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Adirondack Raptors founder shows off birds at interpretive center at Paul Smith’s College

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BRIGHTON — Flying 2-pound hunters with soft feathers, sharp talons and loud screeches were special guests Saturday at the Visitor Interpretive Center at Paul Smith’s College.

Mark A. Manske, founder of Adirondack Raptors, 61 Davidson Road, Dickinson Center, brought three of his four birds to the interpretive center for a presentation about birds of prey in the area. From how they utilize their senses to how they raise their young, Mr. Manske covered as much as he could in the two-hour session, including eating habits and nesting and migration patterns.

Mr. Manske began the presentation by showing off his 9-year-old great horned owl, Scooter, and his 5-year-old barn owl, Tess.

Along with telling several stories about his experience with the four birds that live at his house, he also let audience members wear a heavy black glove so the barn owl could perch on their arms.

“The two big ones, the 14-year-old female Harris hawk, Freida, and the great horned owl have two separate 13-by-10-by-8-foot rooms in my garage,” he said.

Behind his garage are two smaller sheds, one housing the barn owl and the other housing his 14-year-old male Harris hawk, Eddie.

“The hawks, I fly fairly regularly,” Mr. Manske said. “The great horned can’t fly, so I can’t really do much to stimulate it, but the barn owl comes in the house a lot, flies around and chases my dogs.”

Mr. Manske said the birds’ rooms have windows, water dishes and perches so they can move around.

“He’s a big hit,” Brian McAllister, naturalist educator at the interpretive center, said. “He walks around with the birds on his arm, and the kids love it. His barn owl is very used to being on people’s arms, heads and shoulders.”

Mr. Manske said that although he has been showing his birds at the center every Saturday throughout the summer and fall for the past two years, he doesn’t usually continue through the winter.

“It gets quiet here,” Mr. McAllister said. “We kind of lose our visitors until the snow comes in and then we ski. So, this might be his last week for this year.”

Mr. Manske said this might also be his last year teaching biology at St. Lawrence Central.

“I turned 55 this summer, and my bucket list is getting long,” he said.

To fill his time, Mr. Manske would like to build a new bird banding station in Massena.

“We met with the town board of Massena in September, and I told them my plan for next year and they told me to come back when the new year begins,” he said. “At least I got the ball rolling, got them thinking and, hopefully, I will go back and they’ll let me open a station.”

Mr. Manske has been banding birds for years as a way to monitor migration patterns of raptors and, between mid-September to the first week in November, he has banding sessions every night at the interpretive center.

He starts a half hour past sunset, sending out birds of prey calls. As the night continues, he catches birds that answer to the calls, puts a band on saw whet owls, color marks breeding goshawks and releases them.

“The environment’s changing,” Mr. Manske said. “We have little information, especially in this area, for what’s going on with these birds.”




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