The Falls of the Ohio State Park offered guests the opportunity to get an up-close look at birds of prey during Raptor Day on Saturday.
The park’s Interpretive Center hosted several stations to help people learn more about their avian neighbors. There was a station where people could practice their nest-building skills, a table where they could view feathers under a microscope, and scopes for them to catch a glimpse of birds around the Ohio River.
The birds used during the program came from the Dwight Chamberlain Raptor Rehab Center at Hardy Lake. Wade LaHue, an interpretive naturalist at Hardy Lake, showed a red-tailed hawk, peregrine falcon, turkey vulture and bald eagle.
LaHue said events like Raptor Day give residents a unique opportunity to interact with local wildlife.
“A lot of these animals, we see from the car on a drive or we see them on a powerline. Maybe if you’re lucky, they come to the backyard or something,” LaHue said. “But most people don’t have the opportunity to be up close and experience these animals like this.”
During the program, LaHue pointed out particular body parts on the birds that would be hard to spot from a distance, like the difference in talon shape and size.
For example, LaHue said red-tailed hawks have huge talons that they use to scoop their prey. Peregrine falcons have much smaller talons and use a punching motion to incapacitate their prey.
LaHue said he wants people to walk away from the Raptor Day program with a new understanding of the natural world and the animals living there.
“If I can come in and I can show these animals and I bring them up close enough for people to see and to feel… I can give them a new experience and a new perspective on the rest of the world and what the rest of the animals out there are experiencing,” he said.
Will Jones, 11, said he wants to start recording the behavior of the animals he encounters and making sure they’re acting in a normal way, after hearing LaHue talk about different ways animals can show they are hurt.
“It’s helped me figure out how to help the wild animals,” Jones said.
The new understanding that Jones walked away with is the ultimate goal of programs like Raptor Day.
Diane Esrey, a volunteer at the Falls of the Ohio State Park, said the educational components of events like Raptor Day are key to bridging the gap between people and the nature around them.
“There’s always a way to learn something new about nature, the environment and what we have here,” Esrey said.