Raptor program at library educates and entertains

By Kitty LeShay - ReminderNews
Willington - posted Fri., Jul. 26, 2013
Julie Collier of Wingmasters gives information about barn owls. Photos by Kitty LeShay.
Julie Collier of Wingmasters gives information about barn owls. Photos by Kitty LeShay.

Julie Collier, of Wingmasters, recently entertained a room full of children and adults with a program that elicited laughter and lots of “ooh”s and “ahh”s. The July 23 event at the Willington Public Library was filled with interesting and valuable information presented in a multi-faceted way. Collier displayed her sketches and her partner Jim Parks’ photo close-ups of birds of prey, but the real highlights were the different live birds she presented to the crowd.

Birds of prey – or “raptors” - have three characteristics in common, Collier said, but each is very different as well. With humor at every turn, Collier informed and engaged her audience about the animals’ similarities and differences.

Charts displayed the common characteristics of gripping toes, binocular vision and superb flying ability. “An eagle’s talon is longer and sharper than a tiger’s claw,” Collier said, while showing both as an example. “The Peregrine falcon can travel fly over 200 miles an hour. That’s faster than a cheetah,” she said. An American kestrel, the smallest falcon in North America, was in Collier’s entourage. The red-tailed hawk, another bird who visited, has a common presence in the North America as well. “If you look in the trees by the side of the road, you will see them standing up straight, looking for movement along the road,” she said.

Colllier’s favorite raptor is Lakota, a golden eagle that is 35 years of age. “She is my smartest bird,” she said, as Lakota responded to commands and sat on Collier’s heavily gloved arm flapping her great wings.

Wingmasters has 20 program birds. These are birds that have not been able to be rehabilitated and released, which is a rehabilitator’s greatest joy.

Three owls - a saw-whet, a screech owl and a barn owl - were also part of the program.

“I liked how the barn owl did the disco,” Annabelle said about one owl’s dance.

Roberta Passardi, the library director, could not have been more pleased with Collier’s presentation. “She does a wonderful, fantastic show. She is funny, informative and obviously loves her birds and likes to share them,” Passardi said.  Passardi, who will be retiring as director after 33 years, will definitely come back with her grandchildren to future programs, she said.

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