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Winter Raptors at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge
Northeast Region, December 30, 2017
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Standing Room only crowd
Standing Room only crowd - Photo Credit: USFWS - Ken Witkowski
Giselle Smisko with an American Kestrel
Giselle Smisko with an American Kestrel - Photo Credit: USFWS - Ken Witkowski
Giselle Smisko with A Great Horned Owl
Giselle Smisko with A Great Horned Owl - Photo Credit: USFWS - Ken Witkowski
Field Trip participants observing raptors at Liberty Loop
Field Trip participants observing raptors at Liberty Loop - Photo Credit: USFWS - Ken Witkowski

Saturday, December 30 was the date of our annual Winter Raptor Program at Wallkill River. This is always one of the most popular events of the year and this year was no exception as over 130 people joined us for an indoor presentation with live raptors and afterwards for a field trip to view some of these birds in the wild. Giselle Smisko, the Director of the Avian Wildlife Center and the Program Chair of our Friends group, did her usual excellent educational program with the help of a number of injured raptors that cannot be released back to the wild because their injuries or conditions will not allow them to survive. The stars of the show were an American kestrel, an Eastern screech owl, a long-eared owl, a great horned owl, a Northern goshawk and Trooper the red-tailed hawk. With each individual, Giselle relates some facts about the circumstances under which the birds came to the rehab center as well as the natural history of the species. In some cases, these birds are used to raise young birds so that they will not be imprinted on humans and thus can be released back to the wild once their injuries are healed. A very engaged crowd of adults and children enthusiastically participated asking many questions and taking advantage of the opportunity to photograph these birds close up.
After the indoor presentation, refuge Biological Science Technician Ken Witkowski led a group of more than 30 people who braved the bitter cold to join us on a field trip to our Liberty Loop observation area to see if we could observe some of these birds in the wild. Over the next hour, we saw a couple of red-tailed hawks, one rough-legged hawk, six Northern harriers and at least three short-eared owls. Not a bad way to end the year.


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