Language Translation
  Close Menu

Patoka Lake Raptor Journal

A journal was established in the 1980’s by Carol Groves, the first interpreter and raptor handler at Patoka Lake. It was started to monitor the health and lives of captive birds of prey. Below is a copy of the health records and monthly recordings of the raptor program for this year brought to you by Patoka Lake Full Time Interpretive Naturalist, Dana Reckelhoff.



1-4: Thursday was a good day of training with the eagle but Friday was excellent. She is improving and adjusting to this system. Saturday was the annual Eagle Watch event. All three birds handled exceptionally well. Owl got hot and was panting in front of the crowd. Hawk did a small amount of panting as well. The birds were seen by 91 participants at the event which was the most they have seen in our building at once. This probably added to the necessity of panting since the weather was in the 50’s.

5-11: On Monday, we performed training without food and eagle did well. She bated a few times and gripped during release back into her mews but not very hard or for a very long time. Hawk had two pellets in his shelter from the meal prior on Sunday afternoon. On Wednesday, we noticed that eagle had two blood feathers coming in at rapid pace. There was one last week but a second came out since then. Eagle was not stomping or biting during training but she bated several times causing the blood feather to hit Tom and bleed on his glove. I took her back and walked her back to the mews. During this training session, prior to the blood feather breaking, I took off my eagle sheath and handled her with just the glove. She responded well to that. On Thursday, we had a very productive training session with eagle. She did bate again which broke open the blood feather again. She was provided a squirrel that evening. The next day I came in to find that she had not touched the squirrel which showed me that her discomfort level was elevated with the broken feather. She did however eat on Saturday and her temperament was back to normal.

12-18: Owl has been eating only a portion of his foods this week. We will be cutting back on offerings next week. Hawk and eagle have been eating everything that has been provided all week. During training, eagle was given three small carp tails. The training session went well. She was stomping the gauntlet as I went to put her away.

19-25: On Wednesday, eagle was out for training and spent the day in the viewing shelter before a second training session. Training went really well today. She was receptive to the new training program during this session. She received a small rat for her meal that evening. I have been checking hawk’s and owl’s feet regularly and have found no issues. Thursday was the first day we could spray the shelters out since Saturday. It has been so cold that the hose was frozen and temperatures did not get above freezing. Shelters were thoroughly picked up in between that time as always. The shelters were cleaned in depth once things thawed out to get the shelters back to the usual clean standard that we keep. On Saturday, Tom and I took eagle to Turkey Run for their Eagle Weekend. She bated twice during the program but otherwise handled well. The program lasted around one hour with her on the glove for 35 minutes of it. She was fed at 9:45a.m. on Friday in preparation of our drive north. Due to our late arrival back to the Nature Center after the program, she fasted Saturday evening.

26-31: On Monday, eagle was given a new form of enrichment. It is a dog treat holder in the shape of a carrot. I stuffed the holes in it with tiny bits of bluegill. She dropped to the ground quickly to investigate. Circling around it several times she finally decided to take a bite. She cautiously pulled out the first piece and then took out the remaining pieces without hesitation. I was able to call her back to her perches using the station command we have been working on during training. Detailed health checks were performed on Wednesday. All three birds looked and felt good around their keels. The owl and hawk were given holee roller balls with mice. This was a first for owl. I wondered if he would seek out his food from the ball and was happy upon return the next morning that he was successful in removing his feast of two mice. Eagle was given an enrichment bone. It is a dog squeaky bone/tube structure that has one hole on each end. I stuffed bluegill chunks into the holes. She was immediately interested and after the carrot last week, less cautious this time. She jumped right onto it causing it to squeak. She jumped off and looked at it. Then jumped right back onto it and pulled the meat chunks from the crevices. That evening she received a carp tail. On Friday, eagle bated during training and for the first time ever for me, righted herself to where I did not need to flip her. That was great progress. She has only done this a handful of times for Tom. Otherwise after bating, she merely hangs out waiting to be righted. We can push up on her back but her preference has been flipping. NOTE:  Since this day she is now righting herself more often after bating.


1-8: Crawford County Soil and Water invited us to present at their annual meeting on Saturday. We loaded up the birds and headed to the Crawford County High School. The owl, eagle and hawk were seen by approximately 85 people during the event. We discussed adaptations and environmental needs of these birds during a 45 minute program. Eagle was given a squirrel. Owl was given one chick and hawk received 3 chicks. The shelters were cleaned by Stanley, Patoka Security, on Sunday and Monday. Stanley was able to clean and spray the shelters out in my absence on these days. On Wednesday, Tom worked with the eagle while I was away on vacation. He reported frequent bating while she was on the glove during training that day and again on Friday during training.

9-15: This week I was away on vacation so Tom and Mike have cared for the birds along with Stanley on Sunday. The birds have been very hungry this week and have left nothing from the meal the night before. Training was limited this week due to Tom’s busy schedule.

16-22: I have returned and the birds are still eating well this week. The owl is the only one leaving matter behind after a meal at this point. Detailed health checks were performed on Friday. Weights were taken and beaks and talons were coped. The red-tailed hawk weighed in at 2lbs 10oz. Owl was 4.6oz. Eagle came in at 11lbs 2oz. Glove training went exceptionally well today. She exhibited no stomping, biting or bating during the training session and walk around the Nature Center yard.

23-29: Wednesday glove training with eagle went exceptionally well again. She was walked around the yard again and took well to the bluegill bites she was provided. I have ordered a clicker and will be receiving that to continue this level of training further once it arrives. This week the birds have been leaving more behind then previous weeks. Hawk has been holding his feet up under him but upon inspection the perching surfaces of his feet look great. I have no concerns regarding the health of these birds at this time. Eagle has been getting one squirrel a week as part of her training rewards. Squirrel is her favorite food so we are using it as a reward after good training sessions. On Saturday, the eagle and hawk were on display in the backyard viewing shelters.


1-7: The birds were fasted on Sunday. We have begun the regular practice of fasting the birds once weekly sometimes more as needed for training. Stanley came in to check on them that day and clean the mews. On Monday, eagle handling went well. She was less receptive to the bluegill offerings. I may need to change up my training food tidbits to offer her more variety. On Friday, Mike reports that hawk was making a strange sound. I went out to attempt to hear it for myself since he was not in the shelter when the sound was made. Hawk of course did not make it while I was out there. NOTE:  He reported the noise again later in the month and was able to describe it better to me. I was able to pick up on what he was hearing as the noise the hawk makes when he is scratching an itch on his face with his talons. He does make a peculiar sound when scratching some itches. I relate it to the ‘ahhhhhhh’ that us humans make when we finally scratch that itch we have had and just couldn’t reach. On Saturday, eagle had two blood feathers on her right wing. Due to those feathers and the need to not damage them, I chose to not move her to the viewing shelters. Hawk and owl were out for viewing this weekend.

8-14: It was extremely windy during eagle training on Monday. This did not help with eagle batting. She has always had a desire to jump into the breeze as she flaps her wings in an attempt to take that first flight that she never got the chance to take. Today was no exception. She batted more in the few minutes we had her out today than she has in a long time. Training was not productive today with the bating. She was still exhibiting the blood feathers in her right wing also which may not have helped any either. She was very grippy at the end of training as I went to put her away. On Tuesday, she batted several times and then stopped. I transferred her to Tom while she was good and she immediately started bating multiple times on him and then got grippy. The two blood feathers remained untouched today. She is not unwrapping them which continues to reaffirm our need to remove those feathers or the entire wrist area of her wing as the vet suggested during surgery last summer. For a long time post-surgery, she did not grow in these large feathers from the two remaining follicles that were missed during the operation to remove the follicles. Now that time has passed and the area has fully healed, it is still producing feathers that continue to cause her discomfort. She refuses to remove the sheath from them. We will look into removal of them soon but with things progressing rapidly with this corona virus they are talking about, it could be some time before we can have the surgery performed. On Thursday, she was great on the glove until it was time to go back into the shelter. At that point, she became irritated and began batting and gripping the glove. Later in the week she improved during training and was rewarded with a squirrel.

15-21: New perches were installed in the eagle viewing mews on Tuesday. I moved her out there to check out the perches and she was very interested in the new look. She explored the area jumping from perch to perch throughout the day. I watched in the beginning to ensure proper placement before letting her continue to explore her new spaces. Training has gone well this week. She is not receptive to the tidbits of fish and I made a move to mice. She had no interest but was still handling well on the glove without the food pieces. The birds were all fasted on Thursday. They have been eating everything offered to them again. Health checks have come back good this week as well. Keels feel good and feet look great.

22-31: On Monday the hawk and owl were given mice in their holee roller balls. Eagle was given the midsection of a carp. Eagle has been good during training. We are still experiencing gripping at the end of training when she realizes we are going back to the night mews. We are working with a few falconers on resolutions to this issue. The birds all fasted on Monday 30th. On this particular day, eagle was not in the mood for training and so we backed out of the shelter and left her alone for the day. The next day she was fasted again in preparation of training on Wednesday.


1-4: Training with the eagle went well today. We ended our training with an enrichment box. I provided her a shoebox without the lid. In the box was a rat covered in shreds of newspaper. She immediately jumped down and began circling the box on foot. She quickly pulled on one piece of newspaper and revealed the rat. She then worked quickly to pull the other pieces of paper back. She walked the rat over to the corner of her shelter away from me and proceeded to mantle over her great find!  She ate the entire thing while I stood inside the shelter. Upon finishing her rat, I retrieved the box and retreated from the mews. Owl was given one mouse today and hawk got two mice. Owl let out the most adorable little “hoo hoo’s” on Friday while I cleaned his shelter. He rarely makes any noise at all. It is a real treat when we hear noise out of him. I got him on the glove and gave him an extra thorough check today. His beak and talons look great and may not need coped for a few more weeks.

5-11: The eagle, hawk and owl were all fasted on Sunday. Eagle training went very well on Sunday. Training was conducted without any fish pieces. On Monday, the eagle was fasted again. Owl was given one mouse and hawk also received one mouse. Eagle was fasted again on Tuesday. She was given tidbits of fish on Wednesday during training and was very receptive to the training. She was given a small carp for her meal that day. The red-tailed hawk fasted again on Wednesday after receiving a rat the day before. Owl has been getting one to two mice daily. He has been eating most of his food if not all of it. I called a friend who is also a falconer and through talking to another falconer, we decided to create a PVC feeding tube for eagle. This will be installed each time she is fed. Over time, she will no longer associate people with food but instead the tube will be her food transport. This is our latest attempt at mitigating any food aggression she has been exhibiting. We will work on this feeding strategy over the course of this year and see how she progresses on the glove. On Thursday, she received her first meal through the tube. It was a small carp head. She immediately jumped down from her perches and ran to the door to start eating.

12-18: On Monday, training with eagle saw a great deal of improvement. Upon release back into the shelter, I fisted her high into the air as I removed the lead from her jesses. Then I allowed her to jump to her perch. Her food was delivered via PVC tube again as will be the new normal for her. She received a mid-section of carp. On Thursday, we did travel training with eagle. Tom and I loaded her up in the transport and into the van. We drove to the campground where a crew was installing new doors on the comfort stations. I did a small program for them for her training purposes and as a thank you for doing such a great job on the doors during this Covid-19 pandemic. Eagle was great on the glove for me. She got a little grabby when she first got out but after that she did very well. On Friday, the birds were fasted. Saturday the birds received normal portions of food. Hawk got 5 mice. Owl received 2 mice and eagle was given a carp mid-section.

19-25: On Sunday, eagle pulled out one of her blood feathers. We noticed that she had not removed it from the protective covering after a significant amount of time being fully grown. Monday, training with eagle did not happen. I had to bring my kids to work due to a potential Covid-19 scare with our babysitter. They enjoyed seeing the birds in the shelter and it was good for the birds to see people too. It has been very strange around here without having the birds on display. The Nature Center has been closed for a month now. I have been doing more enrichment with the birds than ever before trying to keep them occupied since they are on display much less and not traveling out for school visits. This time of year we are normally providing weekly programming for schools and libraries. We haven’t been able to do this so the birds can easily get bored. The birds seemed as fond of seeing my kids as my kids were of seeing the birds!  It was great enrichment for all of them!  The birds have not left a single chunk of meat behind this entire week. They all fasted on Saturday.

26–30: This week the birds are still leaving not a single piece of meat behind. Training has gone really well with eagle. We continue to see stomping on the glove as she knows it is time to put her away otherwise she is well behaved. Hawk and owl had extra feet checks this week but everything looked good.


1-9: Finally on Friday 1st the birds left some food behind from the meal on Thursday. Hawk only left a rat skin. Owl left two mouse butts. Eagle left half a chunk of carp. The birds were fasted on Saturday 2nd. I noticed the buffalo gnats have emerged so we sprayed the birds with frontline spray for the first time this year. This typically happens in April each year but I will not complain if the season on these pests is shorter this year. On Monday, eagle bit once during training. This was after we sprayed her with the spray. She broke a blood feather on Wednesday during training that was hanging loose. She was given a squirrel as food that night. On Tuesday, she had not eaten the squirrel which showed me that the blood feather was really bothering her. The blood feather was still hanging from her body untouched. The squirrel was refrigerated and provided again on Tuesday. Wednesday, I came in to half a squirrel eaten which is very unlike her to not eat her favorite food. This is concerning in regards to the blood feather that is still dangling today. Later in the day on Wednesday, she finally plucked the dangling blood feather from her right wing. She spent the entire day Wednesday on the ground, never once getting up onto the perches.

10-16: On Tuesday, we performed extensive health checks on the birds. We coped beaks and talons as well with the help of Mike and Karen. We also changed hawk’s jesses. Hawk came in at 2lbs 10oz. Owl was 4.1oz. Eagle was 10lbs 4oz. On Wednesday, the hawk and eagle received enrichment boxes. This was a first for hawk. He tends to be jumpy and startle easy with new things. I moved slowly into his shelter with a deep shoe box lid. The lid contained 3 chicks. I then went into the owl shelter and have him two mice. When I got back over to the hawk shelter he was investigating the box. I watched from a distance as he picked out the newspaper strips that covered the chicks. He moved them quickly out of the way and devoured the chicks in minutes. I was very proud of him. Through enrichment, we are really seeing him become more fearless of new items. He used to take hours to get acclimated to something new and now he is adjusting in a matter of minutes. Eagle took her time with the enrichment box again. She circled the box and looked inside. I noticed earlier in the day that she had damaged a blood feather in her right wing at some point after we left the day before. It had new fresh blood droplets when I brought the enrichment box in. I wondered if she would be interested but provided it anyway. She merely circled the box a few times and then jumped back to her perches. I left her with the box. The next day I came in and found that she had not but removed one sheet of newspaper shred from the box and then left the rat. It was rained on overnight and no longer any good. I pitched it out since it was warm and completely drenched from the rain. I provided her with a carp tail that evening and she devoured all but the spinal bones.

17-23: The birds fasted on Sunday. On Wednesday, eagle was taken in for wrist surgery. We have dealt with compromised blood feathers again since surgery in June 2019 and want to see these not bothering the eagle any longer. Due to the extent of feathers still causing issues the vet decided that amputating the eagle’s wrist would be the best option to eliminate these painful feathers. Due to the severity of the break in the right wrist of the eagle, the vet had to cut into the radius and ulna in order to properly remove the entire area where blood feathers were affected. We dropped her off at 8:30a.m. and she was ready to pick up around 2:00p.m. We were given two oral medications to administer. She will receive these medicines in mice and meat chunks that will need to be force fed to ensure they’re administered in a timely manner and actually consumed by eagle. She has a tendency to know when medicine is in food and chooses not to eat it if left for her to consume on her own. Tom and I administered the first medicines effortlessly. I had her on the glove and Tom simply grabbed her bottom mandible and stuck the chunk of carp in her mouth and pushed it down until she swallowed it. Medicines will be provided close to every 12 hours through Monday afternoon next week. On Thursday, Tom assisted me with medicating the eagle in the morning as Mike watched. Mike gave the medicine in the afternoon but it was not nearly as flawless. Eagle bated multiple times for Mike’s attempts. We finally got her calmed down and she took the mouse. On Friday, the feeding of medicines went much better for Mike both A.M. and P.M. In the afternoon, Tom came back to assist in removing the bandage. We got the bandage off and I closely examined the surgery site. It was bruised but had no open bleeding. It was healing nicely thus far. Saturday medical feedings went well. The hawk and owl were on exhibit both Friday and Saturday. I did a program for a group of 13 in the backyard on Friday that just happened to be in the yard when it was time to put the birds away. The birds performed perfectly during the program. The birds were out for another program in the backyard on Saturday. Several families were in the yard separated nicely so I went out back and performed a couple programs for the groups throughout the day. On Saturday, the owl started exhibiting a typewriter style head motion while on display. I found him on the ground and it continued until I left. I called Leslie Grow with Hardy Lake to see if she had ever seen this. His pupil was also enlarged and not changing with the light.

24-31: Owl was not out for viewing on Sunday due to the head motions continuing. He appears zoned out as if he is watching flies passing by and does not even notice me. I made a call to the vet and they are getting him in this week for a neurological checkup. Eagle’s medication regimen continued through Sunday also. On Monday, we now have a name for what is happening with the eastern screech owl. We believe it is nystagmus. He has an appointment set for Tuesday at 2:00p.m. On Tuesday, the vet gave us medicines to administer as an anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic. We will continue to monitor him for changes. Owl weighed in at 3.2 oz on Tuesday. On Thursday, the hawk and eagle were fasted. Owl was provided with 2 mice. He had nothing left in the shelter from the previous night. On Saturday the 30th, owl also had nothing left and was given two more mice. He weighed in at 3.4 oz in the A.M. and 3.2 oz in the P.M. On Sunday, the owl dropped another 0.2 oz. He had no food left and was given another two mice.


1-6: Unsure if the owl is getting his mice and not the wild mice stealing and eating his food, I brought him inside for observation. He is still weighing 3.0oz after finding two half eaten mice that did not appear to have been eaten by him. Owl is still on his medications and these will last at least two weeks. Hawk has been eating well leaving nothing behind for days now. The same can be said for eagle. I was off work on Tuesday and knew that owl would need around the clock care and observations. I brought him home on Monday night with the necessary supplies. I headed to the store for pedialyte after he did not eat on Monday evening. I prepared the fluids and the feeding tube with syringe. I also dissected the intestines of a mouse for a soft food diet for him to digest. He was given 10cc of pedialyte twice and then provided with mouse pieces. The absorption of fluids took much longer than expected. It took over 30 minutes to get 1cc in him and even after completion, he would regurgitate a large portion of the fluid. He was down to 2.9oz on Tuesday during both weigh ins. He is closing his eyes more and I can feel the end is near for this 9 year old bird. Hawk and eagle are still eating well. On Wednesday, I woke up and checked on owl. I found that he had passed away overnight sometime in the early morning hours on Wednesday. I brought him back to work with me and gave him a burial place in the same area our other educational ambassadors have been laid to rest. His passing was sent in notifications to our staff in Indianapolis and also the Fish and Wildlife permit agent, Linnea Petercheff. Hawk and eagle are doing really well. There has not been a single piece of meat left over in weeks. On Saturday, eagle was given pheasant meat. She finished most of it before I ever exited her shelter. Eagle and hawk were on stage for the Full Moon 5K. They both did great during the short program. This was the first time eagle has been on the glove all week. We have been allowing the surgery site to heal.

7-13: We have been allowing eagle to heal fully from surgery that took place in May. She has not been on the glove since the wound closed shut with the exception of the 5K for a brief 15 minutes. The area is very thick and has a gray-blue bruising. Thick yellow flesh is taking the place of the bruises. Once it heals more, the feathers on that region will begin to regrow and we will bring her back out for viewing. We will give her one more full week of rest before we bring her out to the public viewing shelters. On Tuesday, Mike reported that she was very vocal on Tuesday and approached him three times while he cleaned the shelters that morning. She has continued eating all of her food. Hawk is also eating everything we provide him. On Friday, eagle was very playful on the ground as I cleaned out her shelter. She was picking up food scraps on the opposite side of the room from me. She jumped to the low perch to watch me fill her bath tub. She then jumped on the edge of the bath as I finished and dunked her feet.

14-20: The hawk was out for viewing on Sunday. He was seen by 23 people during a program titled ‘fierce-eyed and red-tailed’ in the backyard. On Monday, I put eagle out on display during training. She did not grip the glove or make any attempts at biting. She is back to her old playful, inquisitive self. This was a welcome sight for myself and Tom Riley. We have watched her endure the pain of blood feathers and issues in her wrist region. We are hopeful that this final surgery will help end her pain and allow her an easier life in captivity. On Wednesday, I gave eagle a new enrichment log that Dave cut specially for her. It is a tree stump that is cut with 5 holes of varying sizes to stuff food into for enrichment. During training, I slid the log along with a whole squirrel into her shelter while she was not looking. She seemed interested once I pointed it out. However, she did not touch the squirrel or the mysterious log. We will bring the log back out at a later date for another feeding time. On the same day, the birds were also sprayed with Sentry bug spray to eliminate buffalo gnats from feasting on their blood. These pesky insects leave the lips and eyelids of the birds bleeding if too many become present. We spray the birds monthly during the emergence of these insects. On Friday, the shelters were deep cleaned so the hawk and owl went on display. The hawk and eagle were back on display again on Saturday. They both did outstanding and came out for special impromptu programs with guests in the backyard garden both days. On Saturday, eagle was great on the glove again. She has been doing better than expected at one month post-operation. We hope to see further progress on our training with her moving forward. 

21-30: Eagle has been out for viewing numerous times lately and has been doing excellent on the glove since healing is complete. Both the bald eagle and red-tailed hawk are in full molt mode. Feathers are all over the floors on the mews on a daily basis. Feathers are raked out and stored for shipment to the National Eagle Repository. The weather is turning much more hot and humid. Heat indexes are reaching 1000F. A crew of volunteers aided staff in rebuilding the replica bald eagle nest at the Nature Center. During training, I walked eagle up there did a program with her for a few guests. She has been doing extremely well on the glove. She has been well behaved in her enclosure as well during cleanings. Her curious side is coming back out as we work with her. It is always enjoyable to watch her personality show through. The eagle and hawk have been eating all of their food. What little is left amounts to scales of fish and wings of chicks. Our latest feeding regimen is working well for them and saving us from throwing out too much food.


1-4: The temperature was mild on Wednesday so the hawk and eagle fasted. Both had been eating all of their food each day prior to the fasting. On Friday, the birds were set to be on display. We decided to trim beaks and talons before getting them out. We took weights also. Hawk weighed in at 2lbs 6oz. Eagle came in at 10lbs 2oz. The birds were on display all weekend and were part of a roving program around the Nature Center on Saturday.

5 –11: The birds were out on display Sunday and were also part of a program. There was a crowd of 31 in the backyard of the Nature Center. We were able to keep the family groups socially distanced along the fence rail and into the grass picnic area. On Monday, the birds were seen by another group of guests in the backyard. They have been handling well. Their feet are a beautiful bright yellow and talons are shiny black. We continue to use ointment on their feet when they appear dry on top. Feet checks have shown no wear or signs of concern. The birds were fasted on Wednesday. They have been eating well and pellets have been normal.

12 – 18: On Saturday, we had a crowd of 30 in the backyard for a birds of prey program. They were all able to stay socially distanced in their family groups and spread throughout the trail, grass and picnic area. The birds ate everything in sight this week that was provided each day.

19 – 25: The raptor program on Sunday was quite large. We had 56 people come to the program. They were not all there at once thankfully. We had a wave of 30 people and then I said I was wrapping up so that the program would end early (around 30 minutes instead of 1 hour). Once those people walked away a new set of families was headed down the path to see the birds for the first time, so I spent the second half hour doing the same program over again. Covid has made bird programs more interesting as we navigate the changes that social distancing has brought about. The birds have not minded my mask one bit. I expected one of them to check it out. Eagle merely looks at it with a sideways glance and then looks away. Hawk doesn’t even appear to realize I am wearing one. The birds were not fasted at all this week. On Friday, eagle was provided a squirrel. She ate everything with exception to the tail and skin. Otherwise the birds have left no food behind.

26 – 31: The birds were not fasted this week either. The center of eagle’s diet was carp and one rat. The hawk had a variety of chicks, rat, and mice. The birds are continuing to eat everything we provide for them. There were no programs for the birds this week. They took it easy and were provided mist baths on several occasions. They also received enrichment logs with food provided in the holes as well as enrichment boxes. The birds had to remove newspaper strips off the top of their rodents in order to eat. They both did well with this enrichment and wasted no time eating all that was provided to them.

 Upcoming Events

More Events

 Top FAQs