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Rehabbed hawk released to squawks of delight from crowd

The wound to a red-tailed hawk’s wrist is visible in a photo taken on Dec. 1 at Wildbird Recovery in Middlesex Township. The hawk, named Saxony, was rescued from a Winfield Township tree on Nov. 30 by the state Game Commission and Saxonburg Volunteer Fire Company. It was released back into the wild on Thursday.

Saxony, an injured red-tailed hawk whose recovery demonstrates the power of local collaboration, was released Thursday as his human supporters screeched with delight.

A neighbor of the former Cooper’s Station restaurant noticed the hawk struggling in a tree on Nov. 30 behind the building and called the state Game Commission.

Commission field agents could not reach the bird and called the county 911 center to ask for the help of Saxonburg Volunteer Fire Company’s ladder truck.

Firefighters arrived on the scene and worked with Game Commission agents to retrieve the hawk, which had a kite string tightly wound around its wing.

The bird was taken to Wildbird Recovery in Middlesex Township, where Beth McMaster has been caring for sick and injured birds for decades.

Dan Harvey, a Saxonburg VFC firefighter, said on Thursday that McMaster was not sure the hawk would make it, as the lack of blood flow in a bird’s wing often means it must be euthanized.

But Saxony’s fighting spirit flew in the face of doubt and she rallied sufficiently to recover from her injury.

She continued her convalescence, safe and secure at Wildbird Recovery, until she was deemed able to return to her natural habitat last week.

Because the weather was too cold and windy, her triumphant release was postponed until Thursday.

Doug Sprankle, owner of Sprankle’s Neighborhood Market in Saxonburg, helped fund Saxony’s recovery at Wildbird Recovery.

“Obviously, it’s a rare bird, and the fact that Saxonburg Volunteer Fire Company was involved with its rescue ties back into Saxonburg, so we thought it was a chance to support a nonprofit and get the bird back into the wild,” Sprankle said.

About 40 people — including firefighters, Sprankle accompanied by a firefighter in the bucket of the Saxonburg VFC ladder truck, Wildbird Recovery experts and volunteers, and about a dozen community members — held up their smartphones as McMaster carefully lifted the lid on the large bin she carried to a field behind Penn United Carbide, on Alwine Road in Saxonburg.

“We were going to release her here at the (Saxonburg) Carnival Grounds, but they were worried about the power lines,” Harvey said.

Saxony sniffed the air for a quick second before spreading her wings and eagerly taking flight.

The bird expertly rose through the air and landed in the upper branches of a tall pine tree nearby.

“It was fantastic. It made my whole year,” said a delighted Harvey. “We get into situations here where we don’t have too many reasons to smile.”

He said the release site is only about three-quarters of a mile from the tree where the bird was rescued, so Saxony should be able to take up her old life immediately.

Sprankle was unsurprised that so many local organizations collaborated to rescue and rehab Saxony.

“It shows the community culture of Saxonburg and the surrounding area,” he said.

Harvey is asking all who enjoyed the story of the bird-of-prey’s rescue and recovery to donate any amount they can afford to Wildbird Recovery, which operates on donations alone.

Online donations can be made at wildbirdrecovery.org/donate, or checks can be mailed to Wildbird Recovery, 120 Forsythe Road, Valencia, PA 16059.

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