January 10, 2013
Julie Anne Collier and her tufted children will be back at ode this Friday! We look forward to gathering together in 'rapt' attention as Julie updates us on the progress of her raptors. A hero and mother to some of the most beautiful predators, Julie is a treasure to birds and humans alike. She teaches us about science, love and art - from her her dedication, to her penmanship, this talented and amazing woman is not to be missed.
What have you been up to this past year?
The summer of 2012 was the busiest Wingmasters has ever had. Between the two of us, my partner Jim and I gave raptor programs at 72 libraries. The school year was very busy as well, so I had one day off between the end of the school year in June and the beginning of my summer schedule. In addition, we had an unusually high number of baby raptors to care for, starting in early April with a great horned owlet and continuing on throughout the summer with screech owls and American kestrels. All were released once they were old enough to take care of themselves. Not one said "thank you, but I've learned to expect that.
I have four new program birds and Ode audiences will have a chance to meet them. One is the most brightly colored raptor in North America, a male American kestrel falcon. Another is an exquisite 3.5 ounce saw-whet owl who looks like Furby. She's young, so her plumage is a glorious golden color. In addition I plan to bring a young red-tailed hawk who hasn't yet acquired the species characteristic red tail, and a barred owl who looks like a teddy bear.
Any stories you's like to share?
Taking care of baby raptors, especially owlets, has its drawbacks. For starters, owlets have to be fed at night, and when they're very young (I'll bring photographs; for now, picture outrageous fuzzy walnuts with feet) they need to be fed every two or three hours. And not formula or milk- minced warm mouse. As they get older and their vision matures, the human foster parent has to wear an owl mask so the babies will learn to be owls and not people. I will not be bringing pictures of that.
As any parent of a newborn human can attest, when you're caring for babies you're basically brain dead. Zombies are very real- they're new parents (and they look similar to the horror-movie variety- who has time to fuss with clothes or hair?) If you have to go to work (I do; I give raptor programs full time) after a night of little or no sleep, you tend to do idiotic things, such as spend time searching for your watch when it's been on your wrist all along, or hit the dispenser button of your coffeemaker without putting down a coffee cup first, or starting to take a sip from the coffee mug you've been using for the hot water you soak mice in for the babies.
How do donations help with Wingmasters?
We are not funded by the government, so caging and food for our birds of prey is paid for by the programs Jim and I give, as well as through the sale of artwork and donations. Cages are our big concern right now- we've run out of room for rehabilitation birds. So in the spring a new hawk house will go up, with separate interior cages for two to four birds. We use hawk houses (really they're cedar garden houses) because although they're more expensive than flight cages, they protect our birds from predators like fishers, coyotes and raccoons. Donations will help build this cage.
Are you working on any special projects?
I continue to take daily notes on my experiences, many funny, some sad, with the idea of writing a book about dealing with raptors as well as the public. I wrote an article entitled "Daze of Summer"about this past summer and what it was like caring for so many babies (as far as I can remember). I will be illustrating a children's (about vultures!) in the new year, as well as writing and drawing for the Delaware Valley Raptor Center (I'm a director of the center, which is in Milford, Pennsylvania). And I continue to draw, creating art for sale as well as for posters used in Wingmasters program. Ode audiences will see both on January 11.
How would the first paragraph in a book about your life read?
Julie Anne Collier is an incredibly fortunate woman. She has an endlessly interesting job she loves and has a golden eagle named Lakota for a friend. Of course, it's true that Lakota is a spoiled diva that's gotten her caretaker stopped for speeding, insists on her daily rat being warmed (in the fireplace if the power is off and the microwave can't be used) and requires Julie Anne to sit in a very cold nest with her every February and March. But nothing's perfect, is it?
Do you have any upcoming programs?
We'll post 2013 events on Facebook. Private programs can be given at my house in Leverett. Call Julie Anne at 413-549-8166 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.