Raptor rescuer following in dad’s footsteps by learning to rehabilitate the fastest birds on the planet

Tom Calvin and Aggie.
Tom Calvin and Aggie.

RAPTOR rescuer Tom Calvin is following his father’s lead by learning how to rehabilitate the fastest birds on the planet.

The 18-year-old electrical apprentice and his cousin Will Goodwin are devoted to helping the orphaned peregrine falcon Aggie find her wings.

For the past three weeks, Aggie has lived at Tom’s home after coming into the care of his father Michael when she was just nine weeks old.

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She was rescued near a mine site in Agnew, about 500km north of Kalgoorlie, aged six weeks and transferred to the care of Stuart and Amanda Payne at the WA Conservation of Raptors in Brigadoon.

Aggie is now 13 weeks old and already flying free each day to build her fitness. Peregrines regularly records speeds of more than 350km/h.

She wears a protective hood made of leather to keep her calm travelling to and from exercise areas, and to reduce her exposure to people.

“Aggie is a wild animal and it’s an important part of her rehabilitation to help her stay that way,” Michael said.

Tom’s father founded the Raptor Rehabilitation Association of WA in 2012 as a ‘bolt-on’ group of experienced volunteers to the non-free flying rescue fraternity.

“We are non-commercial, not-for-profit and entirely self-funded, including the GPS tracking equipment we use to rehabilitate the birds,” Michael said.

With members and supporters Australia-wide and internationally, the volunteers are keen to spread word of their work in WA.

UK-born Michael grew up in rural Cumbria and became involved with raptors from the age of 10, about the same time the acclaimed film Kes captured the imagination of young boys worldwide.

The film, based on the 1968 novel A Kestrel for a Knave, is the story of a disengaged youth who befriends a baby kestrel.

Since arriving in Australia 12 years ago, Michael has rehabilitated 10 peregrine falcons, two hobbies and a kestrel.

“They have all gone back to the wild after extensive free exercise flight, some monitored with radio telemetry to ensure a safe transition back to the wild,” he said.

His enthusiasm to rehabilitate birds of prey is shared by his son Tom who, having grown up around raptors, is aware of environmental issues.

Tom and his cousin are preparing an educational talk for the UNESCO World Wildlife Day on March 17.

Later this year they will join Australian delegates at a raptor conservation festival in the UAE where the focus will be on youth. Michael said GPS equipment tracked Aggie’s progress in real time, recording the distances she flew, height and maximum speeds.

“She should be good to go back to the wild hopefully within a few months, our anticipated time scale is by spring,” he said.

“Until then, she has an awful lot to learn and she absolutely must be able to hunt, or she dies.”

GPS equipment will check Aggie’s movements after release and she will be retrieved if she is not surviving alone.

A showcase of the work of raptor rehabilitators and educators will soon be on display in Guildford’s Museum of Natural History, along with historical items.

The group is looking for a school to be the first in Australia to join a link program for schools worldwide.

For more details visit www.rrawa.com and follow Aggie on her Facebook page.