It was a soggy morning last Saturday, July 9th at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray. But that didn’t prevent families and tourists from “experiencing the wonder of being a few feet away from a magnificent bird of prey.” The nonprofit, wildlife rehabilitation and raptor educational program, Wind Over Wings of Dresden, was available to provide awareness and understanding surrounding raptors as well as the impact humans have on the environment. Children and adults, alike, were fascinated by the birds of prey that included a great horned and a saw whet owl as well as a red tailed hawk and a kestrel. Each bird had its own story and a life lesson to share with its human counterparts.
First, there was Queen Solomon, the great horned owl. The four-pound raptor joined Wind Over Wings twenty years ago. Her life story began by the misfortune of falling out of her nest. Instead of being placed back into the nest, as would have been the appropriate thing to do, a human “saved” Queen Solomon by taking her into her home and caring for her for over eight weeks. By the time she made it to Wind Over Wings, Queen Solomon’s ability to live in the wild on her own had vanished. Why? Because she did not get to spend those first crucial moments with her mother who would have taught her how to eat and live in the wild. She was “imprinted” by her human caretaker, which took away her ability to feed and protect herself. As a result of her story, Queen Solomon had a lesson to share. With the assistance of Wind Over Wings volunteer, Elaine Abel, Queen Solomon shared the message: “If you see a baby bird who has fallen out of its nest, by all means put it back! If you can’t reach the nest, simply get a small hanging flower basket, put the baby bird inside, and hang it on a branch near the area where you found the bird. The mother will always come back for her young ones. The old and popular adage that you should never touch a baby bird because the mother will ignore it and let it die is completely false.”
Pippin, the Saw Whet Owl, had a thing or two to share as well. She joined Wind Over Wings four years ago after she flew into a barn window. Unable to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild, Pippin now has the job of reminding humans that they can make a difference for a healthy environment. Pippin and her Wind Over Wings volunteer, Sue Barker, remind us that everything we use and then discard into the environment can and does have detrimental effects on, not only birds of prey, but to other wild life as well. Pippin asks that the use of plastic in all forms be eliminated. Not only is oil required to make plastic, but it takes a long time to disintegrate, about 600 years or more. Most plastic ends up in landfills and the ocean, where it often kills sea life. Pippin states there are alternatives to plastic. Wind Over Wings offers one of those alternatives to a plastic bag. For a donation of $5, you can receive two beautiful nylon bags that folds into themselves, transforming into a strawberry. Their compact form allows it to be stored in a vehicle for that spur of the moment trip to the grocery store.
Other birds who joined the event on Saturday included Aiden, the America Kestrel (the smallest of the Hawk family) as well as Atlanta, the Red Tailed Hawk. They too had their own powerful stories and life lessons.
The greatest story and most profound life lesson was told by Hope Douglas, founder of Winds Over Wings. She shared the story of Sky, a golden eagle who came to Wind Over Winds reluctantly. (Was not present on Saturday.) For various reasons, he was unable to be released back into the wild. As a result, Sky was an unhappy bird. Quite literally, an angry bird. He wanted to fly and be free. He wanted to be wild as he was meant to be. Living in captivity depressed him. Life, it seemed to Sky, was unfair. Hope decided to let him be angry, to be unhappy. But in doing so, she read to him every night with the chance that it would ease his pain. Finally, and for reasons unknown, Sky decided to no longer live in anger at the misfortune bestowed upon him. Now, when he and Hope go out into the community to share with others about proper environmental stewardship, he sings to his audience. Somehow, Sky decided that life was worth living. Despite the fact that he can no longer live in the way he was born to live, he decided to be happy and sing anyway. Sky’s message? Life doesn’t always go as planned, but we can choose to be happy despite the disappointment we face.
For more information, to make a donation to, or to bring Wind Over Wings into your educational programming, visit, www.windoverwings.com or call Hope Douglas at 207-809-9168.