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2018 Wrap Up

By Nick Hadad

Hello Wild Things!

It has been a busy year here at ROC Animal School! Here’s what we’ve been up to over the last several months.

Farmers Markets:

This year, we worked closely with our friends at Impact Earth and tabled at both the Pittsford and Lakeside Farmers Markets. Each month, we would showcase a different theme regarding local wildlife, typically using a different talking mascot character to front each one.

In June, we talked about Backyard Wildlife with our mascot, Swift the Red Fox as the expert on the subject. It generated a lot of discussion about wildlife found across New York state and some of the issues they face and ways to help them.

In July, it was Ask Howler Wolf month. I suited up as our friendly wolf and would answer any questions the public had about wildlife. If anyone managed to stump me, I would then research their inquiries and answer them through a video post on our Facebook page, as part of our ongoing “Ask Howler Wolf” series. Only two people stumped the wolf!

In August, it was Curious about Coyotes month with Dakota Coyote. It proved to be a perfect time to cover that topic as our local coyote population had grown quite large with numerous sightings popping up in urban areas. There were a lot of questions from passersby and we were very happy to help folks with their concerns.

September was Lend a Wing with Skye the Bald Eagle. The focus here was to cover what species of birds of prey could be found in our area, the issues they faced and the current science behind these birds. There was a lot of buzz around this subject as numerous sightings of black vultures, a bird more commonly found in the southern United States, were being documented across the county and further east.

We rounded out our season at the market by talking about Creatures of the Night, showcasing local nocturnal animals. We debuted our owl character, Oslo, and our marble fox mascot, Thor. Both were big hits!

Programs, Expos and Festivals:

We enjoyed getting out and about this year! We made appearances at both the Mendon Ponds and Irondequoit WinterFests, the East Rochester Public Library, the Eastside Resource Center at the Penfield YMCA, the 2018 Rochester March for Science and Expo, Working Like a Dog event at the Genesee Country Village & Museum, Bird of Prey Days at Braddock Bay, the Rochester Museum and Science Center, various day cares and day schools and many other places.

A PAWSitive Impact:

In October, we started to work more with our friends at Impact Earth. We created some educational programs focused on a zero waste initiative, the impact of pollution on wildlife and society and a stronger focus on school zero waste programs. We employed the use of some of our mascots as well, bringing a “wild animal” to talk first hand about the impact of trash on their daily lives. This has been quite exciting for students and we can’t wait to do more come 2019!

Wildlife and Science:

I have been trying to keep current on scientific studies on wildlife and ecosystems. This is so our program content will remain up to date but also to spread knowledge and awareness of what’s going on in the environment. There have been some new discoveries with wolves regarding genetics, new and rediscovered species and the wolf’s impact on the spread of diseases that harm ungulate species. It has been a very fascinating year!

2019:

The new year is right around the corner! We have a lot of things to look forward to and we will keep all you posted as things develop! Of course, you can always book us for programs and events by contacting us at nickhadad12@gmail.com

Until next time, stay wild!

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, arctic foxes, arctic wildlife, Arts, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, birds of prey, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, kestrels, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, talking mascots, Uncategorized

A Bird’s Eye View

We recently filmed a series of videos with Braddock bay’s Barb French with our character Kele Kestrel. Our goal was to shoot between five and six short videos, focusing on what birds of prey live in our area, why they are important, why birds migrate, how and why bands are used to research bird migration, and some simple bird facts.  We shot on location at Braddock Bay’s public Hawk Blind in the Owl Woods in North Greece, NY.  It was a hot morning but the blind was sheltered; I was grateful to not be terribly hot in the kestrel suit.

Kele Kestrel originally was built years ago by two people: my friend Dan built the body suit and Erin from Keystone Mascots built the head.  She built the beak to be wide open so I could both see and speak clearly through it.  Our friend Casey made Kele’s scarf and leg band.  At some point, we will upgrade the body suit as the arms are a bit tight.

This series is the first in which we interviewed someone but it will not be the last.  We have plans on doing many more in the future.  But for now, here are all of the Bird’s Eye View! Enjoy!

 

 

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Animal School Presents: Birds Eye View Episode 1

 

We figured that at this point, we here at Animal School had done a lot of videos and posts about various canine species, especially regarding foxes. So, we wanted to focus a bit on something else and birds of prey (or, raptors) seemed like a good set of species to set our eyes on.  We had our resident kestrel, Kele, interview one of our local bird experts, Barb French, who works as a bander for Braddock Bay Raptor Research in North Greece, NY.

Our first video in the series focuses on the work Braddock Bay Raptor Research does and the purposes of banding, studying raptors and the process to become a volunteer and how to become a certified bander.

Stay tuned for four more videos that will go up over the course of this week. Bird’s Eye View will then take a short break before returning with some really cool new material in the coming weeks.

Stay wild!

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, birds of prey, children's books, ecology, educational mascots, environment, Farmers Markets, kestrels, nature, nature conservation, talking mascots, Uncategorized, wildlife, wildlife education

Birds of a Feather – Our Avian Characters

talon 1

kele 1

Our canine characters, Swift, Howler and Inola have been getting a lot of the attention lately. We didn’t realize just how well received they’d be.

In addition to these lovable foxes and wolves, we currently have two bird characters, both of which have been involved in programs years before we had formally put together our Animal School programs. They are Kele Kestrel and Talon the Hawk.

Kele was built by two friends (Dan made the bodysuit, Erin from Keystone made the head) and debuted in early 2010.  Kele was to serve as a talking character for stories and interactive educational events.  This project was done in conjunction with Braddock Bay Raptor Research, a group I was and still lending my wing to when I can.  Kele’s first event was telling folktales I had written to school groups who came to the Braddock lodge on a chilly winter morning.  He made a bigger splash during that spring’s Bird of Prey Days festival, teaming up with some of the area sports mascots to perform an elaborate storytelling session in front of a large audience.

Kele has since appeared at many elementary schools, various bird events at Braddock Bay, the Palmyra Bird Fest, the NY Power Authority Wildlife Festival, the Seneca Park Zoo, and has since become a staple in our Animal School programs. Being the most colorful bird in the group, he’s easy to spot at events.

Our second bird friend is Talon the Hawk. Talon was built by Erin from Keystone Mascots and is fashioned to be a bit more realistic and natural, sporting accurate red tail hawk/coopers hawk type plumage.  He debuted as well at Braddock Bay but has attended birthday parties and given presentations to our local Audubon Society.

Kele and Talon at the moment can be interchangeable for Animal School programs, depending on the needs of the program or client. Although, it would make sense to have Kele lead our “Kestrel Simulator” program!

We do have plans to create/develop other bird characters which will include a raven, cockatoo, turkey, an owl, a bald eagle and a robin. We are looking into crowdfunding pages to make this a reality as costume construction sadly is not cheap!

So give us a chirp in the meantime if you’re interested in a visit from one of our feathered friends!

Until next yime, stay tuned and stay wild!