Hello! My name is Grace Shumway, and I’m the intern this summer for the Draper Museum Raptor Experience. I’ll be writing these blog posts as a weekly update of what I’m doing throughout the course of my internship this summer. Hopefully you’ll find these updates interesting and entertaining, and maybe you’ll get a fun insight into the shenanigans that come with working with birds of prey!
A Bird Nerd is Born
This week was full of learning experiences for me. First, I got to handle Hayabusa the peregrine falcon. She’s actually the reason I am where I’m at today with my raptor experiences. Before I talk about the rest of my week, I’ll tell you my bird-nerd origin story: When I was eleven, I was obsessed with peregrine falcons (disclaimer: I still am to this day!). I attended a Draper Museum Raptor Experience program that featured Hayabusa, and I was just awe-struck by her. After all, the fastest animal in the world was only perched mere feet away from me! The volunteers kindly answered my questions about Haya after the program, and even let me get a picture next to her. They also explained to me what falconry was, which blew my mind. 11-year-old-me decided right then that that’s what I wanted to do, so I pursued my dream by emailing the Wyoming Game and Fish Department about how I could get started. Long story short, I found a mentor, passed the falconry test, and am working to get experience with birds of prey.
Establishing a Routine
Now I’m here, as an 18-year-old biology major, working to get a zoology degree, and I can only imagine what my reaction would be if I told myself in 2015 that I’m working with Hayabusa and other amazing raptors now. Another cool bird I got to handle early in the week was Remington, our Northern saw-whet owl. He is so tiny!! I love being able to hold all sorts of raptors and care for them. Some people may think one downside of working with animals is that you have to clean up after them. Although this may be true to some degree, I will say that one of my favorite parts of my job is collecting the birds’ scraps in the morning. I get to say good morning to each of the twelve birds in their mews (enclosures) and see what surprises they have left me to find. These surprises could be a regurgitated pellet of indigestible material, food scraps from the previous evening, or molted feathers, but every morning is different. I love interacting with each of the birds and just talking to them while I clean up their areas.
Sharing a Passion
This week, I also had the opportunity to give my first raptor talk to an audience. Melissa and Brandon knew exactly which bird would be the best candidate for me to speak about, of course, Hayabusa! I will admit, I did get pretty nervous, but Melissa gave me a good introduction and let the audience know it was my first time, so they were very polite and gave me good applause. I gave a lot of facts about peregrine falcons and emphasized especially their hunting dives. Of course, Hayabusa did fantastic throughout the program. The audience “ooed” and “awed” when they learned about a peregrine’s diving speed of over 242 mph. I could tell they were looking at Haya through a new lens of curiosity. I think that’s what raptor programs are about: inspiring others to get involved with nature to learn new, amazing things. Then, people will want to conserve wildlife, as Steve Irwin has said, “Share my wildlife with me. Because humans want to save things that they love”.
So Much Still To Come
After I had mentally run out of facts to spill, Melissa filled in any information I hadn’t touched on. It felt good to have flexibility for my first program, and I look forward to becoming better at the talking part. This internship will stretch my introvertive tendencies and allow me to get comfortable talking to more people, all while showing them how cool raptors really are. Maybe I’ll inspire someone to get into falconry too or conserve wildlife. It could be anyone, and any bird. Perhaps a middle schooler sitting in the front row at a program will fall in love with Suli, our turkey vulture. Or Teasdale, our great-horned owl. There are tons of opportunities waiting for me this summer, and I’m excited that I can share scraps (not half-eaten mice) of what I learn and experience in these blog posts. Thank you for reading, now it’s time for me to take care of some birds!