Sardis Raptor Center in Ferndale will turn an ordinary Saturday into a memorable one.
The center, located on a quiet country road, rehabilitates birds of prey who have been injured or have become socialized and could be a danger to themselves or people. They center also does education outreach to local schools and at community events, such as the Lynden fair.
I’d first heard of the center a couple of years ago when a group of volunteers came to my kids’ elementary school for an assembly and after-school program. The whole family enjoyed the presentation and “meeting” the birds, so when I proposed visiting the center, I got an emphatic “yes!” from the kids.
On our Saturday visit (the center is only open to the public on Saturdays) we emerged from the wooded drive into a sunny, welcoming clearing at the entrance to the center.
“Look there’s a football hawk!” my daughter exclaimed as I parked the car.
A “football” hawk is actually a red tailed hawk, which look an awful lot like a football with a head when you think about it. (H/T to public radio’s Bird Note for the reference.)
We were greeted by one of the volunteers as we arrived, and were just in time for a tour with another family that was visiting the center.
We learned the story of each bird and how it came to be at the center. Heyoke, the Harris hawk, had been raised in captivity as a hunting bird, but isn’t capable of living on his own in the wild. We learned he has a sassy personality and the handlers give him a bit of sass right back.
We also met Dudeson and Veronica, a pair of turkey vultures. Both were injured by humans and can no longer fly. We also met Clove the barn owl, who can fly, but never fully realized he’s an owl. While the rest of his clutch was rehabilitated and flew away, he decided to stay.
Einstein the eagle came to Sardis because she had decided to “adopt” a human family and defend them from their neighbors. How she got her clever name is part of her story, but you’ll have to come visit to hear the entire story for yourself!
As we listened to the story about Thunder the red tailed hawk, the tour guide pointed out another “visitor” listening from above in a large tree. It was a juvenile bald eagle – not yet with the species’ distinctive white head – who seems to have adopted the center as her home. When they first saw her several months ago it was clear the young eagle was being bullied by the older birds. As the other birds moved on, she chose to stay. She will soon likely become an official member of Sardis.
We saw many more birds on our tour – some too shy to come and say hello, so we could only catch a glimpse. Others were ready to make themselves known, like this eagle.
If you venture out to visit the feathered friends at Sardis, be sure to bring a few dollars as a donation. The center is entirely volunteer run and there is no entrance fee, and a donation will go toward keeping these wonderful birds well cared for.
Google Maps took us to Sardis via northbound I-5 to the Ferndale City Center/Main Street exit, and then along Vista Drive. This is a beautiful drive through established neighborhoods and lush countryside, but it is LONG. You’ll save a few minutes by continuing north to the Grandview exit. Once you reach the turnoff at Valley View Road, start looking for Sardis on the right once you get down the hill. The sign is hard to spot, so look for the address marker.