Day 2, Tuesday, July 25, 2017
We woke up in Farewell Bend State Park on a cooler, but still hot, and still breezy morning. I took a shower – the water took a long time to warm up so most of it was cold… Then we had omelettes and chocolate muffins for breakfast. We live such a rough camping life! Tear down and packing the car took a bit of time, as it was our first attempt at re-Tetrising on the road. I had my stuff packed and ready to go long before the kids, so I helped their parents try to wrangle them and we got on the road at 9:30.
Our next stop was at the World Center for Birds of Prey. I had been there once before, in 2013 and loved it! The World Center for Birds of Prey was founded by the Peregrine Fund, as a conservation and education center. They are a group dedicated to the ancient sport of falconry. Peregrines have been used in falconry for over 3,000 years, and the group wanted to save them for the sport. Peregrines are the fastest animal on earth, diving at speeds more than 200 mph while hunting.
Their first conservation mission began in 1970, to save the Peregrine Falcon from extinction – the Peregrines and other birds of prey had become threatened due to the agricultural pesticide DDT, which causes birds to lay eggs with thin shells. The breeding program and legislation to ban DDT were so successful that the Peregrine Falcon was removed from the Endangered Species list in 1999. They are doing so well now that the Center no longer breeds them for release into the wild; they are focusing their efforts on other, still endangered, species.
While we were there, we saw a demonstration on a Lanner Falcon, which is native to the Mediterranean area. He was beautiful, and we all loved seeing him up close. We learned about the malar stripes, which reduce glare on the bird’s eyes as they hunt. It’s where football players got the idea.
We watched the movie on the work of the center, and I also loved seeing the success story of the Peregrine Falcon (removed from the endangered species list in 1999), as well as the California Condor, which in great part is due to the efforts of the World Center for Birds of Prey has gone from only 22 individuals remaining in the world to 446 in captivity and in the wild as of the end of 2016. We also checked out the birds on display inside.
Orange Breasted Falcon
Gyrfalcon (pronounced “jeer” falcon)
When we went back outside after touring the indoor exhibits, we split up and I was lucky enough to find two bird handlers with a male and female American Kestrel. They look so different from each other – it was very cool to see them up close! They are very small falcons, and the females are larger than the males, which is common among birds of prey. Also very interesting is that Kestrels can hover, in order to ambush and swoop down on their prey!
American Kestrel Male
American Kestrel Female
The center also has several birds on exhibit outdoors, including a Bald Eagle, a Turkey Vulture, a Peregrine and my favorites, the Bataleur Eagles. These eagles were 45 and 47 years old when I visited in 2013, so now they are 50 and 52 years old! They were hatched in 1966 and 1968. The birds here are not able to be released in the wild, either due to the fact that they were imprinted on humans when they were young or due to an injury they suffered previously. The Center uses them as education birds, teaching students and community members about the species and their conservation efforts.
I was sure they wouldn’t be interested, but after we told them about it, the kids really wanted to do the tour of the archive. The archive, of course has books and information on the history of falconry, but it also has exhibits and artifacts related to falconry. There are falconry hoods and perches, radio and early GPS tracking systems, and artwork related to falconry. There is also a 20 x 12 foot traditional goat-hair hunting tent from Syria. The archive was made possible in large part from a donation from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, son of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding President of the United Arab Emirates and a falconer himself. I guess it goes to show that it pays to know people… I was surprised to see how much the kids enjoyed seeing it, especially the hunting tent, and they listened attentively to the guide during the tour.
Teeny tiny falcon hoods
Houbara-Bustard – a prey bird of Africa
After the archive, we had a snack and got on the road again. Our plan had been to head over to Craters of the Moon National Monument, not thinking we were going to be at the World Center for Birds of Prey for so long. What an issue to have! So sadly, by the time we got to Craters, there weren’t any campsites available – they are first-come first-served. After a bit of discussion, we decided that we would do Craters on the way home. So that evening we really just breezed through…
At this point, it was getting late and starting to get dark and we still didn’t have a campsite… A call to a KOA RV Park in Arco, Idaho and we had a site! We got checked in and my brother took the kids over to the pool while Susanna and I got tents up and dinners started. Cooking dinner over a camp stove in the dark with a headlamp is always interesting! We had noodle pasta with hamburger and salad. Not gourmet, but it hit the spot! We had picked up a bottle of wine on our travels that day, and Susanna and I enjoyed some wine while cooking and during dinner too.
After dinner, and after booting the kids to bed, Michael, Susanna and I stayed up talking and enjoying our bevvies – wine for the girls and a bit of whisky for my brother, before turning in for the night. Another great day…