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Audubon breaks ground for new wildlife habitat

The Audubon Community Nature Center celebrated National Bird Day on Jan. 5 with an informal groundbreaking ceremony for the Pamela A. Westrom Wildlife Habitat.

For almost two decades, Audubon has been home to Liberty, a non-releasable Bald Eagle that was rescued in Washington state. Every year thousands of visitors enjoy viewing Liberty in her outdoor enclosure and several dedicated volunteers, guided by Thom Armella, provide care for her.

With the support of donors, the new building will have an animal care room that is large enough for behind-the-scenes tours and three to four animal enclosures. The new habitats will be adjacent to Liberty’s enclosure, creating a corridor of wildlife that will significantly expand the visitor experience.

Kim Turner, the staff lead for animal care, is training with raptors such as hawks and owls and researching care for these animals in preparation to obtain additional birds. As well as being on display regularly, these birds of prey will be in-hand, educational ambassadors, which requires a different level of training and permitting than Liberty requires.

“We are so excited about this project and its potential for enriching the connection between people and nature,” Turner said. “Our planning for this project began in 2019 and it could be spring of next year before our new residents arrive, but we know it will be worth all the time and effort we’re putting into it.”

Once actual construction has begun, Liberty’s enclosure will be blocked off to minimize the stress on her. To accommodate her fans, she has a Facebook page, Facebook.com/LibertyTheEagle, where she will keep everyone up-to-date on her daily routines, what’s new, and how she is feeling about getting some new neighbors.

For more information about and to follow the progress of the Pamela A. Westrom Wildlife Habitat, visit AudubonCNC.org/pawwh.

Audubon Community Nature Center is located at 1600 Riverside Road, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren. The first floor of the Nature Center building, including the Blue Heron Gift Shop, live animals, and the 2020 Nature Photography Contest winning photographs, is open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Because not all of the building is accessible, admission is by donation only.

Visitors are welcome to view the 600-acre nature preserve from dawn to dusk daily. While practicing safe social distancing measures, you can enjoy six miles of trails for hiking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing, and view Liberty, Audubon’s non-releasable Bald Eagle.

To learn more about Audubon and its programs, call 569-2345, visit AudubonCNC.org, or find Audubon Community Nature Center on Facebook.

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