yesterday i started my volunteer work at the local raptor center for birds of prey. its a small facility that does both rehabilitation for injured birds as well as education.
there are a dozen or so "residents" that live at the center and help with education. they are birds that can't survive in the wild due to some injury or defect, and that do well in the captive environment. they're on display for visitors, and also go out for educational programs.
my favorite of the residents has to be griffin, an american kestrel that was hatched and raised by people, and consequently thinks that he is a person. in the spring time, i'm told the "circle of rejection" begins. griffin courts all the visitors (showing off his nest box, bringing them dead mice), only to have his best advances rebuffed. lucy, the other american kestrel, sees his displays and answers with her own courtship, only to be completely ignored by griffin.
besides the residents, there are "rehab" birds in for rehabilitation of an injury. they are housed in one of two "icu" rooms with small kennel sized cages, in one of the indoor or outdoor larger enclosures, or in one of the two large fly rooms (a large barn like structure with slatted sides with lots of room for exercise).
volunteer work begins at the bottom, so to speak, with basic maintenance and cleaning. the raptor center breeds their own rats and mice for food, so a lot of the work is taking care of them. i started out in the "rat room", which is this little room with two sets of shelves full of bins that the rats live in. its pretty easy work, just set up new clean bins with shavings and food, take a bin of rats, open it up, and move them over (you just grab them by the tail). i consider all those years of keeping gerbils excellent training.
so certainly not glamorous work, but necessary none the less. as i get more experience, i can branch out into the education or rehab areas. overall i enjoyed it, and i'm very impressed that the center runs with only one full time and one part time staff member. all the rest of the work is done by volunteers.
luckily, there are no velociraptors at the raptor center.