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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Winter Raptor Program

Region 5, February 4, 2013
Staff member Ken Witkowski releasing a Red-tailed Hawk
Staff member Ken Witkowski releasing a Red-tailed Hawk - Photo Credit: n/a
Field trip participants
Field trip participants - Photo Credit: n/a
Giselle Smisko with a Red-tailed Hawk and a captive audience
Giselle Smisko with a Red-tailed Hawk and a captive audience - Photo Credit: n/a

The annual Winter Raptor Program is cosponsored by Wallkill River National Refuge and our friends group. It was originally scheduled for the Christmas/New Years school break which is very convenient for families but had to be rescheduled due to a snowstorm. An anticipated drop off in attendance did not occur as over 150 people attended which was a significant increase from the 100+ attendees the previous year.

The first segment of the program is an indoor presentation by Giselle Smisko who is the Director of the Avian Wildlife Center and Friends Group board member. Giselle is a New Jersey state and federally licensed wild bird rehabilitator who uses injured birds that cannot be released back to the wild for this type of educational program. Giselle captivated an audience of adults and children with a very informative and entertaining presentation describing the life cycle and history of each bird that was presented. An Eastern Screech Owl, Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, American Kestrel and a Red-tailed Hawk were the live birds that were presented. On this day, Giselle also had an injured immature Red-tailed Hawk that was ready to be released and this was done to everyone's enjoyment at the end of the indoor presentation.

After this, refuge staff member Ken Witkowski led a field trip to our Liberty Loop Trail to view some of these raptors in their natural habitat. About 50 people joined us for this portion of the program and were treated to a flyby of an adult Bald Eagle as we arrived at the parking area. We also had excellent looks at Northern Harriers and Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks which are common overwintering birds here.

Contact Info: Ken Witkowski, 973-702-7266 ext. 14, kenneth_witkowski@fws.gov