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Rescuing an Injured Falcon from James Taylor's Sound Truck? All in a Day's Work for WDIY's Barbara Miller

The left panel shows James Taylor standing with a net in his right hand next to Barbara Miller wearing a WDIY t-shirt. The right panel shows the kestrel looking at the camera.
James Taylor with Barbara Miller after capturing an injured kestrel in the musician's sound truck at the PPL Center in Allentown.

WDIY's on-air volunteers often lend their time to other organizations in the Lehigh Valley. When Barbara Miller isn't running the board for Weekend Edition Sunday, she's on-call to respond to reports of distressed and injured wildlife in the area. Miller is a part of Wildlife in Need Emergency Response of Pennsylvania (WIN), a network of licensed volunteers who capture and transport all manner of wildlife in the Commonwealth. "We're like the ambulance service for these animals," Miller explains. So when she received reports of injured falcon in downtown Allentown recently, she didn't expect it would lead her to James Taylor.

Taylor and his crew were at the PPL Center on June 27 preparing for his concert when they discovered the small bird hiding in their sound truck in the arena's parking garage. The crew had left the truck open in hopes the bird would leave, but they became concerned when it was not flying or attempting to exit the trailer. Taylor's tour production coordinator Fletcher Jostar then reached out to WIN with a picture of the bird perched on a shelf among their equipment.

Earlier in the day, Miller had received reports of an injured bird which was unable to fly that had been walking on the sidewalk in front of the PPL Center. When she got the pictures from Jostar, Miller suspected it was the same bird she had been searching for, taking refuge to escape the crowds and cars.

A piece of paper taped to a grey surface that says: Animal rescue on the way! Please do not open. Thank you.

The sound truck was a large tractor trailer full of electrical and sound equipment. When Miller arrived around 6:30 PM, the crew was gathered outside of the trailer waiting for her. Inside, she discovered the bird perched in the back of trailer. It was a young adult female American kestrel, a type of falcon common to North America. "When I approached with my net, it didn't react at all. It made no attempt to move or fly," she said. The kestrel was in the box in a few seconds. The crew was relieved.

"I handed the box containing the kestrel to one of the crew and climbed down." That crew member turned out to be James Taylor. "He was tall and had the kindest eyes I've ever seen. He asked what would happen to it from that point. I said it would be at Cricket Wildlife in 30 minutes." Cricket Wildlife Center is a nonprofit rehabilitation center in Alburtis, PA that treats injured, orphaned mammals, songbirds, and raptors. Miller told Taylor that the kestrel would be given a chance to rest then examined, x-rayed, and treated for whatever was wrong. "The wings, legs, and feet looked fine, but its total lack of reaction when I caught it indicated it couldn't see properly and might have blurry vision due to [a] concussion."

Taylor then asked where the bird would be released. "I replied not in Center City Allentown, but far from the city in good kestrel habitat with an abundance of mice and grasshoppers." She told Taylor that he and his crew had saved the bird's life by keeping it safe in the trailer. Before leaving with the kestrel, Taylor asked for a picture with Miller, who just happened to be wearing her WDIY t-shirt and hat. "I don't always wear my WDIY shirt out on calls," she explained. "It just happened to be the only clean shirt I had with me." It made for appropriate attire as she talked with the singer-songwriter and guitarist.

The likely culprit that injured the kestrel? "The PPL Center is a very large convention, concert, ice hockey area center that occupies a full city block and its walls are mostly glass," Miller explained. "Many Cooper's, red-tailed hawks and kestrels, and many migrating songbirds, are victims of glass collisions there."

The kestrel is still recovering at Cricket Wildlife Center. And Miller told us the bird already has a friend. "Another kestrel with a wing injury arrived at Cricket and James' lady kestrel is providing the injured one with company and moral support. They like to perch close to each other."

The center's founder Melissa Descant says housing the birds together like this will help to reduce stress and lower the chances of them becoming tame towards people. "As of now, we are expecting both kestrels to make a full recovery and be returned to the wild in the coming weeks," Descant said. Meanwhile, Barbara Miller was back on the air on WDIY the next day. "I'll try to keep my WDIY shirt in my car in case I get called to any other famous musicians."

Shamus is WDIY's Membership and Development Director, responsible for managing the station's membership activities, grant writing, public relations, and online activities. He is also the producer and host of Tape Swap Radio.
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