Back Volunteering for His Second Year

Caring for God's Birds Delights Andrew

by Dale Fisher

Every Saturday morning, January through the en of February, Andrew gets up before dawn and drives for 30 minutes, heading east from his Escondido home to the town of Ramona (in Eastern San Diego County). There, he volunteers in a grasslands and bird conservation effort called Hawk Watch.
To get their Saturdays started, he and a few other volunteer ornithologists spend their first three hours catching hawks. They bring the hawks to the Wildlife Research Institute (WRI) where public talks about preserving wildlife are presented from 9 until 11 a.m. Parts of each presentation are divided between grassland conservation and raptors, which includes showing the hawks and banding them (as shown in the photos below).
The day I accompanied Andrew and his fellow volunteer trappers, they had caught two kestrels, a pair of red-shouldered hawks, a few red-tailed hawks, and a cooper's hawk. Each can be seen in the accompanying photos.
Before hawks and other raptors can be displayed, they must be caught. To do this effectively, trained volunteers drive along Ramona back roads. When they spot a hawk, they stop the car. A volunteer gently places a special trap by the side of the road — a trap that attracts and ensnares raptors without harming them. The car then drives on as the driver looks at the rear-view mirror intently. Usually within a few minutes, a hawk will be seen swooping down, attempting to catch a caged pair of rats (shown below). Its talons become caught in the trap's monofilament line, strung in loops on the outside of the trap's chicken-wire case. As the car returns, a trained volunteer knowingly grabs the hawk's feet, barehanded, and untangles the bird as he holds its legs. The hawk is carefully placed in a tube (also shown below) for a safe and comfortable ride to the research center. All of this is done under specific permits from the California Department of Fish and Game.
During my visit in February, Dave Bitner, the head of the Hawk Watch program, gave the talk and conducted a leg-banding demonstration with Andrew's assistance. At the end of the live presentation, Dave gave his usual invitation to the people to go on a walk with him to see some nearby burrowing owls. WRI installed artificial burrowing owl burrows to encourage owls to stay in the grasslands and breed. Each year, a few pairs of burrowing owls successfully breed and produce offspring in the grasslands.
Andrew remained at the research center, as he usually does on Saturdays, to answer questions and allow individuals to take close-up photographs of birds he holds for them. Participating at WRI for the past two years, Andrew enjoys this volunteer work very much. He loves relating to birds.

Click here to see action photos of Andrew at WRI last March.

Click each thumbnail image to enlarge it, read its caption, and shrink it.
• Start in the upper-left corner, moving across to the right.

The Wildlife Research Institute entrance signThe WRI sign welcomes people who explore the Hawk Watch
bird conservation program, any Saturday morning,
January through the end of February.
    A raptor trap holds a pair of rats confined by a chicken-wire casingAndrew holds a raptor trap that has a pair of mice confined within its chicken-wire casing.     Instructor emphasizes grassland preservationDave Bitner, head of the Wildlife Research Institute,
explains the importance of preserving local grasslands
for raptors such as this beautiful kestrel.
    various sizes of aluminum bands are available for bird identificationThe US Fish and Wildlife Service provides various sizes
of aluminum bands for bird identification.


Andrew bands a hawk's leg with an aluminum ID bandCarefully holding a red-shouldered hawk,
Andrew bands its leg with an aluminum ID band.
    Using needle-nose pliers, Andrew crimps the bird band securelyUsing needle-nose pliers, Andrew crimps the bird band securely.     A close-up of Andrew securing a bandLook closely at how Andrew secured this band.     Andrew gently holds a red-shouldered hawkAndrew gently holds a recently trapped and banded red-shouldered hawk.

Andrew answers visitor questions and poses for photosUpon completion of the main presentation,
Andrew answers questions and poses for visitor photos.
    After banding, birds, rest in a tube before being releasedAfter the presentation and banding, Andrew returns a kestrel to its resting tube.
In a few minutes, the bird will be released.
    Visitors photograph and await the release of the hawkAt the close of the raptor presentation, visitors eagerly photograph
and await the release of the banded hawk that Andrew holds.


To see a variety of raptors and listen to each bird's call, click here.

Then he is to release the live bird in the open fields (Leviticus 14:7).


another Christian fish with a cross

Take a look at all the March family photo pages:

One from each of the Fisher children; one from Marti and Dale