Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Valentine's Day Is Coming

Once upon a time, when a young man wanted to express his sentiments for his sweetheart, it was the custom to carve their initials in the trunk of a tree.

In today’s world we now know that this can be a death knell for the tree—plus, most of us are city dwellers who wouldn’t have a large enough tree handy, even if we did want to deface it in this way. 

However, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the World Bird Sanctuary now offers a way to continue this time-honored tradition.   A World Bird Sanctuary inscribed brick can be a perfect and lasting Valentine for your sweetheart without damaging a tree.
Your brick will be installed in our amphitheater stairs or landings and will be a lasting declaration of your love.   For an additional small fee you may purchase a presentation certificate to give your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day to let her know about her brick.

To purchase a 4” X 8” brick with a 3-line message click here.  Bricks are also available in an 8” X 8” size with a 6-line message.  There is a wide selection of stock symbols (such as hearts, cupids, etc.) which can be included in the inscription. 

Your donation will help to support the mission of the World Bird Sanctuary, and all brick donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

Make this Valentine’s Day a memorable one for your spouse, sweetheart or significant other.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Leucistic Goldfinch

This seems to be my year for reporting sightings of white birds!

In December 2011 I belatedly reported a good friend’s sighting of a rare albino Barred Owl that occurred in the fall of 2010.
Rare albino Barred Owl - spotted in September 2010  
Then just recently World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Fundraiser, Catherine Redfern, took us along with her to Smithville Lake just North of Kansas City to view some of the Snowy Owls that have been spotted there as part of the unusual Snowy Owl irruption this year.  To read about this rare occurrence Click Here
One of the Snowy Owls seen at Smithville Lake in Missouri
To put the icing on the cake, just recently I was excited to see a most unusual bird at my thistle feeder—a leucistic Goldfinch! 
The leucistic Goldfinch who has been a fairly regular visitor to my feeder this winter
To my amazement I began seeing this unusual visitor on a fairly regular basis about two months ago.  However, until just a couple of weeks ago I had been unsuccessful in photographing this wary individual.  On the first few occasions when I saw it at the feeder it was gone by the time I grabbed my camera and changed my lens.  I had even resorted to leaving the camera, with long lens attached, sitting on my kitchen table.  (Martha Stewart would have been proud of my new creative table centerpiece.)  Of course the bird did not reappear until the camera was again safely stashed in my camera bag!   Finally, about three weeks ago, I was able to get a few photos—albeit through the two panes of glass in my kitchen window.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, leucism is relatively unusual in birds, and from 2000-2006 Project FeederWatch participants reported fewer than 1,000 leucistic birds out of approximately 5.5 million birds reported each season!  I feel extremely fortunate to have seen this rarity.

Without the normal coloration it is difficult to differentiate between male and female
What is a leucistic bird you may ask—and how is it different from an albino bird?  Although there is some disagreement in the scientific community as to what constitutes the differences between these two mutations, all the experts seem to agree on one point—albinos have pink eyes and leucistic birds have dark eyes.  Albinism is a genetic mutation that prevents the production of melanin in the body, whereas leucism is a genetic mutation that prevents melanin from being deposited normally on feathers.

However, the above definition is a simplistic answer to a much more complicated question, since there are varying degrees of albinism and leucism.  To learn more about this fascinating subject click here

Don’t forget to keep your feeders filled this winter--you never know who might visit!

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Walk Back in Time

As I walk the grounds and trails of the World Bird Sanctuary today I often wonder about the feet that trod these grounds before me. 
 The grounds of the World Bird Sanctuary as they appear today
The site of what is now the World Bird Sanctuary, Lone Elk Park, and Tyson Research Center has a long and interesting history.  I thought I would share some of this history with our readers today.

Native American cultures inhabited this area as early as 12,000 B.C.  This area, called Crescent Hills, contains high quality chert, and many of the ridges here show evidence of prehistoric quarries. 

Western settlers first arrived in the late 1700’s and established small farms.  During the 1800’s the white oak forests supported a thriving lumber industry.  Most of the oak was sent to a barrel factory in Pacific. 

This area sits on top of the Kimmswick Formation, which contains high-calcium limestone.  In 1877, the Hunkins-Willis Company established a mining town called Mincke, after Henry Mincke, the mine owner.  In 1927, the mine closed and Mincke became a ghost town.  The foundations from some of the houses, the school, and the underground cavern created by the mine itself are still present within Tyson Research Center.  During World War II, Mincke Cave was used by the Army as a garage.
 Mincke Cave
In the early 1900’s the land overlooking the bluffs along the Meramec became a resort area known as Morschels.  Some of the foundations for the cabins, cisterns and cement stairs leading to nowhere can still be seen on what today is the site of the World Bird Sanctuary.  These “weekenders” would take the train that serviced the town of Minke to reach their cabins, which dotted the hills and bluffs along the Meramec River.

In 1941 the Federal Government used eminent domain to acquire the land from Henry Mincke and the Ranken Estate.  This acquisition was mostly the land that is now Tyson Research Center and Lone Elk Park.  The area became a support site for the St. Louis Ordinance Plant, located in North St. Louis.  The land was used to store and test ammunition.  According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the government invested $3,194,000 and built "complete water and sewage systems, 21 miles of all-weather roads, two stables, 52 igloos [concrete storage bunkers] and a number of other buildings, and a trail around the inside of the fence."  The building the World Bird Sanctuary uses for storage today, which is within Tyson, was used to store oxidizing chemicals used in the manufacture of explosives.
 103 elk such as these were declared a nuisance, rounded up, and shot in 1958
 In 1947, the military sold the land mentioned in the last paragraph to St. Louis County, and Tyson Valley Park was established. In February, 1951 deer, elk and bison were released on the land.  However, in September of 1951, the federal government reclaimed the land for military use during the Korean War.  According to an article published by Conor Watkins in his series of articles  about the Missouri Ozarks, "....in 1958, after one of the bull elk rammed an army truck the animals were declared a nuisance, rounded up, and shot."  

In 1961, the army declared the land surplus.  They transferred West Tyson to Washington University (now Tyson Research Center) to use for biological research.  The eastern section was resold to St. Louis County (now Lone Elk Park). 
 A Lone bull Elk such as this one was spotted during fence construction in 1964.  That bull became the nucleus of today's herd
In 1964, during construction of a fence between the sections, workers spotted a single elk that had survived the extermination.  This elk eventually gave the park its name.   Students from Rockwood Elementary schools collectively donated $300 to have more elk transferred from Yellowstone National Park.  Any student contributing a dime or more received a certificate of “Elk Stock.”  The event received national attention and was even covered by Walter Cronkite. 
 "Elk Stock" which was issued to any child contributing more than ten cents
Lone Elk Park, and the surrounding areas, which played such an interesting role in the history of the nation and the region, continues to be a positive influence in the lives of the people who live in this area today.

Submitted by Leah Sainz, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Farewell Tobin

Members of the World Bird Sanctuary staff were saddened last week by the sudden loss of our nine-year-old European Barn Owl, Tobin.
Upon noticing that he was acting “not quite right” one evening we started him on a course of  preventative antibiotics until we could get him to the vet in the morning.  However, by the next morning it was obvious that he was in severe distress and before we could get him to the vet he passed on. 

Animals in the wild have perfected the ability to mask symptoms of illness to protect themselves from becoming prey for the many predators who are very adept at picking off the sick and injured.  This “masking” ability sometimes makes it extremely difficult to spot problems in captive animals (even dogs and cats), until it is too late, even for our sharp-eyed and ever vigilant naturalists.

Results of a necropsy indicated that Tobin succumbed to heart failure—probably due to his age.  At the age of nine he had long outlived his wild brethrens’ normal lifespan of 3-4 years. 
Tobin, wowing a group of school children at one of our Raptor Awareness programs
Tobin was one of our most popular Barn Owls, performing for thousands of children and adults each year in our outreach programs.  He was definitely one of the stars of our Raptor Awareness program and a favorite of staff and visitors.  He will be sorely missed.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, Volunteer/Photographer

Monday, January 23, 2012

Traveling With a Pet Bird

Every year for Christmas I go home to upstate New York to spend the holiday with my family.
Simon--my 9-year-old African Grey Parrot
I have a 9 year old African Grey Parrot named Simon who is a big part of my life.  For the holiday I usually go home for about two weeks, which is a long time for me to leave my bird in St. Louis with a bird sitter, so Simon travels with me.  This is often a very interesting experience, since I must fly to New York.
Simon's travel crate 
In preparation for the trip I have to do my own packing and then I have to pack for the bird, which is almost like packing for a small child.  I pack a couple of days worth of pellets, seeds and snacks so that if we get delayed he has food.  Then I pack a few small toys in case I need extras.  I then make sure that the crate is clean and stocked with a few toys; and I have a small blanket ready to go over the crate.  Simon has a very nice Crystal Flight plexiglass crate with a perch inside that fits nicely under the seat of the plane.

I am very lucky with Simon in that he is quiet when traveling and is good in the crate--especially now that we have a good travel crate.  The first few years I traveled with him I used the soft side carriers that look like luggage.  Good idea, but Simon did not think so and he destroyed at least two of them by putting large holes in the sides.
Fortunately Simon is a good traveller 
When arriving at the airport we always have to get there a little earlier than normal, since this is something out of the ordinary for those working airline counters, and will take extra time.  Once checked in it’s then time to go through security.  This is when the fun begins. 

As everyone who travels knows, you have to take off your shoes and coat, and pull liquids and computer out of their bags.  I have to take Simon out of the crate so the crate can go through the x-ray machine.  When you go through the non-x-ray scanner that is when you hear a ton of “Polly, Want a Cracker” or similar comments.  My favorite comment is, “What am I suppose to do with this?” During this whole process Simon is quiet or might let out a small whistle or “Hello”.  Other than that, he just wants back in his crate.  Once his crate is through the scanner we go through the process of bird back in the crate, getting redressed and repacked.

At the gate most people do not even notice him--generally only small children who see him and come over to talk to him.  Other than that, gate time is uneventful.  I have heard a few interesting comments over the years, such as, “Do you have a pigeon in there?”

As we are getting on the plane I make sure the blanket is in place to keep him warm, since Christmas time is usually cold out.  Once we are on the plane and my one carry-on is stored I wrap Simon’s crate in the blanket so he is covered up, safely place him under the seat, and away we go.  Once again very few people notice he is there.  Simon stays quiet under the blanket and waits for the ride to be over.  When we land I check on him and sometimes get a quiet whistle, “Hello”, or a laugh.   On occasion he can surprise people with one of his more unusual vocalizations.  The best was a few years ago when he let out a nice phone sound.  At this point one or two people made comments like, “Is that a Parrot”, “I did not know people traveled with pets,” and so on.

Layovers are uneventful unless they are long, and then Simon wants out.  When this happens he forcefully pushes on the door of his carrier.  Once we arrive at the final destination he is ready for the large cage that awaits him at my parents’ home. 
 Simon enjoys the presents too!
When traveling, there are several things to think about to make your trip safe for your bird.  Check with your airline first to make sure they take birds—not all do.  Make sure you have a cage waiting at your final destination that is set up for when you arrive.  Be sure you have food with you so that if you get stuck for a few days you have sufficient food for your bird.  Make sure your bird is comfortable in a crate and is quiet.  If your bird is very noisy the airline may not allow you to continue your flight, or may make you put the bird under the plane with other pets that can’t be carried on.  Always arrive at the airport early.  Have a blanket to cover the crate.  Be aware that your crate counts as one carry-on.  Most of all--be patient.

I’m very lucky to have a bird that adjusts well and is happy to travel as long as I am with him.  It may be challenging, but I love having him with me on these trips and I know he is happiest this way.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuaary Naturalist

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Truck Donated by Ameren

World Bird Sanctuary (WBS) has a new resource to help in its field research – a half-ton pickup truck retired from Ameren Missouri's fleet.

Ameren Missouri Resource Management secured the donation of the used pickup as part of its on-going support of WBS .

“This vehicle will help us with performing the nest box studies, since in many places the 4-wheel drive will assist our bird banding team in safely getting to the boxes, which in many cases are in rural areas and across rough terrain," says Walt Crawford, executive director of WBS.  "The truck will also help us safely move around the property of our headquarters, especially in winter.  The road from our public area to our behind-the-scenes area, which is used by staff, interns and volunteers on a very regular basis is challenging in bad weather, to say the least."

Submitted by Catherine Redfern, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Fundraiser

Thursday, January 19, 2012


On January 6, 2012 one of our longtime residents, Vlad, a Loggerhead Shrike passed away due to the infirmities of old age.

Vlad arrived at the World Bird Sanctuary September 9, 1997 from a Panama City Beach, Florida, rehabilitation center.  At the time his age was unknown.  Normal maximum life expectancy in the wild appears to be around six years, so we know that Vlad had lived long beyond his expected lifespan in the wild.

Loggerhead Shrikes are a unique songbird species.  They are not a bird of prey, but with their strong beaks will catch and kill insects, mice, small birds and other vertebrates, such as frogs and snakes. Since they don’t have strong feet like raptors, they impale their prey on thorns, barbed wire and other similar projections, and then they pull bite size pieces from their prey.  Vlad often demonstrated this behavior for guests during the many years that he was on display at WBS. 

Vlad will be missed by staff and guests alike.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Meet Dorothy

Meet Dorothy, the Andean Condor, the largest bird at the World Bird Sanctuary.  I will tell you about her history, natural history, and how she has melted the hearts of so many people that have met her, including my own.

Dorothy was hatched here at the World Bird Sanctuary’s propagation building in 2006.  She is almost six years old now.  Her parents were on loan to us courtesy of the Cincinnati Zoo.  Her parent’s names are Gryph and Laurel, and they are involved in the Andean Condor Species Survival Program.

While they were here they produced six chicks, and four of those were released into the wilds of Columbia, South America.  Dorothy will stay here with us to be an education bird.  She has a wonderful personality to go along with her outstanding size.  During the times I’ve spent with Dorothy I’ve noticed that she always exhibits an endearing curiosity toward me and her surroundings in general--such as different landscaping in her exhibit, visitors and other birds in enclosures around her. 

Andean Condors can be found in the Andes Mountains along the Pacific coastline in South America.  They can be seen in open grasslands and high altitude regions in the mountains as well.  They travel to the coastal areas for food, but are uncommonly seen in forested areas. 

Condors are the largest members of the vulture family.  Andean Condors have a wingspan of 9 to 12 feet and stand four feet tall.  They range in weight from 20-30 pounds, and can live up to 50 years in the wild—often longer in captivity.  Their diet consists mostly of carrion (dead animals), but they will also search for seabird eggs and young animals, and will cover great distances soaring in the sky to look for food; sometimes up to 150 miles a day. 

These magnificent birds are an endangered species, with around 10,000 left in the world today.  Their population is decreasing due to illegal shooting, habitat disruption and secondary lead poisoning.  It’s also been theorized because there are so many feral dogs in South America now, the dogs consume all the dead animals before the condors have a chance to dine.  They do not sexually mature until six to eight years of age and then lay only one egg every one to two years.

These glorious birds have the most awesome ability to eat animals that have died from any disease or virus known to humans and not get sick! They are a dead end for disease.  Their stomach acid is so strong that it will stop anything in its path.  That’s pretty amazing!
Dorothy's father, Gryph, displaying his white ruff and his impressive caruncle--what girl could resist?
The Andean Condor is the only New World vulture to be sexually dimorphic.  Sexually dimorphic means that males and females of the same species do not look the same.  The male has a large, fleshy structure called the wattle which hangs below his beak and a comb (or caruncle) above his beak and eyes, whereas the female does not.  Sometimes vultures are gross, but we need them the most!
Dorothy's mother, Laurel, displaying the beautiful plumage and white ruff of an adult female Andean Condor
You are welcome to come to one of our annual events called International Vulture Awareness Day held on the first Saturday of September to see Dorothy and her cousins, the other vultures that reside at the World Bird Sanctuary.  Of course, our other birds will be there too!  You can learn many more amazing facts about Condors and Vultures during this fun filled day!

To see videos of Dorothy click here to go to our You Tube site and watch Dorothy receiving target training.  This is a positive reinforcement method used to train birds to go to a designated spot.  They learn that when they touch the stick (the target) they receive a reward.  In the video the trainer, Susan, is also using a clicker.  Every time Dorothy touches the stick, Susan clicks the clicker, which lets Dorothy know a reward is coming.  Clickers are important in training when a reward cannot be given immediately after the desired behavior.  When the bird is conditioned to know the clicker means reward, they accept the clicker sound as a reward until the real reward can be given.

As with all of our animals, Dorothy is available for adoption through our Adopt a Bird program.  To find out more information about adopting Dorothy click here (Link) or call 636-861-3225, ext 12.  All adoption donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.  

The next time you visit WBS I invite you to visit Dorothy on the exhibit line past the hospital.  She is definitely worth it!

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Special Little Sparrow

Even though I didn’t discover my true passion for birds until college, I think somewhere deep down there’s been a part of me that has always loved our feathered friends.

I’ve always been interested in the happenings at the backyard birdfeeder.  Seeing a red-tailed hawk outside my elementary school was wondrous at the time (and still is- my family counts them along the highway when we go on long car trips).  Even today, when I work with birds of prey for a living, I still love peering out of the window to see what the local birds are up to.  I’ve seen some pretty amazing birds, but a very interesting species showed up in my yard before I started college.
 My brother spotted a new bird at the feeder
My brother, sister and I were looking out the back window of our living room one winter day, observing the patrons of our feeder.  We had all of the usual suspects; cardinals, chickadees, titmice, house sparrows, house finches, etc. They amused us with their antics, flitting around the perches, scaring each other away.  Suddenly, my brother, who was in possession of our family’s only pair of binoculars at the time, straightened up and focused in on something.  “There’s a new bird at the feeder!” he said excitedly.

Naturally, this caused a squabble as we all fought to possess the binoculars, but eventually we all got a look at this newcomer.  It was a small bird, with a white breast and black and brown striped wings.  Its head was a rich chestnut color, and on its cheek was a black patch.  While my brother kept an eye on the bird, my sister and I feverishly perused a field guide.  Surely it was some kind of sparrow? It did resemble the house sparrow somewhat.  Finally, on the last page of sparrows, we discovered the identity of our mystery bird.   It was a Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

Happy that we had identified our black-cheeked visitor, we resumed watching the feeder after recording the new bird on the list we kept to remember what birds had come to eat with us.  It wasn’t until a few weeks later, when my bird-loving aunt asked us what we had seen recently, that we realized we’d stumbled across something special.  Upon telling her that we had seen Eurasian Tree Sparrows in our backyard (for now we had a solid half-dozen visiting us regularly), she promptly exclaimed, “You’ve seen WHAT!?”  She then proceeded to explain to us why seeing this particular sparrow was so momentous.
 ....soon there were more of this Old World import
The Eurasian Tree Sparrow is actually a species of Old World sparrow, or sparrow that occurs in Europe and Asia.  It is closely related to house sparrows, and not so closely related to our own American tree sparrow.  In 1870, a group of 12 of these birds were imported from Germany and released in Lafayette Park in St. Louis, to increase the diversity of the local bird life.  All of the Eurasian Tree Sparrows in the United States today are descended from these twelve birds.  What makes them different from the house sparrow, which is an Old World species that has expanded its range to include the whole of the US, is that the Eurasian Tree Sparrow population is confined to the St. Louis area, with their range extending somewhat into western Illinois and up into southeast Iowa.  This is the only place in the U.S. they occur.  Many of the local birders see these birds frequently, but for anyone else in the country, they are not seen at all.  People from all over the U.S. come to St. Louis to see this little sparrow, presumably because a car or plane trip to St. Louis costs somewhat less than an expedition to Europe or Asia.

My aunt demanded a picture, which we happily provided (the first of these pictures were terrible--out of focus and taken through binoculars).  Eventually she was able to see them in her own yard in St. Ann, MO (my family lives in St. Charles, MO).  All through the rest of the winter, and into the following summer, my family watched these little sparrows enjoy the seed at our feeders.

I see them less frequently now, but every time I do, I get a little thrill.  It reminds me of that winter day, when my brother, sister, and I discovered a very special little sparrow together.

Submitted by Emily Hall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Rookie Files: Norbert

Look--Up in the sky!  It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s Norbert our eight year old Bald Eagle.
 Norbert wowing the crowds at Silver Dollar City 
Norbert officially graduated from flight school this year at Silver Dollar City in Branson Missouri.   There he flew in a 4,000 seat amphitheater to the delight of hundreds of people.  Norbert is just one of our team of flying Bald Eagles.  Lewis is probably the most famous, being an honorary St. Louis baseball Cardinal and flying at Busch Stadium.  Clark, another team eagle, is a definite favorite of mine since I worked with him our first year in Branson, but Norbert quickly grew on me.

Norbert was a rescue bird.  He was found on a golf course in South Dakota chasing golf balls and begging people for food.  Because of this behavior he was deemed an imprint.  This means that a human fed Norbert while he was still very young and he now sees people as a source of food (and sometimes imprints see humans as mates, which is awkward).   As you can imagine people were very frightened of the large bird that kept wandering up to them.  Norbert was very lucky that an organization in SD similar to ours was able to rescue him before someone reacted badly out of fear and harmed him.  Wild animals need their natural fear of humans to keep them safe; without it they intrude into our space and that is when dangerous interactions occur--both for the animals as well as people.
Norbert at age 4--still sporting some of his juvenile plumage 
Norbert arrived at WBS in his first year juvenile plumage.  Bald eagles don’t get their famous white head and white tail until they are about four or five years old.  Norbert is actually a late bloomer; he didn’t start molting into his adult feathers until he was about six years old.  Rather than having a total white head, Norbert still has dark feathers that trail off behind each eye, so he is easy to differentiate from the rest of the eagles because of these unique “racing stripes” (or “burglar mask” depending on his mood).
 Norbert is easily distinguished from our other Eagles because of his "mask"
Norbert flying at Silver Dollar City in Branson was an exciting sight to behold, since we rarely have a chance to fly Bald Eagles outside of sporting events.  This made him quite the celebrity down in Branson.  And boy--was he treated like one!  Norbert had his own entourage, security detail, and a personal chauffer.  He co-starred in Silver Dollar City’s opening ceremony and flag-raising every morning.  His personal driver transported him, and then his entourage (other actors involved in the ceremony) entertained him (stared at him, glassy-eyed, mouth opened) until it was time to work.  The glassy-eyed thing was more entertaining for me than Norbert.

Like all stars Norbert had a large number of groupies.  I was his chief security officer in charge of making sure no one tried to touch him.  Birds of prey do not like to be touched.  Unlike dogs and cats, birds of prey do not really understand affection.  Generally the only time another animal is going to be touching them is when it is trying to hurt them.  It is also better for a bird’s feathers not to be touched; the oils we have on our hands can damage the oils and waterproofing on a bird’s feathers.
 Norbert about to make a perfect landing
Norbert even appeared on TV to advertise for his amazing flights (he seemed to enjoy watching the teleprompter).  And what amazing flights they were!  Norbert flew over most of the audience and three of his flights were steep verticals.  This meant he had to work extra hard to make those perches, but when he did (which was all the time) it was gorgeous.

Unfortunately Norbert can never be released into the wild.  Due to one person’s actions he will now forever associate people with food instead of danger.  We are happy to give him a home at World Bird Sanctuary where he can help to educate and entertain people.  He helped to personalize our national symbol and the struggle his species underwent to come back from the brink of extinction, due to pesticides and habitat loss.

As Norbert flew his amazing flights across the theater at Silver Dollar City he symbolized the efforts of individuals and conservation organizations to protect and teach about the Bald Eagle.  And yes, this may sound a little dramatic, but what sight is more dramatic than a  Bald Eagle in flight?

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, Naturalist/Trainer 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2011: International Year of Forests What has it achieved?

This past year was delegated the International Year of Forests by the United Nations.  

Since it has come to an end, we will take a look back at what has been achieved in securing the immense, irreplaceable contribution that the world’s forests make to the survival of biodiversity and human society.

Over the past year an extraordinary level of attention has been placed on the world’s forests, as well as the challenges that confront them.  Successes range from international policy changes to school and community projects. 

The International Year of Forests started off with a meeting of the United Nations’ Forum of Forests in New York.  At this event, the Rwandan government committed to border-to-border restoration of its natural ecosystems upon which a vast majority of its population depends for their livelihoods.  This bold step has stimulated other governments to adopt a similar scale of ambition. 

At a conference in Bonn, Germany hosted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the German government, a joint commitment was made to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes around the world by 2020.  That is about the size of Mongolia!  It will be worth 85 billion dollars per year to local and national economies.  The benefits towards biodiversity and people will be incredible.

 At the years end the IUCN will be wrapping up the first phase of our 5-year Livelihoods and Landscapes Strategy.  Its aim has been to improve sustainable management of natural resources and the lives of the people who depend on them in more than 20 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. 

In addition, Year of Forests has ended with progress on illegal logging.  Because timber markets have traditionally not distinguished between legal or illegally sourced timber, international trade has inadvertently acted as a driver of deforestation.  However, in the last decade many countries and international agencies have taken solid actions to fight illegal logging, ranging from on-the-ground activities to policies and regulations.  As a result of these actions, 17 million hectares of tropical forest have been protected from degradation, and at least 1.2 billion tons of carbon emissions were reduced over the last decade.  In Indonesia, logging illegally in excess of licensed harvests declined by 75 percent.

With the end of the International Year of Forests, it is important that we continue to think about what forests do for us and how we can help them.  If you want a more hands-on approach, locate a forest preserve near you that needs volunteer help; participate in a forest clean-up; learn about the invasive plant species that affect our forests and help remove them from your land.  Or, you can donate to organizations that directly work to preserve and protect forests.  Forests are not only beautiful objects, they provide homes for many endangered species of plants and animals; they regulate the flows of freshwater that we rely on for agricultural, industrial, and consumption purposes; they provide food and shelter for forest-dependent communities; and they play an important role in managing our climate by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.  Wherever you live, forests play a crucial role in your life.

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Monday, January 9, 2012

Workplace Gift Matching

Help World Bird Sanctuary with Workplace Gift-Matching

Did you know that you can double your donation to World Bird Sanctuary without it costing you anything extra?

All you need to do is make one phone call and you can help us by getting your company involved in our gift-matching fundraising!
Your company's gift matching donation can help to educate thousands of children like these 
World Bird Sanctuary benefits from the gift-matching programs of many different corporations.  Lots of companies have a matching gift program where they will match employee donations to a charity of the employee’s choice.  You can help World Bird Sanctuary by approaching your Human Resources Manager to find out if they have a gift-matching program. 

World Bird Sanctuary is a registered 501 (c) (3) non-profit.  If your company has a gift-matching program and World Bird Sanctuary is not on the approved list of charities, we can change that.  All you have to do is ask your gift-matching administrator to contact Catherine Redfern, and we will set up the gift-matching program and do a presentation at your offices to educate employees about the World Bird Sanctuary, the gift-matching options, and how their donation will help.

Contact Catherine at credfern@worldbirdsanctuary.org or at 636-225-4390 ext 102.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Snowy Owl Irruption

Snowy Owl Irruption brings owls close to Kansas City.

I live and work in St. Louis, and I've only ever passed through Kansas City twice on my way to work at the Renaissance Fair with WBS.  Recently there was an event that I considered worthy of taking a day off to drive out to Kansas City, walk around Smithville Lake for an hour and drive the four hours back.

2011/12 is a Snowy Owl Irruption year.  Snowy Owls are normally confined to the Canadian and Alaskan tundra.  However, in cycles of about 3-5 years, a phenomenon known as a Snowy Owl Irruption occurs.  An irruption is a sudden increase in appearances of a particular species of bird, in an area that is outside of its normal range.  This occurs when snowy owls leave their home range and travel southward, bringing the 'Snowies' much further south than their normal range, allowing those of us in the lower latitudes to get rare sightings of these normally arctic-bound beautiful creatures.

The cause of Snowy Owl irruptions is usually a large drop in the populations of lemmings, a small rodent that is a primary food source for the owls. However, lemmings were born in huge numbers this year, so more young snowy owls survived the first critical months of their lives. Because owl numbers are at a peak, adult snowy owls protect their food source for themselves by pushing juvenile birds away from their home range and southwards.
A female Snowy Owl seen at Smithville Lake 
This year, five different individuals have been regularly seen at Smithville Lake, 30 miles north of Kansas City.  They are so regular in their habits that sightings are all but guaranteed.  I was lucky enough to see a beautiful female sitting on the riprap of the dam wall, and another female flying across the lake.

If you go in the next few weeks, you may be lucky enough to see them too.  They have been spotted all over the country, so if Kansas City is out of your reach, take a look at this Snowy Owl Irruption Map  – and you may be able to spot one near you.  If you want to try finding them at Smithville Lake, you can go their website for updated sighting reports, or you can call ahead to the Nature Center at Smithville Lake and Little Platte Park  – The staff person there was very friendly and was enthusiastic to tell me when and where the last sightings were.  When I called they had seen three of them out the day before, in their usual spots, which was enough to get me in the car for the long drive.

Enjoy watching these beautiful birds.  When we finally found them, I was almost breathless with delight and wonder at how lovely they are.  My only request is that you be respectful – respect their space – they will tell you how close you can get. 
If you go searching for these owls bring your longest telephoto lens--chances are they will not be close!
If you walk towards them and it starts to move, you've got close enough.  You don't want to force them into repeated flight as you approach them, as flying is a very energy intensive activity and you don't want to put them in an energy deficit at the time of year when it is most difficult for them to find food.  

Also remember to keep yourself safe, and to obey all the traffic and other laws governing access to the dam wall area.  If the wildlife you want to view is on private property, make sure to get permission before entering.

Submitted by Catherine Redfern, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Fundraiser

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Eagle Watching Season Is Upon Us!

I have never been a big fan of cold weather. Yet I look forward every year to eagle watching season with great anticipation. 
Cold weather and ice on the water means good eagle watching
You just can’t have a good eagle watching season without some really cold weather.  They definitely go hand in hand.  Eagle watching is a really big deal in this and surrounding areas and draws quite an audience and following. 
Ice floes near the locks and dams mean good fishing for the many Bald Eagles that congregate there
There are several nearby places where you can go to watch the migrating wild bald eagles congregate on the rivers, locks and dams.  The Mississippi River provides some of the most spectacular eagle watching available in the St. Louis area.  We are fortunate to be so close to where the eagle migration is at its best.
Watch for eagles in the treetops near the river
What does eagle watching season mean for WBS?  The World Bird Sanctuary will be traveling through several states presenting live eagle programs and live bird of prey demonstrations and displays.  The next few months will be some of the busiest of the year for our Education Department.
Meet Liberty--one of the stars of our Traveling Talons troop
Check out our Traveling Talons Calendar and make plans to see a live bald eagle up close and personal:

January  6 – 8
Quad Cities Eagle Days
Rock Island, Illinois
Masters of the Sky Programs
Display & Traveling Gift Shop

January 7 & 15
February 4 & 11
Audubon Center at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary
West Alton, Illinois
Eagle Display

January 7 & 8
Lake of the Ozarks Eagle Days
Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
All About Eagles Programs
Traveling Gift Shop

January 8
Pere Marquette
Pere Marquette Lodge
Grafton, Illinois
Display and Masters of the Sky Programs

January 14, 21 & 28
Alton Visitor Center
Alton, Illinois
Eagle Display

January 14 & 15
Chain of Rocks Eagle Days
Chain of Rocks Bridge
St. Louis, Missouri
All About Eagles Programs

January 21
Bald Eagle Watch
Dubuque, Iowa
Masters of the Sky Programs

January 21
Fort Bellefontaine Park
St. Louis, Missouri
Multi-Bird Display with Eagle

January 21 & 22
Keokuk Eagle Days
Keokuk Iowa
Masters of the Sky Programs
Traveling Gift Shop

January 22 & 29
February 5, 12
Great Rivers Museum
East Alton, Illinois
Eagle Display

January 28 & 29
Starved Rock Eagle Days
Starved Rock State Park, Illinois
Masters of the Sky Programs

January 28 & 29
Clarksville Eagle Days
Clarksville, Missouri
Masters of the Sky Programs

February 4
Kaskaskia Lock & Dam
Modoc, Illinois
All About Eagles Programs

February 18, 19 & 20
Great Rivers Museum
East Alton, Illinois
Masters of the Sky Programs

February 25 & 26
Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower
Hartford, Illinois
Eagle Display

March 3 & 4
Carpenter Nature Center
Hastings, Minnesota
Masters of the Sky Programs

Be sure to mark your calendars now for our upcoming Annual World Eagle Day, March 18, 2012 from 10 – 4.  For more information please click on our home web page

If you would like to stay up to date on where you can catch a World Bird Sanctuary program in your area, or on events here at WBS, sign up to receive our email newsletter by entering your email address in the box on the right-hand side of this page.

You can also become a WBS Sponsor starting at as little as $35.00 and receive our Mews News Newsletter tri-annually – full of events, updates, stories and our Traveling Talons schedule.

As always, for more information you can visit our web page

Submitted by Billie Baumann, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Meet Farfel

The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary take a stroll down the Display Line (the path that takes you past the Wildlife Hospital) and meet Farfel the Eastern Screech Owl.

Farfel’s story is a little unusual.  He was released—twice! 

Farfel was admitted to the Wildlife Hospital in 2006 because someone noticed an owl that seemed to be unable to fly—at least not long enough to gain any altitude.  Upon admission we found no obvious injuries and it was thought that perhaps he was simply weak from hunger and merely needed supportive therapy to regain his strength.  (This is the case with many of our admissions).

Farfel was held in our hospital for a short time for observation and fed a diet of tasty mice.  When it was obvious that he was eating well and had no internal injuries or illnesses he was released into a flight cage to give him the opportunity to build up his flight muscles.  After several weeks it was decided that he seemed fit enough to be released into the wild.  The big day came and he was released, only to fly a short distance and then flutter to the ground.  It was obvious he was still unable to fly well enough to survive in the wild. 

Farfel was recaptured and returned to the flight mew for some additional exercise time.  In the flight cage he appeared to be able to fly with no problem from perch to perch and from the perches to the ground and back.  These are not the long distances he would have to negotiate in the wild, but this physical therapy usually is what helps get all the rehab birds fit enough to be released back into the wild, with a great chance of surviving for years.  He was carefully watched by our staff for signs of any other problems; however, he seemed healthy in every respect. 

In the flight mew he appeared to be flying normally, so we decided to give him a second chance at freedom.  He was again taken to the release site and lofted into the air—only to again fly for a short distance and flutter to the ground.  He was again brought back to the Wildlife Hospital.  After a very in-depth evaluation by our vet it was finally determined that Farfel has a very slight deformity of both wings that inhibits his ability to sustain flight or gain enough altitude to be a successful hunter. 

We wanted so much to return Farfel to the wild, but the safest decision was for him to remain at the World Bird Sanctuary as an Education or Display bird. 

Our Wildlife Hospital treats between 200-300 injured, orphaned or sick birds each year.  A large percentage of these are released back into the wild.  Our success rate is one of the best in the country.  Even though Farfel’s story was not the final outcome we had hoped for, he will help to raise awareness about his species and about the time, effort and work that goes into returning a raptor to the wild.

Farfel is available for adoption, as are all the other creatures that call the Sanctuary home.  To adopt Farfel Click Here

If you would like to sponsor a Return to the Wild, for yourself or as a gift, Click Here  for more details.  If you have questions you may call (636) 861-1392 or email credfern@worldbirdsanctuary.org

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer