Friday, April 29, 2011

Camera Day

Our birds are ready for their close-up!

A WBS Friends and Adopt-a-Bird Parent Exclusive!

You're invited to our Spring Camera Day 2011!

Bring your family and cameras to see and photograph our magnificient
raptors posed in natural settings.

Dates: Sunday, May 1st 2011
Time: 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free for WBS Friends and Adopt-a-Bird Parents.  You can enroll as a WBS Friend from as little as $35 per year.  You can enroll on the day of the event, or Click Here to enroll now.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Help Us Win!

Your vote can help World Bird Sanctuary win up to $500,000 in the Chase Community Giving Challenge!

What is Chase Community Giving?
Chase Community Giving was introduced in 2009 as a new way forward for giving. This unique program lets fans of Chase Community Giving vote to help determine where Chase donates millions of dollars. In total, millions of people have helped us donate $10 million to 300 winning charities in 35 states. But we’re just getting started.

How does the program work?
Chase Community Giving Spring 2011 will have two rounds of voting. Round 1 started on April 21st and runs until May 4th, 2011. The 100 eligible charities with the most votes during Round 1 will each receive $25,000 and move on to Round 2. All Round 2 charities will have the chance to submit a Big Idea that demonstrates why they should receive our top donation of $500,000. Based on the votes received between May 19th and May 25th, 2011, the winning charity is eligible to receive an additional $500,000 donation!

What can you do to help World Bird Sanctuary?

This is a Facebook-only campaign.  If you have a Facebook profile, please cast your vote before Wednesday, May 4th.  Share it with your friends on Twitter and Facebook, and ask them to do the same.

Thank you!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wings Over Water

Wings Over Water – Missouri's birds up close and in flight!

Missouri American Water presents World Bird Sanctuary's Wings Over Water Programs at venues around St. Louis this Spring!

Missouri American Water and World Bird Sanctuary are bringing Wings Over Water watershed education programs to three FREE family events in April and May.  You'll see eagles, owls and hawks up close and in flight.  They illustrate the importance of protecting our birds, their habitat and Missouri's water resources.

Enjoy the birds and a comprehensive and interactive exhibition that examines one of the most urgent scientific and social issues of the 21st century.

Saturday, April 30th, 10:00 am to 3:00pm
Little Creek Watershed Festival
Little Creek Nature center (Ferguson-Florissant School District)
Catch a shuttle at Grandview Plaza Shopping Center
1171 Dunn Road, Florissant, MO 63033

Wings Over Water is one of many fun and interactive activities for families at this 97-acre nature preserve.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2:00pm and 4:00pm
Powder Valley Nature Center
11715 Cragwold Road
Kirkwood, MO 63122

The birds will fly right over your heads at this amazing program – part of our Drinking Water Week Celebration!

Sponsored by:
Missouri American Water

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tales From The Nest – Part 1 – 4/3 & 4

The call came on a Friday morning, just as I was packing to leave for a weekend Girl Scout Camp.
Great Horned Owl nest in a pine tree about 60-80 feet above ground
When my husband stopped in to visit a good friend on Friday morning, the friend showed him a nest in the top of a pine tree across the street from his house.  Originally, the nest had been built by a pair of Red Tailed Hawks last year.  This year, however, it had been taken over by squatters—a pair of Great Horned Owls!   Great Horned Owls don’t usually do much in the way of nest building.  Most of the time they will take over a tree cavity or an existing nest that was built by a large bird such as a hawk.  They will usually embellish it with some new twigs, pine boughs, or feathers.

Normally, I would have grabbed my camera and immediately jumped in my van and headed for the nest.  However, that particular day I was scheduled to pick up my troop of Girl Scouts and leave for camp within the hour.  The owls would just have to wait until I got back.  I have to admit that even though we had a great campout, those owls were on my mind the entire weekend.

As soon as I walked in the door on Sunday I persuaded my husband to show me where the nest was located.  The location was great!  Not only was the nest clearly visible if you knew where to look, but it could easily be photographed from inside my van, which made a great blind.   These are semi-urban owls who have nested in a residential neighborhood close to some open fields, and they are accustomed to the neighborhood vehicles coming and going at all hours. 
Here's Mamma!
Since the temperature that day was still a bit chilly with a brisk wind blowing, the owls were hunkered down in the nest.  You could just see the top of Mamma Owl’s head, with only her feather tufts and one suspicious eye showing to identify her.  Since the midday light would not make for good photographs, I vowed to return the next morning, if the weather was more cooperative, to see if there was more activity.

Bright and early the next morning I was stationed in my “blind” (my trusty Dodge minivan) and  had my camera and long lens at the ready.  Soon I was rewarded with the sight of Mamma peering over the edge of the nest. 
Mamma is on guard and ever watchful
Now anyone who photograph’s wildlife knows that a successful day is usually a lot of sitting and seeing nothing.  If you’re lucky you might be rewarded with brief periods of actual wildlife sightings.  This was the case with our Owls.  After sitting with camera ready for what seemed like an eternity I suddenly saw one downy little head pop up at the edge of the nest.   He stayed visible just long enough for me to fire off about thirty photos, and then he hunkered back down in the nest.  Was there only one baby?  Only time would tell.  From the looks of him they would be pretty young. 
Up popped a downy little bundle of mischief
Since the light was changing enough to make any further photos undesirable, I decided to call it a day and return again tomorrow.  Besides, I was beginning to get strange looks from the neighbors, who I’m sure were considering calling the police about the person with the pretty obvious camera taking photos in their neighborhood.   I decided to return the next morning and try again—perhaps armed with some decent photos to pass out to the neighbors to let them know I wasn’t a burglar casing the neighborhood.

Check back again for more “Tales From The Nest”.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer 

Friday, April 22, 2011

One Dime at a Time

Get your Re-usable Shopping Bag at Whole Foods Town & Country
tomorrow, 4/23!

If you shop at Whole Foods Market Town & Country between noon and 3pm tomorrow, and you are one of the first 50 visitors to the World Bird Sanctuary information table, you will get a free re-usable shopping bag!

Then take your shopping bag inside and help World Bird Sanctuary when you bag up your groceries . . . here's how:

World Bird Sanctuary is the beneficiary of Whole Foods Market Town & Country's One Dime at a Time program for April, May and June 2011.  This means that every time you shop at Whole Foods Market Town & Country, and take in your own shopping bag, you will be offered a 10¢ refund.  You can then choose to have this refund donated to World Bird Sanctuary.  It's a win-win!  The environment wins – no non-biodegradable plastic finding its way into our waterways; and World Bird Sanctuary wins – your donated refunds will help us continue the important work in our wildlife hospital and endangered species breeding center.
We'll even get you started!  When you shop at Whole Foods Market Town and Country between 12pm and 3pm on the following dates, you will get a free re-usable shopping bag from Whole Foods Market and World Bird Sanctuary (offer limited to first 50 visitors to the World Bird Sanctuary table on this day).

Saturday April 23rd             12pm – 3pm
Saturday May 28th             12pm – 3pm
Saturday June 18th            12pm – 3pm

We wish to express our thanks to Whole Foods Market for supporting World Bird Sanctuary through their One Dime at a Time program, and through their ongoing efforts to encourage us all to shop in a more environmentally sustainable way.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Special Auction Item!

Signed by Sammy Hagar – a new Squier by Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar! 

Bid on this item at Fete du Feather 2011 on May 7th, or submit your sealed bid by 12pm CST on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011.  Here's how to do it:

This item will be part of the live auction at Fete du Feather 2011 on Saturday, May 7th, 2011.  If you would like the opportunity to bid on this one-of-a-kind item, there are two ways to do it:

1.    Attend Fete du Feather and bid in the live auction.  Tickets to Fete du Feather start at $100 per person and are available by calling 636-225-4390 ext. 102 or downloading a response card here: (Link:
2.    If you cannot attend Fete du Feather, you can submit a sealed bid which will be held for you during the auction.  In order to submit a sealed bid before the auction, you will need to purchase a Fete du Feather ticket for $100.  Once you have purchased your ticket you will be able to submit a sealed bid which will be used to bid on the item on your behalf at the live auction.  See below to see how to submit a sealed bid.

Sealed bid instructions
1.    Purchase your ticket by phone (636-225-4390 ext. 102) or download the ticket form online ( and return it to WBS, with the words "Sealed Bid" on the response card.
2.    Once your ticket has been purchased a "Sealed Bid" form will be emailed to you for completion.
3.    Return the form, with your name, address, telephone number, maximum bid amount that you are prepared to pay and your credit card details by fax, email or mail.  All "Sealed Bids" must be received by World Bird Sanctuary by 12pm CST on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011 to be eligible for inclusion in the live auction.

Good luck!

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Lifelong Fascination

Do you love creatures that fly?  I do--and have ever since I was very young.
 C. hypsea (Commonly called a Lacewing) - Photo Copyright The Butterfly House, 2011, Mark Deering
I remember noticing Butterflies when I was 5 or 6.  I would chase them, but also observe them and their beautiful colors.  We lived in an apartment when I was younger.  I do not think we had any kind of garden, but yet in between the apartment buildings would appear these little flashes of color; winged wisps.  I like to think of them as winged messengers from God, telling me that there was more out there in the big world than my mind could imagine.  Instead of gardens we had acres of dandelions and clover.  Some butterflies would light on the yellow or white flowers.  I remember the white Cabbage butterflies.  
 O. priamus, male (one of many species of Birdwing Butterflies) - Photo Copyright The Butterfly House, 2011, Mark Deering
Bees were fascinating also.  Someone showed me how to catch bees in a jar.  Sometimes you could catch 2 or 3 and have them all buzzing in the jar all at once.  We would always have to let them go before we came in for dinner.  Yes--I did get stung a few times, but wild winged things fascinated me.  When I was a little older someone taught me to catch the bees with my fingers.  We would catch them by their wings and hold them for a few seconds and then let them go.  Sedum with their little purplish flowers often attracted the bees and the butterflies called Skippers. 
D. plexippus - (or Monarch Butterfly) Photo by Gay Schroer
In 1970 the winds were just right for a big part of the Monarch Butterfly migration to pass through St. Louis.  The Monarchs were migrating from the north to the south...going right thru my subdivision--hundreds of butterflies flying thru my yard and all the neighbors’ yards.  Torrents of orange and black butterflies poured between the houses and over the rooftops.  It lasted for many days, and one evening during the peak of the migration I walked up to the woods at the top part of my street. There were thousands of butterflies landing near each other on specific trees.  About five of these trees were the main roosts.  They were so thick it was hard to see bark or leaves--just orange and black butterflies! I was told that the Monarchs were heading south and going to Mexico where they would spend the winter on a few very important acres.  Migration of butterflies and birds still fascinates me to this day. 

Fasten your seat belts because spring migration of birds is under way.  Those of you with bird feeders have recognized the transition of bird species at your feeders.  Anybody who lives in our area that was paying attention was able to see and hear daily flights of Snow Geese the last week of February and some of the days in March.  You could even hear the geese going over at night, like the night I went around the back of my house at 8pm.  I heard the Snow Geese but couldn't see them. Migration--inspiring, fascinating, spiritual, is underway.

Enjoying one creature in nature often leads to enjoying many other creatures of many different species. Somehow birds became my passion in 3rd grade.  I am privileged to work with birds and on behalf of bird species everywhere.
C. memnon (or Giant Owl Butterfly) - Photo Copyright The Butterfly House, 2011, Mark Deering

After you visit the World Bird Sanctuary, be sure to visit the Butterfly House.  What an interesting and fascinating collection of Butterflies you will see. What a spectacle!  Butterflies will surround you and may land on you or your friend or family member.  They are often attracted to your colorful clothing.  Take the time to experience the butterflies up close.  I was able to enjoy March Morpho Mania this year—all about the Morpho Butterfly species.  What an amazing experience!
 M. peleides (Blue Morpho Butterfly) - Photo Copyright The Butterfly House, 2011, Mark Deering
While you are at the Butterfly House be sure to take the time to visit the hatching chambers.  You will see the chrysalids hatching or changing into butterflies--metamorphosis.  Be sure that any children in your group get a chance to see this miracle.

I enjoyed my visit so much that I asked Mark Deering, the Acting Director, if I could use some of his butterfly pictures for my blog.  He was kind enough to give permission.  World Bird Sanctuary has worked with Mark and the Butterfly House in the past and we have a very good relationship.  My coworker Sara Oliver said that the Butterfly House was her favorite St. Louis tourist attraction--next to the World Bird Sanctuary.

Visit World Bird Sanctuary and the Butterfly House. We are only a half an hour from each other.

World Bird Sanctuary is open 8-5 Daily.
The Butterfly House is open 9-4 daily except Mondays 636-530-0076 

Submitted by Michael Zeloski, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rainforest Layers

2011: International Year of Forests

Zones of Life in a Rainforest
Tropical rainforests are usually divided into five distinct layers.  Beginning at the top is the Emergent Layer, which is not continuous like the other layers.  It consists of a scattering of tall trees that protrude far higher than the others, ranging from 100 to 250 feet overhead.  This level has the most variable conditions since it is more exposed to the elements and gets the full force of the sun, wind and rain. 
Ivory our Great White Hawk 
Birds of prey like the harpy eagle, native to South America, hunt from the high treetops of this layer.  At the World Bird Sanctuary you can see another species that visits the emergent layer in their native range of Central and South American rainforests—a White Hawk named Ivory. 

Some monkeys, bats, snakes, butterflies and other insects also inhabit or visit the emergent layer.  Butterflies go from flower to flower in the high treetops.  The male Blue Morpho butterflies M. peleides are a brilliant blue and will often assemble in the emergent layer to attract a mate.  A Morpho butterfly may be one of over 80 species of butterflies in the genus Morpho.  They are Neotropical butterflies found mostly in South America as well as Mexico and Central America.  Morphos range in wingspan from the 7.5 cm (3 inch) M. rhodopteron to the imposing 20 cm (8 inch) Sunset Morpho, M. hecuba.
Rio, a red and green macaw
Many animals climb or fly between the emergent layer and the next layer down, the Canopy Layer--for example, Macaws, which live on the nuts, fruits and seeds found in these layers.  You may see several examples of these beautiful birds in the World Bird Sanctuary’s Nature Center.

More species live in the canopy layer than anyplace else in the rainforest.  Sloths (only found in South America), monkeys and other climbing mammals are common here.  This layer can be about 20 feet thick, and is formed by the next tallest trees.  It acts like a roof over the rest of the rainforest and deflects most of the sun, rain and wind.  The air is very still within the canopy, so most plants here rely on animals, not wind, to disperse their seeds.  Therefore, many fruits are abundant here.

Moving on downward, the next layer is the Understory.  This layer is about 20 to 40 feet above the ground.  It is made up of young trees, short species of trees and some taller shrubs.  It is darker, there is less wind and it is more humid than the canopy above it.  Understory plants have flowers that are large and pale to be easily seen in the dim light.  They also have strong odors to help attract pollinators.  The humidity is perfect for a variety of amphibians, such as salamanders and frogs.  Predators like Jaguars and Ocelots sit up in this layer scanning the ground for prey.  Many small birds feed here and at lower levels.
 A Blue Morpho butterfly, photographed at the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House 
Next is the Shrub Layer, which extends from about 2 to 20 feet above the ground and consists of woody plants and bushes.  Although this layer has relatively sparse growth, you may find cauliflorous trees and vines here.  These plants have flowers that grow out directly from the bark and some resemble cauliflowers.  When not feeding or seeking a mate, the beautiful Blue Morpho butterfly can usually be found resting in this layer with it’s wings folded and looking for all the world like a leaf with large eyespots.  This beautiful butterfly, whose topwings are a striking iridescent blue, has brown underwings with large eyespots.
 Madagascar hissing cockroaches on display at the World Bird Sanctuary

Lastly, at ground level is the Herb Layer which contains saplings, small leafy plants, ferns, fungi, fallen trees and other fallen dead plant material.  Less than one percent of sunlight reaches this level. Here giant anteaters, peccaries, tapirs and other large mammals dig up invertebrates, roots and tubers to eat.  The previously mentioned Blue Morpho butterfly can be found here, dining on rotten and decomposing fruit.  The decomposing litter is a source of food for a variety of small invertebrates like termites, millipedes and earthworms.   A myriad of centipedes, scorpions, slugs, beetles and cockroaches live here under stones, leaves and logs. 

For more information about the ecology of the rainforests visit the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s website at

Here at the World Bird Sanctuary in Missouri we don’t have a rainforest.  However, we do have trails that lead visitors through an old growth Oak/Hickory forest.  If you don’t feel comfortable exploring our forest on your own, call 636-225-4390 XT. 0 to learn about one of our newest programs, “Hey, There’s Nature in my Woods”, which is led by one of our knowledgeable naturalists.  You may be surprised at what you discover right here in your own backyard.

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hey! There's Nature in My Woods!

It's the perfect time of year for a walk in the woods!

World Bird Sanctuary's family-friendly guided nature hikes are back for the summer!

Join us for a leisurely 2-hour hike through our oak hickory forest to see what kind of nature is in our woods.
  One of the trails on WBS property
An expert naturalist will lead you on your hike – where you may see birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.  Learn about trees, rocks and who knows what else!

Each hike will be a new experience depending on the season and creatures we encounter.

Time: Hike starts at 9am.  Registration at 8.30am.
Dates: Every fourth Saturday of the month from April to October, except August.
April 23rd
May 28th
June 25th
July 23rd
Sept 24th
Oct 22nd

Cost: $9 for adults; $7 for children under 12.  Groups of 10 or more - $7 per person regardless of age.

Reservations Required: Call 636-225-4390 ext. 0 to make your reservation and find out what nature is in your woods!

Dress for the weather and don't forget your binoculars and cameras

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Join WBS and see the world!

Sounds a little like an advertisement for the Army, doesn’t it? 

However it is true--at least to a certain degree.  I haven’t had a chance to go outside the US with the World Bird Sanctuary, but I have been all over the country within its borders!
From the Statue of Liberty....
In the Education Department at WBS we are willing to go anywhere to present our programs.  Some of these trips have been to some interesting and far away destinations.  I especially like to get in on these long distance programs because, first of all, I love to travel, and secondly, I love to drive.  

Many of our long-distance programs are ones that we drive to, because traveling by air with the birds is a royal pain.  The birds don’t mind it one bit, but having to deal with shipping the birds and all their equipment, not to mention the security… well, it makes for a long trip.  Driving can also be a pain, just because it is obviously so much slower than flying, but you can see some fun and interesting things on the way. the Washington Monument...
In my years with WBS I have had opportunities to just about literally cross the country.  I have been to Montana and Phoenix, Arizona, New York City and Washington D.C., St. Petersburg, Florida and South Padre Island, Texas.  I have had some great chances to see this beautiful country while driving through it. the deserts of Arizona...
I’ve been to the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, the Badlands in South Dakota, the Washington Monument in D.C. and the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor.  So, I’ve seen some big majestic things, but I’ve also had a chance to see some smaller things that many people wouldn’t be terribly interested in, such as local statues, museums and other touristy bits and pieces.  One of my favorites was part of a trip I just took. some lesser known...
On March 25, 2011, I drove up to Wabasha, Minnesota to the National Eagle Center to present eagle programs for their ‘Celebration of Eagles’ weekend.  On the way there Jennifer (the volunteer who was helping me out for the weekend) and I stopped for gas in a small Iowa town.  It wasn’t until we were heading out of the gas station that I realized that this little town in the middle of Iowa was an extremely important place to a science-fiction geek like me.  
...but no less interesting locations...
The town was called Riverside, Iowa, and for those of you who are wondering ‘what the heck’?  Riverside, Iowa is the “future” birthplace of James T. Kirk – Captain of the Starship Enterprise!  What a find!
...we never know where our travels will take us.
To make a long story short (too late!), on our way back I persuaded Jennifer to stop in Riverside so that I could see the town and the “future” birth site, labeled with a plaque and everything!  It may seem silly to many, but it is just one of the fun little things that I’ve had a chance to see while traveling with WBS.

Submitted by Laura MacLeod, World Bird Sanctuary Education Coordinator

Sunday, April 10, 2011

O.W.L. Is More Than Just a Bird

The World Bird Sanctuary offers several environmental educational programs through our Office of Wildlife Learning (O.W.L.).  

We take our programs and shows into schools, zoos, theme parks, festivals, corporations and more.  We offer a variety of programs here on our site as well.
 One of our most popular programs is Raptor Awareness
A few of our most popular and well-traveled programs include: Raptor Awareness, Critters for Kids, Wings for Tots and Fur, Feathers and Scales.  We offer many other wonderful programs, such as Prairie Preservation, Stripping the World  (this program discusses illegally traded wildlife items such as ivory and coral, and includes some of our endangered ambassadors), Extreme Ecosystems  (this program discusses the Earth’s five major biomes and an animal representative from each), Animal Armor and Avian Aerodynamics.
 Wings for Tots is perfect for the younger children
Want to stretch your legs and learn about our planet at the same time?  Plan a trip to WBS to see our birds, mammals and reptiles and schedule time with a Naturalist for Birds, Bugs & Bark, Rock Hunt or Freshwater Findings.  All three of these programs include an adventure on foot through WBS’s scenic trails.
 Fur, Feathers & Scales is just right for the pre-school set
Whatever kind of group you have, small or large, young or old, WBS has a program for you.  We can even customize a program for you.  We also offer displays of birds of prey, mammals, reptiles or combinations.
 Owl Laboratory is a great discovery program for young and old alike
Looking for a unique teaching tool to compliment a lesson?  Check out our Resource Nest Boxes that can be rented out for a two-week period.  Topics include: Protect Our Planet; Rocks Rock; Talon Tote and Where We Live.  These are excellent resources for home schools and classrooms alike.

For a list of available programs and other resources, visit our home web page at and click on the “Programs” tab.  There you will find program descriptions, age recommendations and more.  Be sure to click through the different headings such as “For Your Classroom”, “For Your Field Trip” and “For Your Group”.  WBS offers Scout Badge Programs, which are listed as well.

If you are interested in scheduling one of our programs either at our facility or yours, please call our Education Department at 636-225-4390 ext. 0 and ask to speak with one of our Schedulers.

WBS’s environmental educational programs are developed in accordance with the State of Missouri’s Show-Me Standards for education in life science.

Submitted by Billie Baumann, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator

Friday, April 8, 2011

Don't Forget Baturday!

"Baturday", you ask?  No, we're not talking about a new baseball season event!

World Bird Sanctuary is celebrating our first Baturday event April 9, 2011 from 12-4.  

What is Baturday?  Baturday is World Bird Sanctuary’s day to celebrate “2011 International Year of the Bat.”  Guests will learn all about bats during our educational Bat presentation.  You will learn why Bats are so economically important, the threats they face and what you can do to help them survive. 
Come out and meet Batty and Scar, our Straw-colored Fruit Bats
Meet our resident Straw-colored Fruit Bats, Batty and Scar.  Programs will be at 1 and 3 in the Nature Center. 

Watch a bat training and enrichment session.  We will also have bat house plans available to help you attract bats to your neighborhood--we can guarantee that after learning all about bats you’ll want them around your house!

Help us with the bat enrichment session by bringing fresh herbs like dill, thyme and basil.  Other fresh herbs that can be used are spearmint (Menta spicata), peppermint (Menta x piperita), oregano (Origanum vulgare), creeping marjoram (Origanum spp.), English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), catnip (Nepeta cataria), basil (Ocimum basilicum), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). 

We could also use new silk flowers and greenery to decorate the cage.  The colors of the flowers add a bit of enrichment for these fascinating mammals. 

Additional enrichment item possibilities are:  a new hanging suet feeder, plain gelatin to make bat jigglers, wire trash baskets (small), wreaths made of grape vines and colored wood made for mammals or parrots.  All of these items can be used for various types of enrichment and we will talk about it in our enrichment/training session.

Join Batty and Scar to celebrate Bats and learn about these amazing flying mammals.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Rookie Files: On the Road Again

The changing of the seasons can signify many things in nature. Breeding season, migration season, flowers blooming and trees leafing out are all common sights in spring.  At World Bird Sanctuary it means another show season is upon us.

The life of a World Bird Sanctuary employee that moves from town to present programs at zoos is a nomadic one. During the winter we come home to roost, so to speak, at the main site.  We train and care for the show birds as they enjoy their six month vacation.
Osiris, the Egyptian Vulture, packed and ready to go--"Got egg? Check!", "Got rock? Check!"
Come spring, however, as the leaves begin to appear we begin to pack. Items that have not been used in months are pulled out of storage--printers, short sleeve shirts, personal dishes, maps and city guides.  Most of us can fit the majority of our life into our car.  It also helps that many of us have vehicles with a lot of trunk space. Food is divided among those who remain on site and off we go!
 No--this isn't Spring Cleaning--it's a zoo show crew gathering up necessary supplies!
For four to six months we will be living in a completely new city, new home with new neighbors and in the case of the crew heading to Boston, new time zone.  The first time I picked up and moved across country for a show it was a fun, but strange experience.  Caravanning there is half the fun, playing leap frog with your fellow travelers, trying not to be hypnotized by the swaying equipment trailer in front of you, taking a lunch break and talking about the random radio stations you found.  Then you get to the new city and you realize that this place is going to be home.  Time to find a new grocery store, movie theater, park etc.  It is a little disorienting to be somewhere completely new, but luckily with people you generally know.

Not only do we ourselves have to pack up and move, but we need to pack the birds and any equipment we may need as well.  Since different venues have different facilities we never really know just what we’ll need for a season, so we leave prepared.  There is an extensive four-page checklist that we use for packing purposes.  Once the red checks start to appear then it becomes real that we are leaving soon.  The birds also notice that something is different though we try to act as normal as possible.  They can see the crates being moved and the items being gathered.  Soon they will be packed up and driven to a new home, for them a completely new territory.  After a short “check-the-place-out time,” they adapt and are fine.
 Some of the birds' "stuff" ready to move for the summer
For most people spring means a change in the weather and vegetation.  For us, and the birds, in means a change in location, routine and people.  For most people the idea of packing their life up in their car twice a year is a horrible thought, but for me, and the birds, it means its show time!  And show time is the best time of year!

If you find yourself in the Boston area between 1 May and 5 September 2011, come to Stone Zoo in the North of Boston (the town of Stoneham to be exact) and see our bird show, presented at 11:00, 1:00 and 3:00  every day. 

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Monday, April 4, 2011

Scaly Friends

Spring is sprung! Please watch out for our scaly friends!

Let’s face it—it’s tough being cold-blooded. We humans may feel that we are at the mercy of the weather, especially here at the World Bird Sanctuary where we spent a long, hard winter under ice and snow.  But the truth is we should be glad we’re not reptiles—stuck hiding out under mud, rocks, and rotting logs, trying to find enough heat to survive the winter. 
 Nothing like a nice warm pile of bark chips for sunning after a long cold winter
Now that the sun is out more often and the air is warming, the ground is warming too, prompting the cold-blooded locals to reemerge.  Since reptiles can only be as warm as the air around them, on a cool, sunny day they may seek out a flat surface that warms quickly on which to bask.  Ideally, this surface is a nice rock in a forest or clearing.  Unfortunately, it is often a sidewalk or a road.  Reptiles are presented with a tough choice living around humans.  If they don’t warm up enough to run their organ systems, they could die.  If a car clips the sunny road shoulder where they’re sunning, well…you know the rest.  It is the proverbial rock and a hard place. 
In the Spring a male Box Turtle's fancy turns to thoughts of love
As spring progresses, another natural instinct will take over—the need to move to a particular breeding ground.  Many types of reptiles have to migrate to a breeding area each year, and that area may be a distance away from where they’ve spent their winter.  Why did the box turtle cross the road?  The need to breed—that’s why.  And boy, are they focused! 

We can help these creatures out by being aware while we’re enjoying driving with the windows down again.  Watch for snakes, turtles and lizards in the road, especially in more wooded or rural areas.  Of course, use caution and concern for your own safety and the safety of other drivers, but where possible, try to maneuver around these reptiles.  They may not be warm enough to move very quickly even if they feel the vibrations of the car coming. 

As for the pokey turtles crossing the roads, try to avoid them too.  If you are in a position to safely move the turtle out of the road, please remember this:  always, ALWAYS put the turtle on the side of the road it was going towards when you found it, not back the way it came from.  Sometimes people assume the turtle must want to be by the closest body of water, but that isn’t always so.  Turtles have little brains, but make up for it in stubbornness!  They know where they’re heading and will turn right around, back into the path you just thwarted them from.  Turtles appreciate our help as long as we stick with their plan! 

Reptiles are wonderful animals and they all play important parts in their habitats.  Even if scaly critters like snakes aren’t your favorite up-close-and-personal friends, remember that all the mice they eat could otherwise end up in your garage, eating your birdseed…or your wiring…or into your house—yuck.  Celebrate the reptiles that made it through the winter by helping them survive the spring!

Submitted by Dana Lambert, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Working with Seniors

Wings For Seniors is the name of one of our program offerings.  

We often take this program to retirement and nursing homes.  I wish we did more of them.  However, sometimes the Seniors come to us as part of a tour, or they often attend our special events.
A tour group watching the skies for the wild Turkey Vultures that come to WBS to visit their captive relatives 
I love interacting with Seniors.  These elder statesmen and women have lots of life experiences to share.  I particularly llike their bird stories--stories of birds they have in their yards, or memories of birds they saw at their previous residence.  People's eyes light up when they begin talking about the birds they saw in their yard or birds they saw on vacations.  Seniors are never in a rush, and they can tell great stories.  Love it

I also love it when they are trying to figure out a bird species that they recently observed.  It is fun questioning them to get some clues for the possible identification--jogging their memory, having them relive the sighting. It brings us both pleasure. Sometimes we seem to figure out what bird they saw; sometimes we don't.  But that’s OK.  The time spent talking about the bird is the real treasure.
 A senior guest, at a Fete du Feather special event, sharing stories with one of our naturalists
If we do a Wings For Seniors event for you, here is what to expect.  We will bring 4 birds to your event or venue. The guests will get close up looks at the four feathered friends, and we will share a few of the most fun and interesting facts about the birds.  Inevitably one of the guests will share a story about one of our birds and their life experience with that bird species.  We all will be richer for hearing their story.  I will have added to my base of knowledge, and the senior will have had the pleasure of reliving a memorable life experience.  So we all gain from our time shared with the live birds.

We usually bring an owl or two--sometimes a hawk or a falcon. We could even bring our tame Chicken if your guests want to see and pet a live chicken. Chickens are very popular with our senior guests. Many people have fond memories of their chickens or their parents’ or grandparents’ chickens. Please let us know if you want us to bring a chicken to your Wings For Seniors event. It will give everybody something to cluck about, and we will all have some fun.

Submitted by Mike Zieloski, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist