Standing in an open field, Trent Seager fully extended his arm straight upward, a peregrine falcon perched on his fist. It hesitated for almost an entire minute, bobbing its head as it looked around.
“Good luck, Hope,” someone muttered from among the crowd of about 20 onlookers. “Come on, baby girl,” someone else said.
Finally, the bird crouched down and launched itself off Seager’s hand, flapping its wings hard as it flew away to a distant tree. The crowd clapped, wearing happy smiles.
Hope is an adult falcon that has been regaining her strength for the past six months at Chintimini Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. She was released back into the wild Saturday morning at Tyee Wine Cellars south of Corvallis.
Seager found Hope in November on an early morning walk with his dog along the coast at South Beach.
“I saw this falcon repeatedly stooping and hitting another falcon,” he said. Once the attacking bird flew off, Seager ran to check on its prey, finding a wounded falcon.
“One eye was swollen shut. She had cuts on the shoulders and the back of her neck,” he said. “She was so weak.”
Seager is a practiced falconer — he hunts with trained falcons — and a regular volunteer at Chintimini. He immediately called Jeff Picton, the executive director of Chintimini, and the two met at the Corvallis rehab center.
Hope is now all stitched up, with both eyes working well. After months of exercising her wings, Seager and Picton agreed that it was time to release her into the wild.
Although wild animals usually are released from rehabilitation where they were found, Seager said Hope needed three to five days of calm weather, and the forecast for the coast called for high winds.
“That time is critical; it’s when they find their own safe place to live, learn territories, to hunt again,” Seager said.
For a newly released predatory bird, 50 mph winds are not ideal, Seager said.
“It’s such a gorgeous day,” Jil Callaghan, 39, of Corvallis said of the sunny Saturday morning for Hope’s sendoff. Callaghan volunteers at Chintimini and has worked with Hope a handful of times.
She said Hope’s first flight was a proud moment, especially since Seager told the crowd he had chosen the spot to release her because there was a tree about 100 yards away — an option in case she got tired or needed to get her bearings.
“It’s very satisfying that she kept flying for a while,” she said. “I feel really good about this, and I hope nothing like this happens to her again.”
Emily Gillespie can be reached at 541-758-9548 or email@example.com.