Having already been on three raptor surveys, I was thrilled to be invited for a fourth. Unfortunately, the last time Dan Varland, director of Coastal Raptors, asked me to go, the forecast called for gale force winds. My toupee is only rated for 15 mph, so we had to reschedule or resort to staples. I chose the former. But this time the stars lined up in grand fashion for a memorable two days on the Washington coast.
The best thing about Dan’s surveys is meeting the other volunteers. I’ve met some truly wonderful people and this time was no exception. Dan enlisted a father and son, Mike and Luke Smith of LS Traps. They capture birds at SEATAC airport and relocate them to somewhere safer. Generally I avoid airports and their general vicinity like Adam Sandler movies, but this is not so for raptors. I know what you’re thinking. Birds are the last creatures on Earth that need an airplane. True. But airports are ideal hunting grounds for falcons, eagles and hawks. These apex predators find the tables turned and frequently become the unwitting prey of jet engines. Which, believe it or not, is worse than an Adam Sandler movie. A sobering fact.
Also joining us was photographer Gerrit Vyn and his girlfriend Shannon, a marine eco-biologist. Gerrit Vyn. Now, why do I recognize that name? One Google search later and the reason became evident. Gerrit’s book The Living Bird is sitting on my coffee table. Mercy sakes! Gerrit is one of the world’s leading wildlife photographers and works for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (Whoever they are?) Gerrit is also a passionate conservationist, a terrific writer and an all-around swell guy.