EASTON — You see them as little black specks with outstretched wings against the sky, high above the trees, seeming to just float and wander aimlessly. But not all who wander are aimless. Actually they are very, very focused.

Those far-off birds got a little bit closer during the Waterfowl Festival as visitors gathered at the raptor demonstrations, held all three days in the fields outside Easton Middle School.

Lots of birds eat things other than vegetation. Songbirds like to dine on insects, and sea birds like to eat fish and other aquatic creatures.

But when it comes to raptors, the hunting and catching of food can be a dramatic show. They are birds of prey equipped with keen eyesight, talons for grabbing or killing prey, and powerful, curved beaks for tearing flesh.

Their main mode of operation is to take down their dinner while it’s still flying. Although some raptors eat carrion, like vultures and condors, the raptors at the Waterfowl Festival preferred their menu on the hoof.

The weekend’s raptor show was led by Emma Gesiriech, a falconer apprentice with the Earth Conservation Corps, and volunteer falconer Brian Cullen, who is a director with the Virginia Falconers’ Association.

A steady stream of visitors came out for the demonstrations that included performances by Harris hawks, a Gyr-Saker hybrid falcon, a Red-tailed hawk, a Eurasian eagle-owl and an American kestrel.

There were lots of questions from the crowd. Cameras were clicking and cellphones were raised to capture the moment of being so close to a raptor.

The Earth Conservation Corps is a Washington, D. C., volunteer organization that is an affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation. The Anacostia Raptor Watch is one of its many conservation efforts to involve inner city youth, helping to reclaim the Anacostia River and surrounding communities.

Since 1992, the corps has systematically taken steps to improve the Anacostia River, removing tons of trash, rehabilitating pump-houses, introducing bald eagles and many other efforts.

Check out the Earth Conservation Corps on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter @chrisp_stardem. Email me at cpolk@stardem.com.

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