In 2012 I took the Master Naturalist course offered by Charleston County Parks and Recreation. As part of the curriculum, we spent a day at the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw. I immediately knew I wanted to volunteer with this incredible organization, but doing what, I had no idea.
It just so happened that the following week the Center was offering a training workshop for injured bird transporters. I signed up, learned the job, and right away received my first call – to pick up an abandoned juvenile hawk. It was treated, cared for until it grew up, and released. I was hooked!
Each year the avian medical clinic at the Center for Birds of Prey receives about 600 sick, injured or abandoned raptors, as well as vultures and shorebirds for treatment. Without volunteers to bring these birds to the clinic, the vast majority would die in the wild.
Some issues appear seasonally. In the spring owlets can fall from their nests and need to be re-nested. In early fall some juvenile pelicans haven’t mastered the art of fishing for themselves and are spotted on a beach unable to fly in their weakened state. And of course, there are birds that need assistance at any time. I can tell you, there’s no bigger thrill than capturing an owl, hawk, pelican, great blue heron, and even an eagle, and then getting them to the Center for help.
One of my most rewarding calls came from a construction worker on Kiawah. A tiny, baby screech owl had fallen from its nest, high up a tree. With the help of Kiawah naturalist Liz King and a donated cherry picker, the baby was placed back in the nest. Success! Well, the next morning I got another call – the baby was back on the ground, seemingly uninjured. This time, Debbie Mauney, the clinic’s medical director, advised me to bring the owlet in. For some reason, Mom was pushing the little guy out of the nest. The owlet was put in an enclosure at the Center, complete with foster parents and their offspring who helped it recuperate and grow. A few weeks later, the owlet was ready to be released, and I brought it home to Kiawah. A crowd of delighted onlookers cheered when it flew out of its carrier and back into nature at Night Heron Park.
The job can be far less dramatic yet just as important. Often someone else has already captured a weakened bird in Beaufort or Hilton Head. My job is simply being available to act as part of a tag team with another transporter, who passes off the bird to me in Ravenel. I then drive it the rest of the way to Awendaw.
Not all calls have a happy ending. Despite your best efforts, some birds don’t make it but your reward is knowing that you’ve given the bird every chance to survive without suffering.
Believe it or not, I am the only volunteer transporter for this entire area, which includes Johns, Seabrook, Kiawah, Wadmalaw, and Edisto islands. I could sure use some help!
No, you don’t have to be a Master Naturalist to be an injured bird transporter. You just have to love birds and be willing to donate a few hours of your time and miles on your car when a bird needs your help. If you live at Seabrook only part of the year, consider volunteering when you’re here. I can tell you, there’s nothing like the up-close and personal experience you get when rescuing a bird. The photos will attest to that.
The Center for Birds of Prey will be holding a training session for new injured bird transporters this spring. Might I see you there?
If this sounds like something you’re interested in, I’d be happy to discuss it further with you. You can reach me at 843-768-2346 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by – Lori Porwoll