Monday, October 15, 2012

Unexpected Bonuses

Sometimes there are unexpected bonuses when doing outdoor presentations!

Last Fall WBS volunteer (and current staff member) Teresa Aldrich and I presented a program to two school groups and the general public to help celebrate the Washington, Missouri, River Festival.
 WBS Volunteer (and current staff member) Teresa Aldrich and Dawn, the Barn Owl.
 The setting was a gorgeous Fall day in a grassy area of Washington Riverfront Park alongside the Missouri River.  Although the day was a bit breezy and on the chilly side, it was a perfect Fall day in a beautiful setting.

Before the program, as we were getting our bird carrying containers into position on a picnic bench, we noted the crowd milling about near the river.  School children were stopping by various booths and listening to educators talk about the importance of clean water, litter removal and recycling. 

There was a barge moored at the bank that was collecting trash and recycling from the rivers edge. The public was encouraged to help remove these unsightly items from the grassy area and from among native plants that line the riverbank.  You could see all of the rusty metal that had already been collected, and was piling up on the barge.

The “Turtle Lady” from Turtle and Tortoise Society  314-374-1389 was there with some of her patients, which included Box Turtles and Snapping Turtles.

All in all there were wonderful outdoor education opportunities going on all around. 

As Teresa and I were almost ready for our program we glanced toward the river and saw a Bald Eagle fly from the far bank and course up river. Then we saw what looked like a raft of ducks floating on the Missouri River. The Ducks it turned out were American Coots—a species of diving duck. Floating on the water a Coot looks like a Black bird (Duck like) with a white beak.

There were about 40 Coots in this flock, and the Bald Eagle had spotted them.  Battling the wind the Bald Eagle flew right for them. As the eagle swooped toward the Coots the ducks dove under water for just enough seconds for the Bald Eagle to miss. The Bald Eagle was strong enough to make four tries at the Coots, even with the wind, and the Coots drifting in the current.

This hovering and diving lasted about a minute and a half. I was amazed at the strength of the Eagle to make so many swipes at the Coots before it gave up and let the wind blow him (or her) back toward the trees on the far shore .

All of this action took place in the couple of minutes leading up to our presentation, and in clear view of the crowds of people milling around on the riverbank.

Once we started the formal presentation about our Raptors and their relation to the environment, I asked how many kids were able to notice and enjoy the Eagle trying to catch the other birds on the river. About two thirds of the children saw the action.

The school children that attended our program were from Our Lady of Lourdes and a second school named St. Francis Borgia. Some of the kids were from the school that was so close that they were able to enjoy the Fall day and walk from the school to the Riverside Park.  Hopefully the children who saw the tableaux will remember the sight for many years to come.  Whether they realized it or not, they were witnesses to a sight rarely seen by most people.

As it turned out there were many unexpected benefits to having such an event outside.  Consider having World Bird Sanctuary fly birds at your next Outdoor Festival.  For information about the many different presentations available from the World Bird Sanctuary Click here, or call 636-225-4390, Ext. 0.

Photo and Story by Naturalist Michael Zeloski World Bird Sanctuary

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