Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Eagle Release at Mason Neck State Park

My husband Fred and I heard that a rehabilitated eagle was to be released at Mason Neck State Park, so, being good retired folk with nothing better to do, we trotted on down.

The eagle, very ill, had been recovered in Kingstowne, near Springfield, VA and taken to the Wildlife Center of Virginia for rehabilitation. (Click on the link for the full story of the eagle and to learn more about the tremendous work the Wildlife Center does.)

When we arrived, the lot, normally deserted in the middle of the week during the fall, was full of cars. Unemployed (LOL!) birders from around the area had descended on Mason Neck State Park to see the show. There were also at least three TV crews covering the event. The best online coverage can be found at WUSA channel 9's website. (You can see my bright yellow jacket in one of the pictures!)

Ed Clark of the Wildlife Center was there to talk to the media and the birders and to release the bird. The Wildlife Center trains wildlife rehabilitators from around the world and recently treated its 45,000th animal since its inception in 1982. The eagle had been there for a month being treated.

A reporter asked Ed if the animals appear to be grateful for the help they're given. With a wry laugh, Ed said "No, and that's a good thing. They're wild and we want them to stay wild."

When Ed opened the rear hatch of his truck, it was quite apparent that he had a still very wild bird inside. The sheet-covered animal carrier was rocking from side to side with audible thumps coming from inside the carrier.

He donned his heavily padded leather gloves and carefully removed the eagle from the carrier. A Fairfax County, VA police officer involved in the initial rescue helped to remove the white bumpers protecting the wing joints. The eagle did not appear to be grateful...

Eagle at Mason Neck State Park

The wing bumpers removed, Ed prepares to release the eagle, who seems very eager to be free. "I'm going to hold the eagle as I answer a few questions, and then I'll warn you before I free the eagle. If all works well, she'll fly away. However, I should warn you, if you see an eruption of red fluid that looks like my blood, I'll be releasing her early." (Nervous laughter from crowd.) Note reaction of police officer to the bird's struggles.

One, Two, Three, Launch!

The eagle paparazzi part and Ed launches the eagle...

Let the Eagle Soar

The Eagle Soars! As Ed tosses the bird up, she (?) takes wing and flies up, to the left and out of sight! (Click here to listen to John Ashcroft sing "Let the Eagle Soar!" LOL!)