Handlers say their diva barn owl broke away from his free-flying raptor routine and chose to perch all day long at the top of the Civic Center raftors to “people-watch”

CANANDAIGUA — This past Saturday at Canandaigua’s Wildlife Expo brought a bit of extra avian excitement.

“Soren” the barn owl decided not to participate in his usual routine and, instead, flew up to the top raftors of the Greater Canandaigua Civic Center to “people-watch” the whole day. And there was a lot of people to watch, as about 2,000 area animal lovers came out to support Farmington-based Bridges for Brain Injury Inc. for its first Finger Lakes Wildlife Expo and Fair.

“Bridges For Brain Injury would like to thank everyone for attending their ‘wildly’ successful Wildlife Expo this past Saturday. Your attendance was overwhelming and supports our ‘one of a kind’ Wildlife Rockstars program that the community has embraced,” said John Truini, the director for BFBI’s Wildlife Rockstars program, in which program participants are trained in the handling and care of native and exotic animals as part of their rehabilitation. The Rockstars visit schools, nursing homes, veterans groups and other sites to share information about the animals and conservation awareness.

Hundreds of supporters called or sent messages Sunday and Monday morning trying to find out about Soren’s fate, according to Truini. Apparently, during the flying bird demo, Soren was just about to land on his trainer's glove when something — a shadow, the hum of the microphone, perhaps something else entirely — startled him, causing him to seek a better vantage point in the rafters. Once there, it quickly became obvious to his handlers that he was having far too much fun on his new perch where he could see everything; Soren had found the best seat in the house and he wasn't coming down.

Hawk Creek Handlers says Soren was not in any danger at any time since the raptors were flown on an extra long leash for the remainder of the show. They also noted that when working with animals, especially free flying birds, things can happen that cause them to go off course; and as trainers, they need to decide on the safest route back to the handlers. Soren's handlers said the safest route was to wait him out.

The handlers say Soren flew back to his trainers without incident around 6 p.m. after the festival-goers left and the majority of the expo had been cleaned up. Truini said the center was overwhelmed with the outpouring show of local support for Soren and wanted to make sure everyone knew the story had a happy ending.

For more information on Bridges for Brain Injury, Inc., please visit www.bridgesforbraininjury.org