Rap­tor’s fight to flight

Avon Valley Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Lynn Gri­er­son

RAP­TOR res­cuer Tom Calvin is fol­low­ing his fa­ther’s lead by learn­ing how to re­ha­bil­i­tate the fastest birds on the planet.

The 18- year- old elec­tri­cal ap­pren­tice and his cousin Will Good­win are de­voted to help­ing the or­phaned pere­grine fal­con Ag­gie find her wings.

For the past three weeks, Ag­gie has lived at Tom’s home after com­ing into the care of his fa­ther Michael when she was just nine weeks old.

She was res­cued near a mine site in Agnew, about 500km north of Kal­go­or­lie, aged six weeks and trans­ferred to the care of Stu­art and Amanda Payne at the WA Con­ser­va­tion of Rap­tors in Bri­gadoon.

Ag­gie is now 13 weeks old and al­ready fly­ing free each day to build her fit­ness. Pere­grines reg­u­larly records speeds of more than 350km/ h. She wears a pro­tec­tive

hood made of leather to keep her calm trav­el­ling to and from ex­er­cise areas, and to re­duce her ex­po­sure to peo­ple.

“Ag­gie is a wild an­i­mal and it’s an im­por­tant part of her re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion to help her stay that way,” Michael said.

Tom’s fa­ther founded the Rap­tor Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion As­so­ci­a­tion of WA in 2012 as a ‘ bolt- on’ group of ex­pe­ri­enced vol­un­teers to the non- free fly­ing res­cue fra­ter­nity.

“We are non- com­mer­cial, not- for- profit and en­tirely self- funded, in­clud­ing the GPS track­ing equip­ment we use to re­ha­bil­i­tate the birds,” Michael said.

With mem­bers and sup­port­ers Aus­tralia- wide and in­ter­na­tion­ally, the vol­un­teers are keen to spread word of their work in WA.

UK- born Michael grew up in ru­ral Cum­bria and be­came in­volved with rap­tors from the age of 10, about the same time the ac­claimed film Kes cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of young boys world­wide.

The film, based on the 1968 novel A Kestrel for a Knave, is the story of a dis­en­gaged youth who be­friends a baby kestrel.

Since ar­riv­ing in Aus­tralia 12 years ago, Michael has re­ha­bil­i­tated 10 pere­grine fal­cons, two hob­bies and a kestrel.

“They have all gone back to the wild after ex­ten­sive free ex­er­cise flight, some mon­i­tored with ra­dio teleme­try to en­sure a safe tran­si­tion back to the wild,” he said.

His en­thu­si­asm to re­ha­bil­i­tate birds of prey is shared by his son Tom who, hav­ing grown up around rap­tors, is aware of en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

Tom and his cousin are pre­par­ing an ed­u­ca­tional talk for the UNESCO World Wildlife Day on March 17.

Later this year they will join Aus­tralian del­e­gates at a rap­tor con­ser­va­tion fes­ti­val in the UAE where the fo­cus will be on youth. Michael said GPS equip­ment tracked Ag­gie’s progress in real time, record­ing the dis­tances she flew, height and max­i­mum speeds.

“She should be good to go back to the wild hope­fully within a few months, our an­tic­i­pated time scale is by spring,” he said.

“Un­til then, she has an aw­ful lot to learn and she ab­so­lutely must be able to hunt, or she dies.”

GPS equip­ment will check Ag­gie’s move­ments after re­lease and she will be re­trieved if she is not sur­viv­ing alone.

A show­case of the work of rap­tor re­ha­bil­i­ta­tors and ed­u­ca­tors will soon be on dis­play in Guild­ford’s Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory, along with his­tor­i­cal items.

The group is look­ing for a school to be the first in Aus­tralia to join a link pro­gram for schools world­wide.

For more de­tails visit www. rrawa. com and fol­low Ag­gie on her Face­book page.

Pic­ture: Bruce Hunt

Rap­tor res­cuer Tom Calvin with or­phan Ag­gie.

Some ex­am­ples of his­tor­i­cal fal­con hoods.

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