Volunteer Spotlight: Jenny Lin

We asked Jenny some questions about her time with Wild Ontario. Here's what she said:

Jenny Lin
1. Why did you decide to volunteer for Wild Ontario?

While on the hunt for a way to get involved and learn new skills after my big university debut, I happened upon a Wild Ontario post advertising volunteer positions with raptors. Being from the suburbs where wildlife was present but scarce, the opportunity for a little bird action was very appealing to me. So, I applied and was lucky enough to get accepted!

2. When did you join the program?

I joined the program in my first semester of university, in fall of 2015.

3. What have you learned/how have you grown through this experience?

I have learned so much from Wild Ontario that to say this program changed my life would be an outrageous understatement. The obvious answer to this question would all the bird husbandry, animal training, and natural history information that I am constantly learning. Yet, the most impactful thing this program has taught me is the love of presenting. Back in ye olden days before I joined Wild Ontario (which is weird to think about, much like entering the forgotten fortress of an old family attic - nostalgic but slightly unnerving) , public speaking was a dragon I only approached out of the necessity of some dreaded school project. Yet, having had the opportunity to practice presentations and share something that I am passionate about (hint, it's birds- I love 'em) made me realize that this was something I never want to stop doing. For me, nothing quite gets the adrenaline going like standing in front of an audience, sharing some crazy cool info about nature, and watching people get excited. In fact, I love this work so much that my original plans of going into veterinary medicine have become completely derailed and I now am hoping to pursue a career in animal education. Beyond this, I am also so lucky to be able to work with the most wonderful team/ WO family, both feathered and not, who is constantly teaching me new things and pushing me to be better. At the risk of waxing too emotional, I will say that this program makes me happy like nothing else and sometimes I wonder how I could have gotten so lucky to be a part of such a wonderful experience and team.

4. How would you describe the bird(s) you work with?

This is quite the loaded question and people who have met me tend to avoid it unless they have several decades worth of free time to listen to a love-packed extravaganza of bird-worshipping monologue. Luckily for you, dear reader (or maybe unluckily? I am quite the conversationalist...), this answer supposedly has a word limit so I will keep it as brief as my heart will allow.

For my 3 years so far with Wild Ontario, I have had the greatest pleasure of working with Whistler, the Broad-winged Hawk. She is quite the old bird at soon to be 20-years-old and has such a quirky personality, not unlike that of a crotchety old human lady (but in the most lovely way possible!). Even though she is no spring chicken (spring hawk?), don't make the mistake of underestimating her! She is an amazing worker and very receptive to new training or behaviours. Whether it's going out and inspiring a kindergarten class of future biologists or just going on a low-key walk back at the university, Whistler is always primed for action. And while this special lady may be fickle at times or may be particular about certain things, it has been an absolute joy to learn (and to continue learning) about all her funny little idiosyncrasies. I love her so much and even though she is a non-social species who can never love me back, it's ok because I have enough love for the both of us.

Like all the other birds in Wild Ontario, Whistler is non-releasable and her story is a bit of an adventure. She was found outside in poor condition before being transferred to the care of the lovely folks down at Toronto Wildlife Centre. There, she was found to be unusually comfortable around humans and they pieced together that she must be a human imprint. Likely, baby Whistler did not contain her loveliness on the inside well enough (she struggles with this still) and somebody must have illegally stolen her from the wild as a chick, thinking that she would have made a great pet. This is far from the truth as raptors are definitely not pets but because she was raised by humans, she never learned how be a bird or survive in the wild. Since she could not be released, she then came to us where she is now an animal ambassador extraordinaire.

I have also been fortunate enough to work with Mowat the Barred Owl, Oberon and Puck the Eastern Screech Owls, and Thomson the Great Gray Owl. They all have their own unique personalities and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with and learning from each of them.

5. What’s up next for you?

I'll be finishing up one more year of university before hopefully taking the plunge into the world of fulltime animal education and conservation work. While I don't have any plans yet of what that would entail, I do know that I hope to stay with Wild Ontario as long as I can because, like a days-old forgotten spot of dried bird poop on a winter coat, I am quite hard to get rid of!

6. What others say about Jenny:

"Jenny loves birds. Like really loves birds. Has she mentioned that she loves birds? Fortunately for us she also loves training them, feeding them, taking care of them, cleaning up their poop and teaching people about them! She is tirelessly dedicated and endlessly positive, and I don't know where we'd be without her."

"Jenny is a great teacher. She never stops spouting information about the birds, but most of all has taught me a lot about hard work, passion and dedication. Don't tell her I said this, but she's one of the most inspiring people I know!"

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