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The Birds are Back in Town!

by Mindy Schwartz, ENC Outreach Coordinator

Harmonie Wooley didn’t always have an affinity for birds.  But four years ago, out of a desire to share a fun activity with her son, she signed the two of them up for falconry classes down in San Juan Capistrano.  From there she fell in love with birds of prey, and that’s where she heard about the OC Bird of Prey Center.  They were looking for volunteers, and she signed right up.  Three years later, she’s now a supervisor at OCBPC – overseeing the training of volunteers and raptor handling.  Luckily, the ENC had an opportunity to bring Harmonie on board as a naturalist, when she’s not working at OCBPC.  We are so happy to add Harmonie to our team and use her expertise and experience as a raptor handler in our new Raptorology Assembly program. 

What’s your favorite part of working with birds of prey?

I appreciate the raptors – their significance to the ecosystem, and the important role they have.  Working with them reminds me to be present, in order to keep them (and myself!) safe.  They are perceptive creatures and always keep me on my toes.  I enjoy educating people about them because not everyone realizes their value to the environment.

What’s the most gruesome, thankless job you have to do when you work with birds of prey?

Feeding birds of prey dead rodents and chicks seems gross to some people, but I’m used to it.  Something that’s not so fun is those days when you have to rotate gravel in the aviaries – the smell from the bird poop comes up and hits you – it’s intense!

Is there a bird you’d like to work with that you haven’t yet?

Turkey vultures!  They are very intelligent and often misunderstood.  I’d like to use them in programs so that people can understand the value of opportunistic scavengers – they are the garbage clean-up crew of nature.  Some people are fearful of them because of their appearance… but I think that they’re so ugly, that they’re actually kind of cute.

What are you looking forward to about our new and improved Raptorology Assembly program?

Spreading a message of stewardship to kids of all ages.  The ENC already does this in so many forms – field trips, scout programs, community programs, Traveling Naturalist programs – but this will be another great opportunity to appeal to a captive audience with native animals and get them truly inspired to take care of nature.  We take care of what we love, and we love what we know!

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