With swell of donors, repairs at Conway raptor sanctuary well underway


Staff Writer

Published: 04-03-2023 5:31 PM

GREENFIELD — Despite raptor rehabilitator Tom Ricardi receiving a bill that was more than five times what he expected for tree removal, repairs to his Conway sanctuary are well underway.

Three enclosures at Ricardi’s Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center were ravaged by a fallen pine tree that was uprooted during a storm in February. According to Ricardi, who has been rescuing birds of prey for more than 50 years, the tree damaged two cages and “flattened” another “pretty substantially.” One saw-whet owl and two great horned owls were killed as a result, while one peregrine falcon had to be moved to a different enclosure.

Ricardi’s latest progress update followed Greenfield Community College’s birds of prey showcase called Raptorfest on Monday. Repair work on two small enclosures is “almost complete,” he said, while work to rebuild the remaining larger enclosure is underway.

“The one that had the major damage, they’re working on it right now,” he said.

Prior to construction, the trees must be completely removed, Ricardi said. This has ended up being more tedious a process than anticipated.

“I didn’t realize how much brush a couple of trees could put on the ground,” Ricardi commented, noting that a group of volunteers must still rake the area of the large enclosure. “It’s unbelievable.”

According to Ricardi, his contracted tree removal service, which he declined to name, misled him as to what the removal work would cost.

“That took a big chunk out of my budget, I’ll tell you that,” he said.

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Fortunately, he was able to handle the higher-than-anticipated costs, partially due to the tremendous generosity of residents who have donated.

Although Ricardi declined to provide an estimate for a fundraising total, 314 donors had contributed $20,815 toward a GoFundMe page as of Monday afternoon. Donors also had the option to send a check or money order to the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center, P.O. Box 26, Conway, MA 01341. Meanwhile, kindergarten, first grade and third grade students at Conway Grammar School made calendars, bookmarks, pinch pots and potholders to sell to raise money for Ricardi.

A contractor is now taking measurements and doing line work at the site of the larger enclosure before volunteers start construction. Ricardi hopes construction will be nearly complete by the end of April. So far, he said, a great number of volunteers have contributed their time and resources toward this goal.

“I’m pretty good,” Ricardi said when asked if more help is needed.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.