Recently Darke County Parks’ naturalist and volunteer coordinator, Kathi McQueen, travelled to the World Bird Sanctuary for a workshop learning about raptors or birds of prey. The purpose of the trip was to learn more about the care and use of Darke County Parks Great Horned Owl, Greta, as an education bird and preparing for the possibility of the parks obtaining other birds as well.
During the four day workshop, she learned more than she thought possible, commenting, “I knew that I knew very little about birds, but I didn’t understand just how little I knew.” She had opportunities to not only tour the facility which includes an in-house bird hospital, educational birds on display, and regularly scheduled programs, all on over 200 acres, but she also handled the birds herself.
The most exciting thing she recalls was handling and flying the critically endangered Hooded Vulture and seeing over 20 Bald Eagles at once housed at the sanctuary. Among many other things, Kathi learned to check birds for parasites, make her own equipment, trim beaks and talons, determine the cause of death, and train birds using reward systems.
Upon returning to Darke County, Kathi gave a presentation to volunteers and staff about what she learned and how the park district will apply it. One step will be the construction of a new mew or bird enclosure that will allow the public to view the educational birds during open hours at the Nature Center as well has adding more space for additional birds. Kathi plans to include more training for volunteers so they can work with the birds in order to facilitate the growing audience and school groups.
Kathi McQueen constantly strives to grow and improve the volunteer program, but she also manages animal ambassador care for Darke County Parks. During the presentation about her trip she said, “Everyone has things that touch their heart, and for me that is animals. Even though I love being the volunteer coordinator, Darke County Parks has allowed me to express that passion, and I’m very grateful.”
For more information about Darke County Parks animal ambassadors, volunteering, or scheduled programs, please contact the Nature Center at (937) 548-0165, or visit them online on Facebook, Instagram, or their website www.darkecountyparks.org.
Photo Caption: DCP naturalist Kathi McQueen with World Bird Sanctuary Site Manager Daniel Cone and Clark the Bald Eagle.