Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting Hoo Haven in Durand, IL. Those of you not familiar with Hoo Haven need to know that it is an animal sanctuary and hospital and an educational center. When I was at Shirland School we had them come in a couple of times and bring animals and talk to the children about big birds.
My neighbor, Merritt, invited me to go visit with him. We are considering building a vegetable garden at the facility. This would be my Master Gardener project and his Master Environmentalist project.
It was a cool morning and I was glad I had dressed appropriately. Unfortunately, I didn’t have pockets to put my hands into and they got a bit cold.
I was surprised at how large the facility was. They have several buildings and barns and a gazebo where you can buy souvenirs and get brochure information.
The first building we came to housed a large owl. I didn’t see it at first and the boy pulling dandelions next to the building pointed him out for me. I asked the boy why he was pulling dandelions and he told me that the ducks and geese really liked eating them. (Perhaps, I’ll adopt a goose for my yard.)
We then went into the main building which is the Hospital and Aquatic Pen. The smell was overwhelming. There was a man cutting up raw meat. There were sick animals and poop was everywhere. Not a good first impression. I am allergic to birds and had taken my allergy medicine. I am not a light stomach person but I had to get out of there.
Our project for this morning was to put up new signs with the individual bird’s name and educational information regarding who they were and what they were. Merritt had put together new signs. We got some zip ties and proceeded on our way.
We met Karen, who is in charge of the volunteers, and she was doing a great job of keeping Merritt on task. We also met the OBGYN who takes care of the birds and trains the birds. Her name escapes me. She has been working with the birds for six years. She really had a way with the creatures.
We met two young female volunteers who were sweeping pens and feeding and watering the birds. They were very comfortable with the birds and had been volunteering for several years.
We visited a cayote building that housed a blue heron that had come to them last week. It had a huge fish hook lodged in his throat and the surgery cut him down the length of his long neck. They didn't expect him to survive but there he was walking around his temporary home and even leaping as if to fly on occasion.
The eagle house really made a huge impression on me. I stood not six feet away from a massive bald eagle. We had to view him through a glass window so my photo is not the best but you get the idea. There were several more eagles in the area and quite a number of turkey vultures who if you don't know are uglyassed birds.
I was just totally impressed with the volunteers that I met. I admire them all for the undertaking of such an enormous project. They get no government funding and all that they get is from volunteers and donations. Birds come to them from around the country and Canada. I feel inspired to do something more for them than just making a vegetable garden.
If you can, please consider volunteering, donating a few bucks or even taking them your freezer full of meat when it dies for no apparent reason. Call and arrange a tour of their facility sometime. Take a couple of teenagers with you who need some direction. Caring for and feeding a bald eagle has to leave a lasting impression.