The glorious photo of the majestic eagle that Mary Grosskopf captured near her Mussey Twp. home reminded me of our conversation around the beautiful table during Easter brunch on Sunday. As usual, it soon turned to travel and adventure. My cousin Robert and his wife Kathy like to explore, and they were telling me about one of their latest adventures—a trip to Vermont.

During that trip, Robert’s wife Kathy enrolled in a cooking class, where she made homemade pasta for the first time, and walked away with a bounty she created that lasted several days as they wound down in the old-fashioned road-style motel they stayed in. Robert busied himself with other things.

Lovers of nature, Kathy soon points out that she enrolled Robert in a falconry class as a present for his birthday. Robert describes the adventure as a “near religious experience.” No doubt. Big birds, especially birds of prey, are fascinating creatures.

I’m immediately reminded of Joe Rogers and his Wildlife Recovery Association, a non-profit based in Shepherd, Michigan. Incorporated in 1979, the organization’s mission is to “promote the understanding, appreciation, and protection of wild hawks, owls, eagles, and falcon, and their connection with all of nature,” according to their website,

Their areas of interest are education, rehabilitation and management, and they offer educational programs complete with live birds of prey to help students young and old learn about the natural history of the birds, their habitat needs, and how to protect them.

Wildlife Recovery Association accepts and rehabs orphaned and injured hawks, owls, eagles, and falcons from all over Michigan for medical care and rehabilitation. They work with a veterinarian to offer the best medical care, and continue the rehabilitation in large outdoor facilities.

I learned about the organization through my job here, more than a decade ago. Joe and his crew of feathered friends would frequently host presentations at Seven Ponds Nature Center in Dryden.

Eager for assignments that included nature and/or the great outdoors, I always jumped at the chance to cover one of Joe’s visits.

I tell my cousin about the rapturous look on all the faces in the audience as he pulled his raptors out of their confines and into the open space in the tiny gathering room that existed before the nature center was expanded. Joe and his birds always packed the house, with the kids sitting on the floor at his feet and the adults seated in folding chairs elbow-to-elbow.

The greatest response was always elicited by Jack, the magnificent bald eagle, who would flap his six-foot-wingspan wings sending a breeze through the nature center and a huge gasp of breath from all in the audience. Like an old friend, Jack wrapped his huge talons around Joe’s heavily gloved arm and sat there like a stately king as Joe talked about Jack’s life as a bald eagle.

Always a fan favorite, Jack wasn’t the only amazing winged creature in Joe’s entourage. Visitors could see, up close and personal like, an owl, hawk, turkey buzzard and more. I’d click away madly with my traditional camera, always loaded with color film in search of a great front page photo. Back then, color was only available on the front page, and experience told us Joe Rogers and his Birds of Prey exhibit always made for a great color shot.

Jack passed away several years ago, and I’m not sure if Joe visits Seven Ponds any more. I do know Wildlife Recovery Association is still doing their thing, still rescuing birds of prey and still spreading the word on the beauty and wonders of nature.

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