With the grueling emotional week I had last week, as some of you following me may have seen, I was keeping myself very busy, see here. As the days passed, my worst moments were in the dead of the night when all is quiet and still. I had hoped being on the go so much would have me collapse into a sleep coma for at least 6 hours a night, but that was not the case.
Friday morning, I'm in a groggy daze, and had one crap night with countless thoughts of Meadow, reliving her final breath. There were chores to be done and errands to run. I did not want to do anything but I forced myself to. Snow tires off the truck, a bit of shopping done in the meantime.
In the midst of things, my phone rings. It's Toronto Wildlife. They were seeking the assistance of a volunteer driver sooner than later in the west end of the city. They know my work schedule and most mornings I am good to go upon their shout out for help. I'll drive for them any chance I can, whether it be to pick up food, a sickly duck, an injured bird or Squirrel, you name it. I'm happy to help them and the wild creatures. It's good for me, my spirit, more so these days than ever before.
Today it was going to be exceptional. They asked me if I could take a Red-tailed Hawk to the north/west corner of Brampton and release him. Hells to the yes I could and would. Anything I see get their second chance at a wild life from tiny little Kinglets to a Hawk is awesome! I told them I would be there as soon as I could, probably within the hour, once the tires were done. And I was.
I met Andrew at the front, Stacy joining him, we talked about the bird, where it was to go, going over a map of the area and narrowing down a spot good for releasing him. He was found in a subdivision but releasing him to nearby green space would be better for the bird.
I was honored that they asked me if I would like to come to the back and see the bird, them catch/contain it instead of just waiting out front. I've done the tours of the back with the TWC open house and I knew where the Hawk was but this was even cooler. I just stood back and watched them.
Andrew working on catching the bird.
The birds all have ID bands, colored ones, for easier identification, and they fall off in no time... much like is done with the baby Peregrine Falcons during banding. So easy to spot some yellow or green tape instead of trying to get a band number. This bird had a blue band.
The bird was caught, checked over one last time, contained and away I went.
I was excited about this opportunity. I had never released a Hawk before, not that I am listing species, but this certainly was the biggest creature for me to set free. I was wishing Angie could have been with me. We went over the procedure earlier, before even going to get the bird. I talked about the release I joined them for of another Red-tailed Hawk back in December that someone had shot with a pellet gun. I remember the whole release well, I took photos throughout and blogged about it here. A good thing I did because this release was almost a play by play of the first one.
I get to the area for the release, took a few drives around, seeking out the best spot, away from the road and hopefully some sort of elevation too. I found one in way of a large corn field with a wood lot running along the side of it, and a marsh area just west of the woods. All this habitat and well enough off the road too. I pulled off the road, got the bird and my camera of course. I knew there'd be no release shots but if the bird hung around or perched in the vicinity, I would try for a few pics. I get to the top of a small hill, one last look about, positively a good spot for the release and I let the Hawk out. He burst out of the box and hopped to the ground. This was very much like the release last year. And the Hawk sat there, and sat there, and sat there some more. He looked at me, he looked around at his surroundings, looked to the sky, repeat. I had hoped my close presence, since he didn't go far from the box, would move him along soon but it didn't.
He continued sitting and just getting his bearings, observing his surroundings.
Now if I had not seen similar things with the previous RTHA release, I probably would have started freaking out after so many minutes of this. In reality, it was nearing 10 minutes, but in my head it was triple that!
Finally he took a few hops.
My hunkering down as I was, still by the box, not moving, was getting to my legs. Since the bird moved further from me, I stood up for a moment to stretch my legs. The bird reacted.
And moments later, took flight. He flew some distance, gaining height and landed in a tree.
I was so happy to see this. I did see him fly about in the enclosure at TWC, but with any releases I have done, I never leave the animal until it leaves me (I don't think anyone leaves them). From this point, nothing else can be done. I walk away, silently wish him a healthy long life and head for the nearest Tim Hortons celebrating with a glorious cup of coffee, saving the whiskey toast for after work.
Portrait shot thanks to my 500mm lens. I didn't take very many photos as I was too focused on him and what he was doing (pun intended).
Toronto Wildlife and The Owl Foundation rely heavily on volunteers, donations both financially and items from their wish lists. Perhaps you might consider stepping up in one way or another?