When I last left you I had just spent an amazing day at Natural Encounters, Inc. (NEI). We had been fortunate enough to see free flights of some amazing birds and I managed to snap some pretty cool shots—like this one of the foot of Luigi, the harpy eagle.
It was an exciting day filled with new friends, new ideas, new sunburns (like an idiot I left my sunblock in the hotel room), and amazing new birds. It was exhausting! The bus ride out to “the farm” that morning had been quite enlightening as I was lucky enough to sit next to Jennifer, a Keeper/Naturalist/Educator at the National Eagle Center in Minnesota, and behind Susan, newly hired Keeper at the Aquarium of the Pacific in California. We talked about all kinds of stuff from training rats and chickens to the birds we work with and more. On the way home, however, we were tired and much more quiet (which Jennifer and Susan probably appreciated as I was over my shyness with them by now).
After a day and a half of paper presentations on everything from “What makes an expert an expert?” to “Meeting the challenge of excessive preening behavior in a barn owl” we took a trip to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. I LOVE going to zoos! It’s an even bigger treat when they have a bird show, like they do at Lowry Park Zoo. The bird show was one of the last events of the day so we were able to enjoy much of the zoo on our own.
Finally it was time for the bird show! Now, I’m not trying to be negative, but I will say that most “bird shows” in the United States are basically the same and although Lowry Park had a GREAT bird show, it was very similar to the shows you will find at most zoos and “parks” in the United States. What was cool, though, was that they had more raptors than most “regular” bird shows.
As we got a final back-stage tour of the bird show area I got to check a bird off my life list. Okay, I’m not “really” into birding, but I do love when I get to see a new raptor in the wild and I’m doing my best to learn to identify and better appreciate non-raptors. Anyway, as we were touring I heard a hawk scream overhead and looked up to see a red-shouldered hawk flying above us. As I said earlier, I hadn’t seen one up close before, and honestly, I had NEVER seen one so this was a real treat for me.
The conference ended with a few more presentations and a banquet where awards were given for the organizations photo contest, the best paper presentation, best behavior trained that year, and so on. I left with my head spinning with lots of ideas on papers I might be able to present, behaviors I can try for improving our birds lives, and SO much more. To say the least it was inspiring and I hope that each of you get the opportunity to have an experience like this at some point!