Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wow, Charlie, check that out!

“Wow, Charlie, check that out!  That’s not something you can see every day.” 
Definitely not something you see every day--a man walking around with a Eurasian Eagle Owl on his fist.
This is one version of the same sentence that often comes out of people’s mouths as I’m walking by them with a bird on my glove.  I smile every time I hear that because I know that it’s true.  Even though I get to see this kind of thing every day, most people don’t.  It’s important to me that my newfound job is one that gives me and other people immense happiness, along with the ability to have not-so-common experiences. 

I say newfound because only recently have I started earning money for spending all my time at the World Bird Sanctuary.  One year ago I spent a good twenty five to thirty hours a week at the sanctuary for free because it gave me so much joy.  I had the raptor fever. 

For nine months I volunteered but in January of 2011 I had to go away to college in Arizona.  Throughout the whole semester I worried about my return home.  I needed to get a full time job upon my return and I had no idea how I was going to juggle forty hours of work plus time at the sanctuary.  Then, some crazy twist of fate occurred at the sanctuary and soon I had an email waiting for me asking if I wanted a full time seasonal job at WBS.  Obviously, I took it.
Now I fully appreciate all the work that the staff at WBS does.  Responsibilities run high here and hard work is key.  It’s not just flying birds and cleaning up and preparing food.  It’s fixing broken equipment, medicating animals, speaking to visitors and answering questions.  Now that I’ve spent a few days running the Nature Center by myself, I also fully understand just how important our volunteers and interns are.  That’s something I never thought much about when I was a volunteer. Alas, they keep the sanctuary alive and the staff sane.
I get to fly a Harris's Hawk in one of our programs
My biggest responsibility increase is speaking in shows (Raptor Awareness, Wings for Tots and Amazing Animal Encounters are the programs that I speak in).  I’m eager to do it and am having a blast with it, but it’s not easy.  Suddenly I have to know a lot more about these birds than I did a year ago.  Suddenly I’m thrown in front of crowds that are hungry for the information that I can give them.  Suddenly people are looking to me for knowledge.  Suddenly I’m the expert. 

After every show I get the pleasure of talking to people and listening to the stories they want to share with me about their experiences with raptors, or answering their questions and going into more depth than I could during the show.  I’m forced to be on my toes at all times and up to date on my information.  I’m glad for the extra push that keeps my mind active.

Unfortunately, I only get a few months to do all of this.  I said before that my position is seasonal.  August will be my last month here at WBS and then I’m off-- back to Arizona to study Ecology, Cultural and Regional Studies and Adventure Education.  I’m sure I’ll have a lot of awesome not-so-common experiences while in Arizona but I will undoubtedly miss the sanctuary and all of its staff, volunteers, interns and birds.  Until then though, I’m going to suck in all of the awesomeness and try to put up with waking up early every morning (something I was never really good at).

Submitted by Nathan Thoele, Seasonal World Bird Sanctuary Staff

Friday, July 29, 2011

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer at World Bird Sanctuary and be part of something meaningful.

Visitor: You must love your job!"
Naturalist: Yes, I do, and you can too!
  Seasonal staff member Jaimie Sansoucie began her career with WBS as a volunteer
Volunteers are vital to the success of the World Bird Sanctuary and are involved in every aspect of helping us to achieve our mission.

Animal Care and  Education Volunteer Opportunities
Our volunteer program offers something for everyone, including the unique opportunity to work directly with birds and animals:
Our volunteer program offers something for everyone:
- Naturalist (animal handling & visitor education)
- Docent (visitor education and interaction only; no animal handling)
- Animal care technician (care for animals in our behind-the-scenes areas)
- Field studies technician (bird capture; banding; recording & release)
- Rehabilitation technician (care for wild birds admitted to the wildlife hospital)
  Longtime volunteer Jena Baumgarten and Acorn, a red phase Screech Owl, answering questions from a seniors group
Skilled Worker Volunteer Opportunities
A very important part of our volunteer corps is the "Tuesday Crew" – a group of retired tradesman who keep our site functioning and maintained, including plumbers, carpenters, welders, electricians, mechanics and more.   If you are a retired tradesman with a special skill to offer, and you would like to join this vital group of volunteers at World Bird Sanctuary, we'd love to hear from you.
 Members of our Tuesday Crew completing a project 
If you would like to find out more about becoming a volunteer at WBS, click here for more information or call 636-225-4390 ext. 103.

Group Service Projects also available.
We also offer one-time service group service project volunteer opportunities for your church, social club, scout group or school:

Public Event Days
Date: World Eagle Day in March; National Trails Day in June; International Vulture Awareness Day in September and Open House in October; 7am – 4pm
Approximately 1,000 - 3,000 are expected to attend each of these events.  Help needed includes:
Face painters
People to help control parking
People to help conduct visitor satisfaction surveys
Help with free kids craft activities
Help with sales at food concession stands
Printing photos on demand at the photo opportunity stand

Line Maintenance Days – Spring & Fall
Date: March (Spring Preparation) and October (Winter Preparation); 9am – 4pm
We clean, repair and prepare bird exhibits on our display line in preparation for spring.  Tasks include:

Remove shadecloths and weatherproofing from exhibits and shelters
Clean bird baths and wading ponds
Weeding and new plantings in bird exhibits
Rake leaves in public display areas
Clear/maintain hiking/walking trails that traverse our 305-acre property

Mew Maintenance Days – Spring & Fall
Date:  April (Spring Preparation) November (Winter Preparation) 9am – 4pm
We clean, repair and prepare bird housing in our behind-the-scenes areas in preparation for spring.  Tasks include:
Remove/erect shadecloths and weatherproofing on exhibits and shelters
Pressure-washing housing walls to clean them
General repair and maintenance of wooden housing.

Use your time and enthusiasm for the outdoors and conservation to make a difference – become a WBS volunteer today!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2011: International Year of Forests: Where Forest Meets Meadow

The edge of a forest is a transition zone between two communities.  On one side is the forest, the other can be a field, meadow, or marshy area.  

A field typically describes an area managed by people.  It could include a farmer's crops or it may be some other open area mown or managed in some way.  A meadow is a more wild open area.  Missouri also has tallgrass prairie habitat, which is dependent on natural fires or prescribed burns.  Each habitat type has characteristic plants and animals.  The forest edge is the crossroads for the wildlife from the two neighboring worlds.  It provides a combination of food and cover that is critical to the amount, diversity and quality of an area’s wildlife population.  Creatures from both sides will visit the zone for food, sun, shade and shelter.
 Photo of a forest edge along Highway 21 in Missouri
 Edge quality depends on how gradually the forest becomes a field/meadow.  Many transitions in Missouri are abrupt changes which is not great for wildlife habitat.  Weeds, shrubs, vines, and small trees bordering the two communities provide more food like seeds, berries and insects.  If you are a landowner you can create a gradual forest edge between your field and forest by simply not mowing or managing the border.  Allow a 30-foot or wider strip in between to revert to native plants and shrubs.  Edge effect could be made even better by thinning the trees beyond the border strip.  Leave snags and fruit and nut producing trees.

Common in Missouri, an invasive plant that can overrun the forest edge is Bush, or Asian Honeysuckle, which is native of eastern Asia and was brought to the U.S. to use as an ornamental.  Asian Honeysuckle out-competes native shrubs and reduces understory diversity by creating too much shade for many wildflowers.  Favorable, native, food- producing shrubs and vines that can thrive in the forest edge are blueberry, blackberry, flowering dogwood, raspberry, greenbriar, hazel, grape, witch-hazel, serviceberry, hawthorn and viburnum.

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Monday, July 25, 2011

Turkey Vulture Migration Study

LOOK!  Up in the sky—it’s a bird, it’s a plane….its definitely a Turkey Vulture!

After spending the winter months as far south as South America, those winged wonders, the Turkey Vultures, are once again circling overhead in Missouri skies with their amazing demonstrations of avian aerodynamics.
On March 22, 2009 we ran a blog post about a Turkey Vulture migration study being done by researchers at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in conjunction with other researchers in South America.  To review that post Click Here. 

If you’ve never paid particular attention to these birds in flight, stop for a few moments and really watch them.  You’ll be mesmerized!  Now that they’re back, this is your opportunity to be a part of an important ongoing study  about the migration habits of these fascinating birds.  To read more about the study's findings to date click here.  
There is a photo posted on the link of a bird wearing the tag so that you can see what it should look like.  So, the next time you see a turkey vulture soaring overhead, perched, or on the ground, stop what you're doing for a moment, and take a closer look.  That bird may be wearing some important jewelry!

Turkey vultures tagged for the tracking program may have blue, red or yellow wing tags. Anyone spotting a turkey vulture with a tag is asked to report it to the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Please note the location where you saw the bird, which wing the tag was on, the color, the number if possible, the bird’s behavior such as flying, perched or feeding, and whether it was with any other vultures.  Even if you’re not able to supply all the above information, contact them with whatever information you do have.
For more information on how, what and where to report Click Here.  
Once you’ve reported your sighting to the Hawk Mountain study, don’t forget to let us know about it by submitting a comment on our blog.
Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Volunteer’s Perspective

 A friend of mine first introduced me to the World Bird Sanctuary in December of 2009.

Until he told me about volunteering there, I had never heard of this organization.  I like to volunteer and I like animals so I decided to give it a shot. 

When we first tried to sign up for the mandatory orientation it was January, and January in Missouri, as we all know, is snowy and icy.  It seemed that we had one snow or ice storm after another in January, and icy road conditions forced the site to be closed for an unprecedented number of days.   It took until February for us to actually get into the orientation, but it seemed to take forever.  That was probably due to my impatience interfering with my memory.  It was without a doubt worth the wait, because come to find out--I love it here!
 Learning to handle birds on the glove was the first big step.  This is Flip, a Red-shouldered Hawk.
 When you become a volunteer you have to be there for 40 hours before you get to handle any of the birds, so I devoted almost every day after school to going to the sanctuary and getting in as many hours as I could as fast as I could.  After about a month I was able to handle birds and I was very excited.

The first bird I got to handle was Acorn, an Eastern Screech owl with a staff member to supervise me.  It didn’t take too long and I was approved to handle on my own.  The next step after that is learning to fly the trained birds.  The first bird I was able to fly was Jet, an American Kestrel. 
Actually learning to fly a bird was amazing!   This is Jack, a Harris' Hawk.
I caught on pretty quickly, and started doing programs with staff members, traveling to venues throughout the entire Midwest.  My first program was at a summer camp with Mike Zeloski.  After that I went to Michigan, Kansas City and many more local places.  I had been a volunteer for over a year in the Education Department when just a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be offered a full time, seasonal position as a member of the Department.  Of course I jumped right on it.  Since then I have been learning how to present “Birdday” parties and badge programs for scouts.  Speaking in font of people, I think, is going to be my biggest challenge of the summer, but public speaking is a good skill to have.

In the fall I will be attending college at Prescott College in Arizona where I will be majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in adventure education and possibly equine studies. “Equine” is another word for horse or a member of the horse family. I will be going on a month long backpacking trip for orientation and, I’m sure, many other super cool things, but I’ll be back to the World Bird Sanctuary.  

For more information on volunteering click here.

Submitted by Jaimie Sansoucie, World Bird Sanctuary Seasonal Staff Member

Thursday, July 21, 2011


It’s not too late to sign up for our Avian Training Workshop.
 Classes include lectures and hands-on work learning
If you are a novice or are already experienced with birds of prey and training, but want to learn more, you should attend our “Avian Training Workshop” this November.  The workshop is an intensive 4-day long experience where you will learn from the senior staff at World Bird Sanctuary.  
Learning to tube feed a sick or injured bird
Part of the workshop is classroom lecture style, and part of it will be hands-on working with equipment and the birds themselves.  Some of the topics we will cover include:

·      Different species of birds utilized for education programs, which ones work best, and comparing hawks, falcons, owls, eagles, pelicans, horn bills, crows, ravens, parrots and other bird species.

·      Information about how to develop your own raptor center, the permits and necessary experience needed, insurance, etc.

·      How to best house raptors and other birds– perches, mews, jump boxes and other caging.  How best to protect weathering and exhibited raptors and other birds from potential predators, weather, etc.

·      How to present education programs – dress code, scripts, voice protection exercises, audience participation and much more.

·      Transportation of birds – driving, flying, shipping – how best to keep them safe and comfortable.

·      Bird diets – what to feed, how to get and store the food, vitamins, etc.

·      How to train your birds– what is a base weight, what is a target weight, creance line, flyer food, positive and negative reinforcement, and we train a White-necked Raven to perform a new behavior throughout the workshop!

·      Hands-on making of jesses, anklets and leashes.  Learning how to imp feathers on a bird.
 Learning to fly a Harris' Hawk
·      Flying a bird!  A chance to fly a Harris’ Hawk or a Barn Owl and learn the correct techniques for free flying.

The registration fee includes your workshop guide. This guide contains a wealth of information, most of which is covered during the workshop, as well as additional information.  The class is small; we take a minimum of 10 people and a maximum of 20 people.  But that also means that if you don’t act, the spaces could be filled.  Enroll today to insure your place in this unique and highly informative class, now in its 15th year!!
The workshop runs from Thursday, Nov. 3rd through Sunday, Nov. 6th and the cost for the 4-day event is $650 per person (this includes lunch each day).  In order to register, we require a $100 non-refundable deposit by October 1st, after that date the price will increase to $750 per person.

If you would like to learn more, or register for the workshop, please contact Teri Schroer at or call 636-225-4390 ext. 3.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Geocaching at the World Bird Sanctuary

Did you know you can go geocaching at World Bird Sanctuary?  

We didn't.  But you can.  So we decided to find out more about it!
Young guests learning about geocaching at a recent WBS National Trails Day event
Tom Wolpert from the St. Louis Area Geogachers Association tells us what it's all about.
"Geocaching is a high-tech treasure or scavenger hunt which uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) to locate hidden containers.  Geocachers like to joke that we use billion dollar defense satellite systems to hunt Tupperware® in the woods.

At midnight on May 2, the government did away with Selective Availability, which limited the accuracy of the civilian GPS signal to about 200 feet.  Without Selective Availability, accuracy improved to about 20 feet.  The next day, geocaching started.  Dave Ulmer, a GPS enthusiast, decided to see just how well the system worked.  He stocked a plastic bucket with trade items and a notebook, hid it in the woods, posted the coordinates – the latitude and longitude – on the Internet, and invited fellow enthusiasts to use their GPS receivers to find the bucket.  The rules were simple:  “Take some stuff, leave some stuff!  Record it all in the logbook.  Have fun!”  Although there have been a lot of embellishments over the years, that’s still the way the basic game is played today.

Virtually anyone can go geocaching, although very small children may need some help from mom and dad.  Geocaches (and geocachers) are everywhere.  There are over 1.4 million caches – and over 5 million geocachers – worldwide.  There are caches on every continent, including Antarctica.  In fact, there are about 480 geocaches within a 10 mile radius of the World Bird Sanctuary!  There are caches which require long hikes, caches within a few steps of parking, and caches which are wheelchair-accessible.  There are caches which are very easy to find and others which might require an extensive search.  Each cache has difficulty and terrain ratings on a scale of one to five.  This makes it easy to choose caches that fit your abilities and the circumstances.

In order to go geocaching, you need an inexpensive handheld GPS receiver. Low-end models, such as the Garmin eTrex H, sell for $85 to $100.  They are available online, at sporting goods stores such as REI, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, and big-box retailers such as Walmart. In areas with good celphone coverage, you can also use a GPS-enabled smartphone with an inexpensive geocaching application.  You also need occasional access to the Internet and a free membership at the central geocaching web site,  Other than that, it’s just a matter of batteries for the GPS receiver and gas for the “cachemobile.” 

Once you have your free membership at, you can get started.  From the web site you can search for geocaches by, among other things, zip code or street address.  This shows you a list of geocaches in order of increasing distance from that location.  For each cache, you can see the distance, cache name, and the difficulty and terrain ratings.  You can also see the date that the cache was last found and the number of geocachers who named the cache as one of their favorites.   If you’re a visual kind of person, you can also view the list in Google Maps.  Either way, when you see a cache that looks interesting, you can click on it to see the cache page, which contains all the details.

On the cache page, you’ll find the coordinates – the latitude and longitude – of the cache.  You’ll also get other information, such as the story behind the cache, the container size and type, and perhaps a hint to help you find it.  You can also see log entries from all the geocachers who have hunted this cache in the past.  There might even be pictures to go along with the logs!  You can even get driving directions.

If you decide to hunt the cache, you must put the coordinates into your GPS.  (If you are using a smartphone, you use the geocaching application to look up the cache right on your phone.)  If the cache is complicated, you may also want to print out the cache page – or at least jot down relevant information, including the hint.  As you get more involved with the game, you will learn to send coordinates directly to your GPS receiver through a connection to your computer.  More expensive handheld GPS receivers can do paperless caching.  That is, you can load all the cache information – description, difficulty/terrain, size, hints, and even logs – right onto the GPS unit.  Such units can hold information for thousands of caches at the same time.

Geocaches come in all shapes and sizes.  Each cache has a listed size ranging from large (a five gallon bucket, a pickup truck toolbox, or even a car) to micro (a 35mm film canister, a waterproof matchbox, or a magnetic container the size of your pinky fingernail).  Regular-sized caches are usually about the size of a one- or two-quart food storage container.  Small caches are about the size of a sandwich storage container.  In most cases, the cache page will tell you about the container.

There are several different types of caches.  For a traditional cache, the container is located at the listed coordinates.  A multi-cache involves multiple stages, each of which has information which leads you to the next stage and ultimately to the final, where you will find the container.  There are also puzzle caches which require you to solve a creative puzzle in order to get the final coordinates.  To start with, you’ll probably want to stick to traditional caches, regular or larger containers, and low difficulty and terrain ratings.
Stealth and nonchalance are often required while geocaching in public places
Many caches are located in crowded public places.  Stealth is required while you’re hunting the cache!  We’ve all pretended that our GPS receiver is a cell phone or camera…  And we spend a lot of time pretending to tie our shoes while we’re looking under things!  Part of the fun is keeping the game a secret from the muggles – those who don’t play the game.  There’s a practical aspect to that as well – it keeps the caches themselves safe.

Once you find the container, you should always sign the log.  If the log is large enough, you might also want to leave a comment about your experience finding the cache.  If the cache is large enough to contain trade items, you’re free to take something and leave something of equal or greater value.  Geocaching is family-friendly.  Most trade items are small toys or trinkets which appeal to children.  Think cereal box toys, happy meal toys, or party favors here.  When you get back to your computer, log your find on the central web site.  The cache owner likes to hear about your experience!

Speaking of cache owners, where do all these caches come from?  Other geocachers hide them.  Once you get the hang of the game, you’ll likely get the urge to hide some of your own.  SLAGA recommends that you find at least 50 before you hide one.  That way, you’ll have a feel for what makes a good cache.  There are a few rules for hiding caches.  You can find them on One of the most important is to follow land manager guidelines for placing caches and obtain permission if required.  In addition, a volunteer reviewer looks over each new cache before it is published.  The reviewer will help you follow the rules and may even give you feedback for improving your cache.

Cache ownership is a long-term relationship.  Once you hide a cache, you’re responsible for checking on it periodically.  You have to make sure the container is in good shape, keep it stocked with trade items, replace the log if it gets full, and so forth.  If something happens to the cache, it’s your responsibility to pick up the container and archive the cache so that it’s no longer available to be hunted.

Like all social pursuits, geocaching has its share of informal rules and etiquette.  Do not trespass.  Observe all local regulations, such as park operating hours.  Geocachers respect the environment in which they play. Do your best to “leave no trace” when you go geocaching.   If the area requires stealth, do your best to keep the hunt and the container location secret from muggles in the area.  Always leave the container and the surrounding area as you found it.  Make sure the container is tightly closed.  If you trade, trade even or up.   Geocaching is family-friendly, so don’t leave anything which is not child-friendly (or which would be dangerous in the hands of a child) in a cache.  If you find something like that, remove it (no trade required).  Always sign the log.  Always log your find (or your “did not find”) on the web site.  And say something about your experience in the hunt.  The owner gets an e-mail when you log the cache online – and he or she wants to know that people are having fun hunting the cache.  If there’s something wrong (container is broken, contents are wet, or whatever), the owner wants to hear about that as well.  Don’t include anything in your log that would spoil the hunt for others.

For someone who’s new to the game, there’s a lot of introductory information – including videos – on the web site.  There is also a local geocaching club, the St. Louis Area Geocachers Association (SLAGA).  SLAGA does periodic introductions to geocaching in a number of venues.  Twice a year, they offer a formal Geocaching 101 class in conjunction with St. Louis County Parks.  They also do introductory activities at public events such as Park Palooza, Get Out and Play Days at Missouri State Parks, and Outdoor Expo events sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.  SLAGA also holds social events such as picnics and informal “meet and greets” which are open to the public.  To find out what’s coming up, see the calendar on the SLAGA web site at"

Submitted by Catherine Redfern, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Fundraiser

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tales From The Nest - Part 10

4/24 – Today is Easter Sunday and it’s been raining off and on for most of the day.  No point in even trying for photos

4/25 – Today there is no activity in or around the nest—are they still there?  I wlll try again tomorrow.

4/26 – It rained most of the night last night, but this morning there is a narrow window of opportunity with no rain.  I hurry to make it to the nest before it starts to rain again. 

When I arrive there is no activity at the nest or in the old pine tree.  I begin scanning the nearby trees—the Sweetgum tree, being the closest to the Pine, is the most likely candidate.  I scan the Sweetgum for several minutes and see nothing.  Then I begin searching the other trees (which I think are too far away, but you never know).  Nothing!  I check the nest and Pine tree one more time, and just as I am ready to give up I see an upright silhouette on one of the branches of the Sweetgum. 

I know that I’ve already scanned that entire tree—could I have missed it?  Sure enough, there is one of the babies sitting about halfway up the tree.  He’s behind a clump of leaves so photographing him is tough, but I am relieved to know that at least one of them has made it.  I sit and photograph for a while, trying to get a clear photo whenever the wind blows the leaves to the side.  

A car pulls up and two of the neighbors want to know if I’ve seen the babies.  They tell me that the owls had stopped hooting for quite some time, but for the last couple of days they’ve been hearing them again.  (Owls hoot when they are setting up territories and finding mates, but the female becomes silent once she is on the nest, and while babies are in the nest.  This is a defense mechanism to keep predators from finding the nest.)  The hooting resumes from both parents because they are still alerting other owls that this territory is taken. The babies hunger scream, and this helps the parents locate the kids.  Mom and Dad will have their hands full feeding these two babies who can now wander rather than being confined to one tree.

I show the neighbors where the one baby is sitting, but even with someone pointing it out they have a difficult time spotting him.  (Mother Nature’s camouflage is very good.)  

The homeowner comes out to see what we are looking at, and tells us that the other day his wife heard a thump on their front door.  Thinking that her husband had gone out to his car to get something and then couldn’t open the door because his arms were full, she opened the door and found one of the baby owls sitting on her doorstep.  Baby Owls at this stage do not truly fly.  They hop and glide for short distances.  This one apparently missed his target branch and landed on her doorstep.  When she opened the door he assumed a defensive posture.  He stood up tall, spread out his wings to make himself look big and scary, and started clacking his beak.  He then fly-hopped his way across the street to another neighbor’s yard and sat at the base of a tree pretending to be part of the tree trunk.  The homeowners went into the house to get their camera and when they returned the owl was gone. 

Hopefully this little guy will be able to hide out in the dense neighborhood shrubbery and bushes until he is able to fly well enough to get airborne and into the large old trees that abound in this area.  Major threats to young owls at this stage will be the dogs, cats, coyotes and other owls that inhabit the area.  Perhaps their greatest danger will be a vehicle collision if they wander onto one of the busy roads in the area.

For now one of the owls appears to be safely ensconced in the large old Sweetgum tree.  Hopefully he will stay in the high branches until he is able to fly well enough to navigate the large trees in the neighborhood.  Mom and Dad will continue to feed these babies (possibly most of the summer) until they are able to hunt for themselves.  

I leave knowing that this will probably be my last sighting of the owl family of whom I’ve become so fond.  Now that they are mobile and out of the nest any sightings will be strictly by happenstance.

I hope our readers have enjoyed this rare opportunity to follow the development of this little owl family.  

If you've never seen a Great Horned Owl up close, please consider visiting the World Bird Sanctuary where you can see this and many other species of raptors up close and personal.  The World Bird Sanctuary is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas. For more information about special events click here to go to our website.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Friday, July 15, 2011

Birds in Concert 2011

Birds in Concert is back!  Meet the new bands!
  Our own Raptor Project
It's almost time for Birds in Concert 2011!  World Bird Sanctuary’s in-house band, “The Raptor Project” performs songs from their popular children’s environmental education CDs "Save the Future" and "All Along the Watershed" while birds fly just inches over your heads.  Fun songs include “Turkey Named Fred”, “Roadkill Shiver”, “What’s the Matter”, “Animal Noises” and others.
The phenomenal Javier Mendoza will be returning to our stage
“Raptor Project” performances are followed by performances by local artists, including Javier Mendoza and two new artists this year.

Join us from 7.00 – 8.30pm, every Thursday evening in August
August 4th The Raptor Project
August 11th The Raptor Project, followed by Javier Mendoza
August 18th – The Raptor Project, followed by new Nashville country artist Shelly Rann.
August 25th The Raptor Project, followed by folk rock band, Chudan.
New Nashville country artist, Shelly Rann
Admission and parking is FREE.  No reservations required.  Just bring yourself and your picnic.  Concessions will be on sale.

Sponsored by Ameren Missouri

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Books for Birds

World Bird Sanctuary needs gently used or new books relating to animals, nature, the planet, going green, and/or conservation. 

Fiction, non-fiction, magazines, and field guides are all welcome. Books can be for any age, but children’s books are especially needed. For your convenience, a donation box is located on the porch of our Wildlife Hospital.

World Bird Sanctuary is developing a children’s reading and activity room in the Olga Reye’s Building. Once opened, this room will be free to the public to use. To get things started, a collection of environmental books is essential. If you are like most of us at WBS, you probably have quite a collection of such volumes on your book shelves at home. So if you have a few that seem to be collecting dust, please consider donating them for use in our aspiring library.

If you do donate, your information will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win an ‘Adopt a Bird’ package of your choice – up to a $150 value! The drawing will be held on July 31st.
Acorn the Screech Owl is a popular bird adoptee

Donated books can be dropped off or mailed to us:
 Drop off point: Wildlife Hospital porch
Mail to: World Bird Sanctuary – Reading Room Project
125 Bald Eagle Ridge Rd, Valley Park, MO 63088

So come on down to see our amazing birds and bring the kids, bring a picnic lunch, and bring a book to donate.  As always, admission is free!  What better way to spend an afternoon than to visit the World Bird Sanctuary!

Submitted by KK Pattitucci, WBS Summer 2011 Intern

Monday, July 11, 2011

Water Conservation – Why we need it. What you can do

Recently I attended a presentation by Missouri American Water Company's Environmental Manager, Tim Ganz.  Some of the things he told us about were really interesting, and I thought they would be interesting to our blog readers too.  I interviewed Tim about Water Conservation – you can read all about it here.
Catherine Redfern, World Bird Sanctuary.

Catherine:  I wanted to find out more about water consumption and the factors that affect our decisions about how much water we consume.  What can you tell us about that?

Tim:  The average household consumes about 7,500 gallons of water per month.  Missouri American Water has noticed a trend of per capita water consumption decreasing.

In the St. Louis area we are fortunate that we have an abundant supply of water.  We are seeing declines in residential water usage primarily due to factors that are more global, than local, in nature.  These include:

·      New appliances, fixtures, and toilets are much more efficient in their water usage than older models.  For example, most toilets today use between 1–2 gallons of water per flush, compared to 3-5 gallons for older models.  “Low flow” showerheads and faucets (which use less than 2.5 gallons per minute) are being installed on newer homes and as retrofits to existing home.  Front loading washers are now commonplace in many homes and use half as much water as existing washers. High efficiency dishwashers also use less water than older models.

·      Lawn irrigation creates the largest water demand during the warm weather months and irrigation techniques and equipment have become more efficient.  For example, most irrigation is done during the early morning hours to avoid water losses through evaporation. Also, some new systems have the ability to detect rain and will automatically shut the system off during wet weather.  Beyond this, many people have taken to using native plants for their landscaping which require less water than non-native species.
·      People’s attitudes about water use are also changing. This is especially apparent in the younger generation, who no longer view water as an inexhaustible resource.  Many are willingly conserving water and using less in their daily activities, such as shorter showers and turning the water off while brushing their teeth.

·      Weather.  The last three summers in the St. Louis region, along with the start of this summer, have been wet compared to historical records.  This has had an impact on water usage due to less watering for lawn and landscape needs.

·      Water rates. Water utilities are facing massive investment costs primarily due to aging infrastructure as many urban water systems are well over one hundred years old.  Continually tighter regulations also require upgrades to treatment systems to meet the stricter limits imposed by the U.S. EPA and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

o      The U.S. EPA says the nation’s water utilities will need to make an additional $335 billion in infrastructure investments – more than $7 billion in Missouri – over the next 20 years to replace thousands of miles of pipe and for upgrades to treatment plants, storage tanks and other assets.

o      In St. Louis County alone, Missouri American Water’s system includes about 4,200 miles of water mains, about 30,000 hydrants, more than 30 water storage tanks and four water treatment plants that deliver an average of 180 million gallons of water per day.  Much of this system is more than fifty years old and continual upgrades are needed to help ensure the continued public health, safety and economic benefits that these systems provide

o      Water rates are increasing to help utilities meet these challenges however water continues to be very affordable as most public systems charge less than a penny per gallon.  Higher rates will cause some people to do more to conserve water.

Catherine:  All these questions about water consumption made me consider where our water comes from.  We all know that the amount of water on the planet right now is the same amount of water that we will have on the planet at any point in the future.  What will change is the quality of that water.  So I asked Tim to tell us a bit more about where our water comes from, what threats our water resources face, and what we can do to protect our water sources.

Tim:  We draw the water we use from watersheds.  According to the U.S. EPA a watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place.  For example, parts of south and western St. Louis County are in the lower Meramec River watershed.  The precipitation that falls on the ground drains (eventually) into the Meramec River.
The Mississippi River is part of the Mississippi Watershed

Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes.  They cross county, state, and national boundaries.  In the continental U.S., there are 2,110 watersheds.  Watersheds are classified according to size, and large watersheds like the Meramec River may have several smaller watersheds within them, such as the Big River and Bourbeuse River watersheds.  It is important to note that everyone lives in a watershed.

It is important to protect watersheds.  Clean water is essential to life, and healthy watersheds help produce clean water.  Watersheds that are in their natural state with no development have a high capacity to retain and filter water.  This leads to lower volumes of water in creeks and rivers during storm events, resulting in reduced erosion and deposits of silt (dirt) in our waterways.  The plants in the watershed slow, filter, and retain the water that travels through the watershed.  The undisturbed soil and pervious geology within the watershed acts as a filter to help remove contaminants and nutrients from the water. 

Commercial development of a watershed area impairs these capacities as it leads to impervious surfaces and the introduction of excess nutrients and contaminants into the watershed.  Impervious surfaces, i.e. concrete/asphalt, lead to higher volumes of stormwater runoff during rain events which causes erosion and siltation issues in creeks.  Stormwater also carries contaminants from yards, parking lots, and streets into waterways, which degrades the water quality of the creeks and streams within the watershed.  Many of the urban streams within the St. Louis region, such as Dardenne Creek, Coldwater Creek, and Bonhomme Creek, have severe erosion and siltation issues for these reasons.

The birds at the World Bird Sanctuary illustrate the importance of these efforts.  Clean watersheds and rivers provide them with habitat, food, water – all the things that are essential to their survival. 

Catherine:  Can you tell us more about what Missouri American Water Company is doing to protect our watersheds.

Tim:  Missouri American Water partners with environmental organizations, such as the World Bird Sanctuary, the Open Space Council, Missouri River Relief, the Confluence Partnership, Wildcat Glades & Audubon Center, Missouri Stream Team, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, and others to help organize and conduct clean-ups, provide input on the development of watershed protection plans, and to participate in educational events about the importance of watershed protection efforts.  For example, the company has assumed a lead role in the annual Operation Clean Stream event on the Meramec River watershed.  We also participate in the Lower Meramec River Tributary Alliance project and the development of the Meramec River Basin Conservation Plan.  Both projects focus on implementing watershed protection tools to improve and restore water quality and biological integrity within the Meramec River watershed. 
 Missouri American Water has partnered with World Bird Sanctuary to install and monitor nest boxes at several Missouri American Water plants in Missouri.  Roger Holloway (WBS) and Tim Ganz (MOAW) installing a nest box at a St. Louis MOAW plant.
 Tree Swallow recorded and banded at a nestbox placed at a Missouri American Water Plant.
 Eastern Bluebird eggs recorded at a nestbox placed at a Missouri American Water Plant.
 Baby Eastern Bluebirds recorded and banded at a nestbox placed at a Missouri American Water Plant.

Missouri American Water teams have joined St. Louis Earth Day events, Science Center’s SciFest, the Little Creek Watershed Festival and other environmental education events.   These events provide a forum to discuss the importance of watershed protection as it relates to the water quality of our drinking water sources. 

The company also sponsors an environmental grant program that provides funding to environmental organizations for watershed related projects, such as installing rain gardens, household hazardous waste collections, and funding unused pharmaceutical collections.  Over the past five years the grant program has funded dozens of watershed related projects across Missouri. 

Beyond this, our teams conduct volunteer water quality monitoring on several creeks and streams, such as Watkins Creek, the Meramec River, Shoal Creek, and Otoe Creek, as part of monitoring the water quality of the streams to identify potential impairments.

Finally, we have implemented Source Water Protection Plans (SWPPS) for five of our drinking water systems in Missouri. The SWPPs focus on taking pro-active measures to ensure the watersheds and areas around our drinking water sources are protected from contamination.  The SWPPs follow a five-step development and implementation process and have been endorsed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources as meeting their criteria for an approved SWPP.

Catherine:  What tips do you have for those of us who want to make changes in our daily habits to help protect watersheds?

·      Keep litter, pet wastes, leaves, and debris out of street gutters and storm drains
·      Apply lawn and garden chemicals sparingly and according to directions
·      Dispose of used oil, antifreeze, paints and other household chemicals properly—not in storm sewers or drains
·      Control soil erosion on your property by planting ground cover and stabilizing erosion-prone areas  - install rain gardens and utilize native plantings
·      Support local government’s construction erosion and sediment control ordinances in your community
·      Maintain your septic tank
·      Purchase household detergents and cleaners that are low in phosphorous to reduce the nutrients discharged into our streams
·      Dispose of pills/medicines properly – DO NOT FLUSH THEM
·      Do not store chemicals or other contaminants near drinking water wells
·      Plug your abandoned wells

I would like to thank Tim Ganz for taking the time to answer my questions.  I hope you have learned something valuable about our important water resources and what you can to help conserve them.