A bird that changed my life

On Nov. 14, 2005 a first year snowy owl came into the clinic at Bird TLC. I just happen to be there, but at that time I only did maintenance, the website and fundraising. Cindy Palmatier was there alone, so I helped her examine the snowy. We found it to have a fractured right wing which required an operation the next day. To Cindy's surprise, I asked if I could observe and take photos. She said "sure, but if you pass out, you're on the floor until we're done". I never passed out and I have photos of his operation from start to end.

Sometime during his recovery, his wing turned just a smidgen on the pin causing his wing to be just a degree off from where it should be. This wasn't discovered until it had healed completely. The snowy can fly, but has to use a lot of energy. He also can't hunt well because of this. After weeks of evaluation, it was determined that he was non-releasable. The repair couldn't be corrected, so he is to be evaluated for being an education bird.

Cindy started working with him and he picked up on things fairly well. She decided he would make a great addition to the education program. Approval was received from USF&W and the search was on for a caretaker.

Bird TLC is one of a few organizations that's allowed to have it's volunteers house the education birds at their homes. I submitted my request to the Education Committee along with a mew design. I was selected and the design went to USF&W for approval. The design was approved and I was told to have the mew built before the first snow. I figured that to be about 2 weeks.
I spent every free minute during the time of year when the daylight hours got shorter and shorter. I had been a mechanic most of my adult life, so working with would wasn't the easiest thing for me to attempt. But after three and a half days, it was done. Now it was still up to USF&W to approve. After a few minor changes, it was approved.

Now I get to work with him at Cindy's house, she was my mentor. I was nervous as all get out, but I survived. After a week or so, Ghost the snowy owl came to his new home. After months of training, I got checked off on presenting Ghost and on March 29, 2007 I did my first presentation.
Since then Ghost has done around 50 to 60 presentations a year all over Alaska. Also during that time he's got whiter and whiter (and so has what's left of my hair). We've seen countless people from all corners of the world at his presentations. He has had two other presenters during this time, Beki and Erin. Erin still presents and Beki will return to presenting after she gets her degree.

A lot of things have changed around Ghost and me. Cindy is no longer the Director of Avian Care, but she's still an awesome presenter. I'm back to being single again. I present a great horned owl and a bald eagle in addition to Ghost. I'm very active with Bird TLC. It has a lot of awesome volunteers, a great new staff and they all try to fulfil TLC's mission to their best abilities.
I've had a lot of support from friends and other volunteers. Even volunteers from other organizations and in other states. It's been an awesome 6 years and I consider myself one lucky fellow. Thanks to everyone that's helped along the way, but most of all, Thanks Ghost!

There's a lot of links in this story, but there are a lot more post about Ghost and me on the Bird TLC blog.
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Martha Z said…
What a beautiful bird, and what great work Bird TLC does rehabilitating birds and teaching.
I enjoyed perusing your blog, seeing images of your beautiful state.
Nadege, said…
A beautiful bird and wonderful photos and story.
Britt said…
You and Ghost have come a long way! I remember how nervous you were with him at first, but quickly you became a natural at it and a great presenter! :)
Shanna said…
What an adventure. A handsome bird and worthy project.
Jo said…
What a great post! And pictures. :)
Elisabeth said…
Nice photos and a very interesting story. Thank you!
Owlman said…
Incredible bird! Keep up the great work educating the public on our magnificent wild treasures.
I've attended several bird presentations with my kids. You showed what's going on 'behind the curtain'. Interesting and dramatic. Thank you for the story. You made a difference in that bird's life and it looks like it made a difference in yours. All the best to both of you!
Kimberly said…
This is a beautiful story! And a gorgeous bird! I'm a little late visiting due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but thank you for linking up with Wild & Wonderful Wednesday!
Thanks everyone for the kind comments.Ghost and I have come a long way and I look forward to what lays ahead.
Donna said…
What a great story. The photo of you holding Ghost just radiates happiness - from both of you!
Gouldiae said…
G'day Dave,
Lovely story. Puts a few things in perspective for me. Great looking bird, not unusual that you fell for it. I worked in an RSPCA animal shelter for some time and I'm wondering if birds are like dogs and never seem to forget those that have helped them?
Regarding your snow - you could send some across to Switzerland at present!
Clare said…
Incredible post about a great duo. You've done well my friend. I look forward to meeting ghost and his presenter some day
Cat said…
what a wonderful story. and ghost is just so beautiful!
Kim, USA said…
Oh my gush who could not resist that beauty. And the innocent look is so heart warming.

Mackinac Island