California Raptor Center temporarily closed to the public

Volunteer Spotlight: Lis Fleming

Lis Fleming presenting
lis fleming presentation
Lis Fleming leading an educational presentation during Biodiversity Museum Day

With a life-long affinity for nature and a love of all creatures great and small, Lis Fleming fits right in to the Raptor Center Education Program.

Lis is a long-time Davis resident, former teacher of high school English, writer of educational materials and avid birder. She first learned about the CRC when she chaperoned an elementary school field trip and followed-up with a visit to an Open House. Lis has volunteered at the CRC since January 1995 as a core member of Education Team, regularly leading presentations and serving as a docent for guided tours.

Her favorite memory with the CRC: 

Many years ago I helped care for Speo, a Burrowing Owl imprinted on humans and not releasable. On the floor of his cage lay a long black plastic tube with an opening just the right size for a burrow. The bottom of this tube was cut out so that Speo could run into his “tunnel” and be touching the ground with his feet. This tube-tunnel took the place of underground burrows made by ground squirrels and which wild Burrowing Owls used for both nesting and safely eluding predators.

A favorite trick of Speo’s was to dart into his tube and hide from volunteers when we came to “catch” him for his regular check-up. (I’m convinced he suspected it.) In order to reach this clever little guy, we had to lift up the tube a few inches so that his legs sticking out the bottom would show us where he was. It was quite a sight to see a long tube sporting a pair of long skinny bird legs. Once we had a careful hold of his legs, we could ease him out of the tube and carry him safely to the clinic.

Another of Speo’s “games” was to land on volunteers’ heads, shoulders, knees and toes.  So we sometimes needed protective gear to prevent needle sharp talon puncture wounds. He seemed to be quite mischievous and unafraid of people. I believe Speo lived to be twelve years old which is a long lifetime for such a little owl. I miss him and am saddened by the steep decline in wild Burrowing Owl numbers, especially from loss of habitat.

As you can probably guess, Lis's favorite raptor is the Burrowing Owl, for being "impossibly cute, charming, lively, curious, and just plain adorable," adding "Sorry about the 'anthropomorphism.' Many of us succumb to this state at unguarded moments."

Lis is an invaluable member of our stellar volunteer team and we thank her for her continued service to raptors in California!