2016 Year in Review: Amanda Nicholson, Director of Outreach

It’s time to look back on 2016! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2016 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

One of my favorite aspects of my job at the Center is working with -- and bonding with -- our non-releasable education ambassadors, particularly the raptors. This year, I had the treat of training Verlon, our new, charming little American Kestrel. I also had the privilege of doing some behavior-shaping with Athena, one of our Barred Owls. Working with both of those birds was more than just training them though -- they each taught me something about bird-handling and training, and the work we did also gave us the chance to form and strengthen our relationships. But of course, my #1 bird relationship is with Maggie, the Peregrine Falcon.

2016 was Maggie's second full year as an education bird and we had some particularly fun and memorable adventures around the state.

We went to a special centennial celebration of Shenandoah National Park (in the extreme fog, during a power outrage):

We hung out backstage at the newly refurbished Wayne Theatre for the Clarkfest John Denver Tribute Concert (where she pooped on a brand-new chair):

We attended several donor receptions in very nice houses and country clubs (sorry about your floors, everyone):

We also spent three days at the State Fair of Virginia, which was its own kind of chaos (no, really. STOP trying to pet the bird) … but in our downtime, I was determined to show Maggie a good time:



Most recently, we attended a yoga open house -- I was able to mingle in yoga pants and socks, which is the most comfortable I've ever been at a Wildlife Center event!

Our biggest adventure this year had to be our book tour in August. Earlier this year, Maggie the One-Eyed Peregrine Falcon was published, written by author Christie Gove-Berg. Christie is from Minnesota, and we had been in contact a lot this past year, coordinating the book details, and scheming to see if we could pull off a book tour. In August, we planned a number of events in Waynesboro, Charlottesville, and Richmond in a three-day time span. In total, we ended up with seven stops on the book tour -- it was a whirlwind!

I was fairly keyed-up that week; there were a lot of logistics to figure out in terms of where we had to be and when, allowing for travel time, packing a number of items, and when Randy added a live TV studio interview to our itinerary, I think Christie and I both got a little more anxious! But, one thing that Maggie continually reminds me is that she will easily pick up on my energy. If I'm nervous, impatient, or generally in "a mood", Maggie is quick to react.

There was something about the act of schlepping Maggie's travel crate into the van, out of the van, up the stairs, into the venue, out of the venue, back into the van, into my house, out of my house, etc, that made me very aware of her, and emphasized my responsibility for keeping her healthy and happy. At one point in our travels, I wanted to run into a coffee shop, and I had to consider if it was too hot to actually leave the van for five minutes. At the end of the book tour, when we didn't have to be joined at the hip anymore, I felt like I was continually forgetting something.

I'm happy to say that Maggie did beautifully throughout all of these events. She continues to amaze me with how well she does in a crowd, even in some very unusual situations. I look forward to more adventures with her in 2017!


Keep checking the Wildlife Center's blog for more year-end posts this week!