bird rescue center

Bird Rescue Center Open House

On a rather cold and rainy Saturday earlier this month we headed over to the Bird Rescue Center of Sonoma County. They have a first Saturday of the month open house for visitors to come and meet the birds and learn about them. The Center is supported by donations from the public and a devoted crew of trained volunteers. Did you read about how they evacuated their entire bird population during the notorious Tubbs fire that was raging down the mountain toward them last October? Luckily the Center did not burn and the bird inhabitants were returned to their home unscathed. Many of them cannot be returned to the wild and this has become their permanent home.


fountain pen and w/c in 8 X 8″ spiral Field Watercolor Journal by Hand Book

When it got drizzly outside, the taxidermy display inside came in handy with the lovely barn owl spreading its wings. Barn Owls are particularly difficult to draw because of their unusual disc shaped face, but oh so lovely!


Then out to the yard where the docents/handlers were holding the birds and answering questions.


Pisces is an Osprey with a broken wing.


The volunteers were dressed for the weather and the birds were of course unconcerned when it started to rain again. Even I would have been unconcerned because a few drops of water dissolve the watercolor paint in the most appealing way. At some point it did however make for a bit of an aborted sketch!


Each time I go to the Open House I learn something new, like the meaning of “bracelets” and “gape”.


This raptor’s name is Star and judging by the color of the tail, must be a Red Tailed hawk. I have dreamed of being a volunteer here but wondered how one can stand for a half hour-hour with the weight of these large birds on the wrist?  Star however was light weight at a bit over three pounds.


Every once in a while one is treated to an outspreading of wings that lasts only seconds. I caught this one on video and was so struck by the pose of bird and handler here that I had to sketch it later. One might be tempted to romanticize this relationship. When you are treated to this up-close-and-personal display, it is abundantly clear that the humans care very much for the birds, whose habits and idiosyncracies they have learned over the years. Even if the birds don’t have the instinctual equipment to reciprocate with tenderness, they are clearly well cared for and honored for their wild natures.

I have made the acquaintance of many of these same birds on previous sketch visits. See more of the sketches here and here.


Bird Enchantment


“Comet”, a Screech Owl

Comet was the tiniest of the birds I made the acquaintance of this weekend at Santa Rosa’s Bird Rescue Center’s open house.  I was attending the first of the Birding Sketchbook series led by Jonqui Albin, Bird Activist/Action Artist.  We were shown the basics of action-drawing birds and set loose among the hawks, falcons, owls and kestrals that were brought out of their cages on the arms of trained volunteers.  A strong wind was blowing and the birds were clearly delighted to be out (if not exactly free to fly around!)


“Aurora”, Red Tailed Hawk

We were given a pencil to lightly sketch in the gesture of the bird before going in with pen. The wind blew the birds wings open.  What a thrill to be 4 feet away from the wingspan of maybe 5 feet across! And the eyes. . .at once beguiling and unnerving.


“Wowl”, Horned Owl

Wowl would win any bird beauty pageant with those eyes and tawny plumage and especially with his handler, a young woman with a man of her own firey red plumage!


“Vihar”, Great Horned Owl

I’m sure you’re wondering, as we did, if these magnificent birds would again fly free.  They are after all rescued birds, not zoo animals.  They live in lovely spacious cages but will never be able to survive in the wild because of disabilities (little Comet is blind in one eye for instance) or imprinting to a human. Actually I think the imprinting happens both ways.  They handlers seemed to have a love affair with their feathered friends.

And after 2 1/2 hours of bird company I was sufficiently enamored to be contemplating volunteering, if not at least returning on a regular basis (the Bird Rescue Center has open houses twice a month!) to sketch, or maybe just to gaze into those mesmerizing eyes.