For Americans, there is nothing more precious than the freedom we enjoy. It is both the envy and the inspiration for the world, worth defending and promoting to preserve it for all.
"Freedom" is also the very appropriate name of a male southern bald eagle that resides at a very special place: the Center for Wildlife Education in Statesboro, Ga.
Freedom and other rescued birds of prey form the focus of this preservation effort and serve as an inspiration to many -- from biologists to curious visitors and even loyal fans of Georgia Southern University.
Located in the heart of the university, the Center for Wildlife Education and the Lamar Q. Ball Raptor Center is open to the public and well-worth a daytrip to visit and see this unique environment and its feathered inhabitants.
The Center for Wildlife Education and the Lamar Q. Ball Raptor Center was established in 1990 as a part of Georgia Southern University's search for a mascot.
From these beginnings a comprehensive bird of prey recovery facility was established to both study these magnificent creatures and to assist those injured in accidents or their encounters with man. The result is an environment that is specially suited for their habitation and an experience for visitors year-round.
Just an easy drive from Bluffton, the Center for Wildlife Education and the Lamar Q. Ball Raptor Center is an hour-and-a-half away and perfect for a day of enjoyment.
When you arrive you will be greeted by volunteers and specialists who make up the staff and lead a variety of programs for visitors. An interactive museum and gift shop welcomes you and quickly opens the 17 acres of wildlife habitat, bird rehabilitation facility and interactive natural settings that make this visit worthwhile.
When you visit, you may get to meet Freedom and his avian cousins. Dominating the facility is a huge, life-sized eagles nest that is home to "Glory," another rehabilitated bald eagle. A paved walking path and boardwalk carry you through several habitats and displays where other birds and wildlife can be experienced.
An outdoor auditorium is used regularly throughout the year for up-close-and-personal demonstrations with the birds of prey by trained staff where the flight of a great horned owl or hawk will thrill and inform alike.
My family and I recently visited the Center for Wildlife Education and the Lamar Q. Ball Raptor Center and had a full day of adventure. No matter your age, the Center for Wildlife Education and the Lamar Q. Ball Raptor Center is a wonderful destination to see up close and personal the natural world around you.
Bluffton resident Matt Richardson enjoys taking day trips with his family and exploring the Lowcountry. To see more pictures from his adventures, go to www.Flickr.com and search on the username "greenkayak73." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.