Sunday, January 14, 2007

Alice's First Flight

Alice has never flown before in her life. She fell out of her nest, down through the branches of a tall pine tree, when she was just three weeks old. She was just a nestling, with no wing or tail feathers to speak of. This tumble led to a severe dislocation of her left elbow and damage to the end of her humerus. This injury is permanent and will prevent her from every flying on her own power (which is why she is in captivity and has to work for a living.)

This no-flight status will change on Sunday, March 4, 2007, during Alice's 10th hatch-day party (weather permitting.) Flight instructor Dale Scobie from Spring Grove, MN has agreed to take Alice up in his airplane for her first flight ever. We will need to spend some time on the ground beforehand getting Alice used to the noise of the plane, and likely building her a special travel box to use in the plane, so she can watch out the window comfortably without the danger of her spreading her wings and trying to hop around inside the small plane.

Before setting this up, I consulted with Alice's rehabilitator, Marge Gibson. Marge has flown in small aircraft holding Bald Eagles before (I believe when she was in charge of the Bald Eagle Health Assessment Project after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.) She said the birds loved to watch out the windows of the plane, and thinks Alice likely will too.

What will make this flight doubly special is that there are four seats in the airplane. One for the pilot, one for me, one for Alice, and one for someone else. That "someone else" seat will be auctioned off after the Festival of Owls banquet on Friday, March 2 as part of the live auction. So the lucky person who gets to go up with Alice on her maiden flight could be you! Even if you don't get to go up with Alice, if you attend the Festival of Owls you'll get to see Alice fly over town, announced by the city's siren.

Alice and I will be meeting with the pilot this week to get Alice used to the plane, and work out the logistics of the flight. I'm a bit nervous about how Alice will react, but I think she'll be fine once we're airborne. She instinctively knows to lean into corners when riding in the car, so I'm sure she'll lean into the corners in the airplane too. She's gotten to perch in a small oak tree at the top of a 300-foot bluff overlooking Houston, and she thought that was great. So I'm hoping even higher will be "even greater" for her.

Don't worry, even if you can make it to witness Alice's first flight, I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.

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