Sadly, again the Fox has been stood up and there was no Fox Hole interview this weekend. Irritating as that may be it is a subject for another day and one for which I just do not have the energy today. So for your pleasure I have decided to share yet another of my weekend adventures with my friend who shall forever more be known as Tea.
I’ve always enjoyed nature, perhaps because I grew up surrounded by it in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains here in Missouri. So, when my close friend Tea wanted to do some outdoor trips (among others) it made her happy to know that I was willing to join her. Silly woman knows I grew up in the country so I don’t know why it surprised her, but it was well worth seeing the smile on her face when I said sure–why the hell not.
Memorial Day weekend we headed off at 9 am to Lone Elk Park, a wildlife management area, includes hiking trails, picnic areas and the wonderful World Bird Sanctuary. The bird sanctuary takes in wounded birds and nurses them back to health and gives them a home if they’re unable to be released back into the wild due to their injuries.
Located in Valley Park 30 minutes outside St. Louis and nestled in the hills you can walk through the sanctuary and see some of the most beautiful winged creatures that nature has to offer. It was sunny and warm, low humidity, basically the best day for a walk in the fresh country air. Of course, I brought my camera because Goddess forbid Tea actually remember her camera. Hey, never said my friends weren’t senile. 😉
Anyway back to the adventure. Just past the Visitor’s Center you find yourself on a paved path surrounded on both sides by large cages, some roofless, that act as homes for the numerous birds that call the sanctuary home whether temporary or permanent. Although, it saddens me to see these beautiful creatures caged at least in this case the homes that are created for the residents give them space to spread their wings as they sometimes heal from the follies of mankind.
One of the species that the sanctuary has helped is the American Bald Eagle. Once on the
Federal Endangered Species List, places like The World Bird Sanctuary helped revitalize the species. On June 28, 2007 the American Bald Eagle was taken off the Federal list, but this wasn’t the end of protecting these magnificent birds. Standing next to that cage, being that close to the bird that came to represent everything proud, beautiful, and strong about the country that I call home gave me a feeling I can’t quite explain. Awe is one word, but it still doesn’t come close to describing it completely.
There are at this time six bald eagles in the loving hands of the sanctuary; Liberty, Myakka, Dutch, Lewis, Patriot, and McGuire. I have a special affinity for McGuire because my mother’s maiden name was McGuire. His handlers evaluated McGuire once he was nursed back to health and determined that he was unreleasable. The two reasons this decision was made was due to his damaged eyesight and that he’d imprinted on humans during the extensive medical treatment he required.
McGuire is only one of the many stories that exist among the residents of the sanctuary and each of those stories are worth your attention.
As we continued on along the path we were greeted not just by McGuire and his kin, but other birds that we all know and some that we need to discover. A number of different species of owls call this beautiful and peaceful place home. Among them are some familiar and fantastical faces that I recalled from my childhood–the Great-Horned and the common Barn Owl. These birds were both in the area I grew up in and their voices both unique to them and often bring about the images of primeval forests and chilly autumn nights.
Unfortunately, the owls were not having any of my tourista crap. 😀 Being nocturnal creatures by nature they tried their damnedest to hide in the furthest corners of their cages away from the annoying Fox with the digital camera. Of course, they’d never met a stubborn Irish Fox like me and despite their best attempts I still managed to get some shots of my two fave owls.
To the right is a Great Horned also known by the folks where I grew up as the Hoot Owl due to its muffled, resonant, six-noted hoot. You see one of these girls Halloween comes to mind especially when they take flight with that 4.5-5 foot wing span in the light of the waning moon. Although, they are the most common choice for a Halloween mascot from their species the one that has the spookiest reputation is the Barn Owl.
One of the greatest things about growing up in the foothills of the Ozarks are the tales you hear as a child and often the alternative names the old hill folk give various animals and plants. The Barn Owl is a haunting creature with a bleached white face and bone-chilling, hissing scream. Because of these two aspects many of the older folks referred to this species of owls as Ghost Owls. To see one of them in flight against the darkness and their scream echoing through the fields and trees can make a person’s blood run cold.
As a child, our next door neighbor, a hog farmer, had a resident Barn Owl that sometimes we would catch a glimpse of or would hear as it took flight from his barn’s loft. A smear of white against the shadows and its voice was enough to have us kids ducking into the house and hiding under our beds. A kid’s imagination coupled with tales from grandfathers or
grandmothers can make for some powerful fear. When I grew older though I realized that there was nothing supernatural about these beautiful creatures and then I fell in love.
As you can see from the picture they are exquisitely unique with those heart-shaped ghostly white faces, down turned beaks, and nearly invisible eyes. I dare anyone reading this to not to take a look at that face and not fall in love with its haunting beauty.
Perhaps, I’ll write a story about a shape-shifter who shifts into an owl. Hmmm…damn it…just what I needed another plot bunny nipping at my ear. 😛
Back to my subject though. Walking through this place and seeing these creatures up close, things I could never get a close look at other wise created a sense of awe and peace in me. There is nothing more beautiful than nature in her rawest form and nothing more sad than to think someone could harm a feather on any of them.
Thank the Goddess for the people who help like those at the sanctuary and those who help support their efforts.
If you would like to learn more about The World Bird Sanctuary and how you can adopt one of their permanent residents check out the link below: