raptor Center, which was established back in 1974 at the University of Minnesota, specializes in the medical care, rehabilitation, conservation, and study of hawks, eagles, falcons, owls and other raptors.
The Raptor Center's mission statement is to ensure the health of raptors and the world that we share through teaching, research and service. They work with the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine to provide internships for veterinary students from around the world, specializing in raptor medical care. TRC is also involved with raptor research into areas like the West Nile Virus and lead poisoning.
TRC also helps to educate the public on raptor issues, reaching over 250,000 people each year through public education programs and events. The education crew, which consists of the education staff and volunteers are responsible for these programs and events as well as caring for the approximately 30 TRC education birds. For the past year and a half I have been a volunteer in the TRC education crew. Each Wednesday I spend around four hours after work taking people on tours, cleaning mews, carrying cages, and perches, preparing food, feeding birds and many other odd jobs. However last the last week or so things changed.
I have finally been chosen for the opportunity to be a bird handler. Handlers get the privilege of directly working with the birds. They use operant conditioning to work with the birds to reinforce the behavior which is necessary for the birds to exist in captivity and also help us in our education programs.
Initially new handlers have to spend some time pretty much every day for two weeks with their training bird. You learn the basics during this initial training things like how to hold your glove, how to tether the birds, crating and uncrating them, weighing them, handling them around the public, feeding them on the glove, and how to handle a bate.
So far things have gone great. I have been partnered with a beautiful peregrine falcon named Artemis. Arte is a great teacher. She is a well behaved bird, which makes things easier especially for the first bird that you handle, but she has also provided me with some challenges to overcome which will prepare me for other birds that I may handle in the future. So far we have only had one bate but we recovered from it pretty well so all is good. Soon I will begin to help out in programs as well as start working with other birds but for now I am just enjoying working with my good feathered friend.

17 comments:

Lynne said...

Congratulations Jeff! It must be a thrill to hold that beautiful bird on your glove.

fishing guy said...

EB: What a neat bird and nice to see things going well. Congrats on being #1.

Arija said...

WOW, congratulations! Lucky you having a Peregrine Falson to handle. I hav only ever held one in my bare hands when it had flown into our sunroom to slend the night. It was an awe inspiring feeling to have a wild bird tus you to that extent.
Great personal post.

SandyCarlson said...

What a neat place. It's wonderful such creatures are cared for.

ewok1993 said...

I've always thought bird handlers are so cool to be in close contact with the birds and working in partnership with the birds is pretty neat.

Guy D said...

Congrats and great posting once again.

Have a great week!
Guy
Regina In Pictures

Kathiesbirds said...

What a priviedge to work with such amazing birds. You look so pleased! Congratulations and an excellent post! Arte is gorgeous! I wish you a long and rewarding partnership!

Martha said...

Wow, what a great experience to be able to work with these beautiful birds.
Thank you for a wonderful post and congratulaions.

Babooshka said...

Huge congratulations. A marvellous opportunity. It is so obvious to anyone who has ever stopped by your blog you are not only a marvellous wildlife photographer, but a real champion of them too. What a beautiful bird. Can't wait to follow your new journey. Well done.

mountain.mama said...

I can't tell who is smiling more--you or Artemis. What a wonderful opportunity. Great post.

Marites said...

Congratulations! that is really a very wonderful opportunity! I'd probably be doing cartwheels if i get the chance. Arte is a beautiful bird!

Denise said...

Fantastic, congratulations. Great photos as always.

Gaelyn said...

How wonderful that you have this chance to get close to the raptors. I worked with many as a volunteer in Bakersfield and Seattle. Sure was surprized how strong their beaks and talons are. Found out the hard way once. Plus considering they have hallow bones, they can get very heavy at the end of your glove when cruising around the public. Congrats! Hope to see more of this.
Great post.

Ebie said...

Arte is a pretty bird. I think you are bonding very well with her.

2sweetnsaxy said...

How exciting that must be!! I'm smiling for you. What an experience to be able to handle such an amazing bird. Wonderful shots too. :-)

W. Latane Barton said...

What an interesting place!!

Amanda Guthrie said...

Pavlov had a dog you have a ...... really big bird!Good luck in your new adventure!