November 8, 2010
Yes. We did it. In the first snowstorm of the season, I drove Mitch from his USDA quarantine in Newburgh to Berkshire Bird Paradise, outside of Troy, NY. Mitch was agitated when we loaded him into the rented SUV at Newburgh (I usually drive a Civic, but they don't fit eagle kennels), but he got a good St. Francis blessing from Father Macken, which we needed badly given the road conditions. There was press all around, but I had a moment to just look at this eagle I'd worked so hard for. And here's the thing about raptors. They don't look at you. They look into you. Through you. Of course, though intellectually I know Mitch is wondering if I have food, or am food, the impression is that he's reading my soul, considering what he reads. In this case, the result was, "Oh. It's you. And will you get me where I need to go?"
I certainly hope so, as I drive past half a dozen cars off the road, and come to halt for a jacknifed trailer tractor.
Let me mention something here. If you haven't read Feathers of Hope (and you should!) you don't know that every bird rescue I've ever attempted ended badly. My karma is riding with me as I make my way through icy rain, then downright sleet, then snow, on my way to bring this bird home. All along the way I have visions of accidents, of Mitch breaking his neck because I can't brake properly, of anything that can go wrong doing so. I don't think my knuckles have ever been this white.
But in the back of the SUV Mitch is calm. Occasionally I hear him moving about, but only to adjust his perch as we round corners. And we do make it.
By the time we pulled into Berkshire Bird Paradise, a sort of hysteria set in - 137 days, and two hard hours in a snowstorm, but we're here, where it's safe, with Pete Dubacher, who knows everything there is to know about taking care of birds. I feel like those people who go to Cesar Milan with their dogs. I have made it to the bird whisperer. This bird is home.
Alright, I'll admit it. I cried. The Pretenders are singing Hymn to Her on my IPod, and I can finally say I accomplished this task, did right by the young men who saved this bird, and for the first time in my life, saw a rescue to completion. This, I think, is a big karma shift. This, I know, is good.
When we bring Mitch into his new home, Pete has him set up in an aviary with Helga, an older, placid, blind eagle. He says that raptors feel more comfortable with others like them around, and who can blame them? I mean, how would you feel if you'd lived in a world of eagles, and suddenly saw a human. Pretty happy, I'd bet.
But Mitch immediately turns his back on Helga, and goes to the back of the aviary, beats his wings against the netting there. "Oh," Pete says, "I think he wants to be with Eddie."
Eddie is an eagle in the area beyond the netting. He's from Buffalo NY, and he was shot there by someone who wanted to sell his feathers. Mitch apparently feels sympatico with him. He states a clear preference and Pete responds, opening the area to him. Right away, Mitch hops in, and cozies up to Eddie. They are instant Best Friends.
And here's the thing. We don't imagine that birds have a preference in such things. We don't think of them as aware enough, conscious enough, to make such choices. And we're wrong. They do. Mitch settles his feathers, and he and Eddie perch together as if they've known each other forever.
What a bird. What a day. What a joyous and strange life.
Thanks to all who followed this story, and please do continue to support Mitch by either buying Feathers of Hope (a portion of proceeds go back to the sanctuary, and you can share the story with others) or by donating to Berkshire Bird Paradise, and buying Mitch a frozen rat or two.