Courtney Veaunt/For the County News
Wildlife educator Ron Walker
Chip Holt Nature Center
Students spend break with ‘Friends with Feathers’
The Friends with Feathers nature program, presented by Ron Walker, featured owls, hawks, vultures, and more. The program, which ran every evening from Feb. 20-23, was scheduled to coincide with winter break for students in the county.
This is the kick-off event for the Chip Holt Nature Center.
Ron Walker, who has a wildlife education background, taught high school biology for 30 years.
He originally got his start working with birds of prey in the 1980s at the Cumming Nature Center of the Rochester Museum and Science Center.
The program at the Cumming Nature Center was “very well received” according to Walker. However, funding cuts eventually led to its demise.
Typically, Walker schedules educational programming from September through June each year. He avoids scheduling presentations during the summer months, because the birds lose their feathers. Additionally, the time off allows the birds a break and children to be active during their vacation – and not sitting/listening to a presentation.
When scheduling programming, Walker tends to limit his travel time to three hours. Considering prep time, travel time, and the length of the presentation(s), anything over three hours would be too strenuous.
The Friends of Feathers Aviary houses 15 birds of prey that could not survive in the wild due to previous injury or defect. Since he founded Friends with Feathers, Walker has given over 3,200 presentations to an audience of over 300,000 people (not including television and video programming).
However, after years of presentations, Walker will retire at the beginning of July.
Even though he has given presentations to students and adults, Walker does not prefer one over the other. “Each one is different… I really enjoy when people ask questions,” he said. “It’s more fun.”
The turkey vulture is one of the birds in Walker’s collection – and the heaviest. His vulture is about 15 years old and unable to fly. While a turkey vulture will typically live to 15 years of age in the wild, Walker’s bird has the potential to reach 25-30 years in captivity.
During Walker’s presentation, he noted several important facts about the turkey vulture and answered questions from the audience. While he has given presentations to as many as 500-600 people, Walker prefers smaller groups because it allows more people to participate.
Upon Walker’s retirement, the birds will go to new homes. The individual taking the turkey vulture (along with others) is a retired teacher. She also plans to use the birds for educational programming.
Even if the new owners are prepared for the transfer of ownership, the birds will remain with Walker until his 2012 programming is complete.
For more information on the Chip Holt Nature Center and their programming, visit the center’s website.