2019 Year in Review: Tina Updike, Rehabilitation Volunteer

It’s time to look back on 2019! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2019 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

“I’m going to be on TV!” was the text I sent to my family this past May.  Amanda Nicholson, Director of Outreach, had just asked me if I would be willing to speak on camera about my experience with exercising raptors.  My short segment would be part of Episode 13: Hawks and Falcons for the Wildlife Center’s new 13-part public-television series called “Untamed: Life is Wild”.  I was honored to be asked and excited to participate.

I have been volunteering with the rehabilitation team for seven years and my favorite day is Thursday morning when I am tasked with pick-up and exercise duties for the diurnal raptor patients, which includes eagles, hawks, falcons, and vultures.  Exercising these patients who are recovering from various injuries or surgeries is a vital part of their journey to be released back to the wild.  They must build strength and stamina for a successful return to their home territory.  As with any physical therapy, it starts out slowly with 0-5 passes within their flight pens.  I have to observe their flight, assess how high they fly, watch to see if their feet are tucked up under their body, observe if they can glide and land on the perch at the other end, assess their balance on their perches, and evaluate their stamina. These attributes of flight are recorded each day.  As the raptor patient gains strength, the number of passes within the flight pen is increased to more than 15 passes per exercise session.

For the filming session, Amanda gave me a few suggestions on what to include in my description of how the raptors are exercised, why it is important, and what techniques are used to motivate a patient if they are defensive or reluctant to fly.  I practiced my “speech” at home, so I could describe what I do within the two- to three-minute segment without stumbling over my words.  I knew how important it was to represent the Wildlife Center’s work for a wide audience. 

Fortunately, the film crew was coming on a Thursday, right after I finished my volunteer session, so exercising raptors was fresh in my mind.  After fitting me with a wireless mic and testing lighting and sound in the outdoor setting, I was ready for my television debut.  My heart was pounding from nerves, but once I got started, it was a fun experience talking about this important rehabilitation activity that takes place every day at the Wildlife Center. 

When the episode aired, I was excited to see that my short segment was included. I enjoy all my volunteer days at the WCV working alongside the staff to advance their mission of teaching the world to care about, and to care for, wildlife and the environment.


-- Tina Updike, Volunteer

Check out all of our year-in-review posts!

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