Not all birds follow the script.
After the rehabbed red-shouldered hawks took to the sky Saturday over Hank Anderson Park, it was time to release the great horned owl.
Vinny Mammone of CLAWS Inc. reached into the carrier with thick gloves and firmly pulled the bird from its cage. He handed it to the volunteer who gave the bird a slight upward toss.
The owl flapped its wings and landed on the ground a few yards away.
Mammone walked over to try again, but the bird scooted knee-level into woods off the ball field. Mammone followed into the trees, but did not see the bird and gave up after a few minutes.
Not every release is a Kodak moment.
But that happens when you release 450 rescued birds a year, as licensed rehabilitator CLAWS Inc. of Chapel Hill does.
Saturday saw four formerly orphaned or injured birds returned to the wild, or as wild as suburban Carrboro gets.
Not that that made the release any less rewarding for Courtney Faison.
The 41-year-old stunt woman, martial artist and waitress from Caldwell in northern Orange County was at the park to help release a red-shouldered hawk she had rescued as a fledgling.
The nest had fallen out of a tree, and Faison wasn’t sure what to do.
“I was a little sad because I thought I might have taken him away from his mother,” she said. She called CLAWS executive director Kindra Mammone, who told her unlike other birds, hawks don’t always return to their babies on the ground.
“The one that Courtney brought us had been down for a while and was really, really thin and weak,” Mammone said. “He probably would not have survived another day had he not arrived here. ”
That evaluation is part of the reason wildlife experts ask the public to contact experienced rehabbers when they come across injured and possibly orphaned wildlife. Many times it’s best to watch the area to see if the mother returns, or to remove the baby bird or other animal if it is injured or if a predator is nearby.
Along with the rescued birds, the Mammones brought an owl, hawk and raven that cannot return to the wild to the park Saturday to help educate the small crowd that came to watch the release.
Ben Johns, 13, met CLAWS’ birds when the Mammones visited his school five years ago.
On Saturday, Johns, who now volunteers with the group, helped release one of the hawks.
“It’s been awesome,” he said. “I just love that someone my age can learn about these birds and handle them. It’s just amazing.”
Holding her baby bird before its release was pretty amazing for Faison, too.
“I knew when (Vinny) handed it to me, that was the one,” she said.
How to reach CLAWS Inc
If you have a wildlife emergency, call 919-619-0776.