Four-year-old Merlin and her younger sister Marina are busy with their coloring books, sitting quietly at a table inside the Iowa Raptor Project headquarters deep in the woods at Macbride Nature Recreation Area west of Solon.
A few feet away, their mother works to calm a large female red-tailed hawk. It screeches and flaps its four-foot wingspan while perched on Mom’s thick leather hawking glove.
Merlin and Marina keep coloring and pay little attention to the huge bird or my interview with their parents, Ryan and Holly Anthony. After all, these girls live 24/7 with big, beautiful raptors with sharp beaks and claws.
It’s a glimpse into the unique lives of this congenial couple who share a common career passion for birds of prey. They manage the state’s only public raptor center and are expert, passionate voices for raptor conservation on behalf of its sponsors, the University of Iowa College of Education and Kirkwood Community College.