A tiny yellow duckling recently found wandering alone on the grounds of the New York Botanical Garden has since landed in paradise.
"I knew a fledgling would never survive with all the predators in the Garden," said the bird's rescuer, a state licensed wildlife rehabber who asked not to be identified because some neighbors don't know that she cares for squirrels, pigeons and other creatures in need from her Manhattan apartment.
The curious fluffy bird spent the night frolicking in the rescuer's bathtub before making the four-hour journey to the Berkshire Bird Paradise, where she was greeted by a gaggle of ducklings that reside at the upstate sanctuary.
Located in upstate Grafton, the safe haven is home to more than 1,200 disabled and unwanted birds, from emus, pigeons, and tropical birds to owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles.
New York City residents regularly make the drive to hand-deliver injured pigeons and squirrels to founder Peter Debacher, who turned his parents' 20-acre farm into a maze of wooden pens and exotic plants in 1972 as a "labor of love."
Wildlife officials across the country have sent injured birds for his care, from an eagle mauled by a grizzly bear in Alaska to cranes left over from a breeding program in Maryland.
"All life is sacred; once you spend some time with them, you realize every creature has its uniqueness," said Debacher, a former Army cook who served in the late 1960s in Panama, where he bought parrots being sold as pets in the vegetable stands and set them free.
In the last three decades, he has taken in more than 20 wounded eagles, including Victoria, a bald eagle who survived the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.
Victoria's two baby eaglets - their father, Baldwin, came from a zoo - who were born in the sanctuary were recently released into the wild.
Meanwhile, Debacher's latest mission is to provide refuge to an eagle shot in the wing in Afghanistan.
Concerned Navy Seals recently e-mailed Debacher, asking him to take the wounded steep eagle, but U.S. wildlife regulations have kept the bird from entering the country.
Debacher has enlisted help from author Barbara Chepaitis to cut through the red tape and act as a liaison between lawmakers and the soldiers.
Chepaitis, a bird lover who discovered the sanctuary years ago, understands the depth of Debacher's compassion. In her new book, "Feathers of Hope" (SUNY Press), she provides an intimate view of life at the sanctuary and the enormous effort it takes for Debacher to maintain his dream.
After all, the sanctuary is a humble place run by a small army of volunteers. Debacher estimates it costs about $150,000 a year to run the nonprofit facility, which relies strictly on monetary donations and community outreach.
State troopers and DEC workers regularly drop off road kill and dead rats, which feeds the birds. Day-old bread donated by local stores, and apples, pumpkins and other fresh veggies from local farmers help feed squirrels and pigeons.
Kids from nearby Tryon Juvenile Detention Center even help paint signs and make bird feeders, while learning about compassion for animals.
Despite his enormous lifelong commitment to the animals, Debacher does not feel shackled down. He says sharing an occasional movie and a sandwich in town with his wife, Betty Ann, and their 16-year-old daughter helps keep him going.
He said, "This is my paradise and I love it."
The Berskshire Bird Paradise welcomes visitors. For information or to make a donation, go to www.birdparadise.org.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Duckling rescued, brought to Paradise.
This place sounds incredible. If you've got some extra bucks, it sounds like this place could really use it. From NY Daily News: