Feature photo is of Onyx, a Verraux’s eagle
By Dan Jordan, Jordan Photography and Consulting
Hawk Creek Wildlife Center is a local treasure for wildlife enthusiasts like me. It is located near East Aurora, NY (1963 Mill Road, West Falls, NY), so it’s a short drive from the southern tier. HCWC is a not-for-profit organization, which according to their charter, “thrives to give thousands of animals a second chance, care for over 100 permanent residents, and reach audiences in thousands per year with our exciting educational programming”. Hawk Creek has been featured on PBS, named a “Blue Planet Hero” by National Geographic, and their staff of naturalists and their ambassadors have been featured on NBC Today and Rachael Ray television programming.
When I mention HCWC to people, most are not aware of its existence. To everyone that I meet, I recommend they look at the website and visit (often). If you’re into photography, they have offered photographer days, which I have attended, which allowed special access to some of their resident animals, which have been rescued for one reason or another.
They also host birthday parties and even weddings. How’s that for a themed wedding? Being a wedding photographer myself, that would be my “dream wedding” to photograph.
My interest in HCWC began when I learned that two of their residents were bald eagles. More on them later. During my first visit to HCWC, I discovered that 7 other eagles live there, representing four other species. In addition to the bald eagles, there is a Verraux’s eagle, two Bateleur eagles, a Martial eagle, and three golden eagles.
As an aside, there is a LOT of misinformation about golden eagles being bandied about. HCWC offers a great opportunity for people to see three of them up close and personally, hopefully dispelling many of the misconceptions about their size, shape, colors, and behavior.
According to their website, two golden eagle chicks have hatched at HCWC. The first chick was born to a 40-year-old female golden named Cherokee. 40 is an extremely old age for an eagle and rare. Rarer still, is to have a 40-year-old hatch and raise a chick to fledge.
Once I observed the eagles, I became aware of the wide variety of other species of animals which had been rescued and became residents of HCWC. These range from owls, to wild cats, to reptiles. I have included photos of but a few of their residents. Their website (https://www.hawkcreek.org) has a lot more, but for the full experience, I urge you to visit. What could be better than exploring Hawk Creek then stopping by East Aurora for a meal at one of their fine (and I do mean fine!) eateries. There is also a state park in East Aurora, if you’re still looking for more to do. The S.P. is called Knox Farm State Park, and it’s a pretty cool place too. (I think I should apply for a job at the East Aurora Chamber of Commerce!)
So, let me get to some photos. The cover photo is of a Verraux’s eagle named Onyx. Onyx was hatched in 2018, and is one of the very first of this species ever hatched in the western hemisphere and is one of a very few in the U.S.
The next photo is of a tortoise, which on the day of this photo, was in a lawn area grazing. Not that it could run away from its home, the Guinness Book of World records lists the top speed ever clocked for a tortoise at 0.63 MPH. And that’s the world record.
If you like color, HCWC has it. These parrots have about as much color as is possible. Interestingly, they were near a large cage containing a talking raven. The raven had quite a repertoire of phrases and possibly sentences, putting the parrots to shame in the realm of converstationality (I believe that I just coined a new word there, since spell check is telling me to fix it).
This tiny little screech owl was sitting on a post in front of a wooden fence. This photo demonstrates the owl’s camouflage, a key reason for their survival. Screech owls are tiny, ranging in size from 6-10 inches. This one was on the smaller end of that scale.
This great horned owl photo is one of my favorites. I’ve even used it as a profile picture on my Facebook page from time to time. I tell people that the owl was as surprised to see me as I it. In actuality I believe it was yawning, but my version is much more humorous than a simple yawn.
Lastly, what would an article by the Eagle Whisperer be, without at least one photo of a bald eagle? So, here are two.
I have so many good images from HCWC, I could share a lot more but there is a limit to what I can include.
One special note, you will notice that there are no cages or fences in any of my photos. My preference, no, my rule is that I photograph animals as though in their natural habitats. I realize that zoos and rescue centers must keep animals caged for their own safety and that of the humans who observe them. Institutions like Hawk Creek play a special role in conservation and are critical to educate the public and especially the children, the future conservationists among us. I just do not photograph cages or fences. This is why there are no photos in this article of the amazing, large cats at HCWC. I just could not get an angle at them to exclude the human element. I encourage you to visit so you can see them, they are amazing.
So, there you have it, another edition of my Wild World series. I hope this article has inspired you to As I always say, keep your eyes open when out in the wild (or at a rescue center), you never know what you will see.