August 4 – Mountsberg Raptor Centre

Look what I see – the brand-new, shiny Occam’s Corner, with an inaugural post by Stephen. Well done Occam’s Crew and colleagues at the Guardian for making this happen.

Right, that’s that out of the way. Now, on to a photograph of an owl.

Male Snowy Owl
Either Harry, or Ron – I don’t know which, and he wasn’t saying.

Once in a while, and probably not frequently enough, I have the opportunity to give myself a good, hard, metaphorical kick for not getting around to something sooner. This past weekend offered up a good example, when I finally took the kids to visit the Mountsberg Raptor Centre. Not even an hour away from home, it’s in a picturesque bit of Halton Region near the Niagara Escarpment, itself famous for being the geographical feature that puts the falls in Niagara Falls. Mountsberg is so close to home that I’m embarrassed I’ve never been there, despite first learning about it a couple of years ago from my Flickr acquaintance Brian.

One wet owl.
Octavius, a human-imprinted female Great Horned Owl. She’s a bit wet after a nice spray bath on a hot day.

The Raptor Centre is located on the grounds of a sprawling conservation area, full of woods, wetlands and a few family-friendly sites including a hobby farm and a barn converted to a play area. But the main attraction is the birds – twenty-eight of them, spanning fifteen species. Many have been rehabilitated from injury, some placed after being seized from illegal keepers, and others orphaned. None can be released into the wild with a reasonable hope of survival, so in Mountsberg they live, occasionally engaging in education and outreach activities, or falling prey to passing scientist-come-photographers.

Juvenile Bald Eagle
A juvenile Bald Eagle, whose name I don’t know, putting on its best “I’m going to slash your face” face.

Although you could argue that perhaps we should just leave well enough alone, rather than expending time and effort rehabilitating and caring for injured birds, I for one am very glad that Mounstberg and places like it exist. I certainly learned plenty about these birds that I didn’t know:  that the Barn Owl is likely extirpated in Ontario, although plentiful elsewhere in the world; that the Gyrfalcon is the largest falcon species, and comes in several different colour varieties; and that the American Kestrel usually only lives a few years in the wild, but is happy to go on ticking for at least sixteen in captivity. I also discovered that almost any bird of prey looks fierce if you point a camera at it, even if it’s happily enjoying a spray bath, or just about to gobble up a delicious snack of raw chicken. And it’s clear that the staff are highly trained, dedicated, and really love the birds they care for and work with.

Peregrine Falcon
One of the Peregrine Falcons. Much easier to photograph when sitting still, than when dive-bombing a pigeon at 300 kilometres per hour.

So I’m marking this day trip down as a success, and hoping I can haul my lazy self to some other local attractions before the summer’s over.

More photographs in the Mountsberg Raptor Centre set, over on Flickr.

About Richard Wintle

I am Canadian by heritage, and a molecular biologist and human geneticist by training. My day job is Assistant Director of a large genome centre, where I do various things along the lines of "keeping the wheels on". In my spare time, I tend to run around with a camera, often chasing horses, race cars, musicians, and occasionally, wildlife.
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3 Responses to August 4 – Mountsberg Raptor Centre

  1. rpg says:

    Lovely birds, Winty. Great stuff.

  2. Alejandro says:

    Beautiful photos of raptors. Well-done.

  3. Pingback: More local history – the lime kiln | Adventures in Wonderland

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