Saturday, March 31, 2012

Many Paths Lead to WBS

Hello everyone.   My name is Adam Triska and I am new to the World Bird Sanctuary staff.  

This is my first blog entry so I decided to break the ice by telling you my background and how I found my way to the WBS organization.

I am a native St. Louis-an, born and raised in South St. Louis County.  The real story started at a very young age for me.  Even as a youngster while attending St. Elizabeth of Hungary elementary school in Crestwood my fascination and overall curiosity about nature, particularly animals, was strong.  I am often reminded of this by my mother Kelly.  She will often tell stories from when I was a boy about the critters I would find and bring back home.  She frequently says that I reminded her of the youngest son “Alice” in the movie “Old Yeller”.  Oftentimes she truly would have to empty my pockets in search of my findings from my explorations.

As I got older my passion grew stronger and I realized that I wanted to pursue a career with wildlife. It was in 9th grade while attending Lindbergh High School that I found my calling.  We had to take a survey that was intended to give us an idea of our skill sets and possible career choices. I knew in my own mind what my skill sets were, and the test confirmed it. The real excitement for me was the career list, and right at the top was Conservation Agent. The job description didn’t sound like work to me—it sounded like an opportunity.  I knew from that point on that I wanted to be a conservation Agent when I grew up.

While attending college at Southeast Missouri State University I majored in Wildlife Conservation Biology and Criminal Justice with an emphasis in Law Enforcement—all geared toward my goal of becoming a Conservation Agent. 

As I was finishing up my course work for college I began looking for internships that were, frankly, as far away from the Midwest as I could get.  However, I was just not catching a break.  Then I started looking for something local.  That was when I stumbled across the World Bird Sanctuary. The more I looked into it the more I realized that this internship sounded like a perfect match for me.

Upon arrival at WBS my thoughts were confirmed.  The staff was friendly and I could tell I was going to love it right from the get go.  Working with animals was always a dream of mine and WBS gave me the opportunity to make my dreams a reality.  I took full advantage of the opportunity and made myself useful no matter what the task was. 

You might be asking yourself why I am at WBS and not pursuing my goal to become a conservation agent.  Well, like many others my path has changed for the time being because I can truly say that I love my job and I’m happy where I am. 

Submitted by Adam Triska, Field Technician
          







Photo by Sandra Lowe Murray


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Melanistic or Dark Morph?

One day while at the World Bird Sanctuary I was looking at the beautiful coloration of one of our dark morph Augur Buzzards, and it got me to wondering. 
 Keeoo - Our beautiful dark morph Augur Buzzard
Normal Augur Buzzards are a slate grey on their backs with some speckling, and have white chests and bellies.  The dark morphs have a more overall black plumage.  While standing there I found myself wondering what the difference is between true melanism and a dark morph.
    
I found, through researching many books and websites, that true melanism is actually very, very rare.  It is a genetic mutation that causes the bird to have excess amounts of melanin in its feathers, which causes them to be very dark.  Melanism is generally accepted to be hereditary, but there is not enough scientific evidence to determine if it is or is not hereditary. 

When a species of bird has a regular color morph that has a slight degree of melanism it is not considered true melanism, but just a dark morph.  Eyes, feet, legs and beak color are not altered by melanism, which can assist in identifying a bird that has true melanism. 

According to some studies it is thought that melanistic animals may eventually one day be more common than non-melanistic animals.  Studies in cats and other animals have shown that melanistic animals have stronger immune systems and are much more resilient to disease than their normally colored counterparts.  It is believed that this trait is true in birds also.
 
In cold climate environments dark morphed and melanistic birds have an easier time absorbing some of the sun’s solar energy to help them regulate their body temperature, so they don’t have to use as much of their own energy.  Excess amounts of melanin in feathers, however, has also proven to make the feathers slightly weaker, making them more prone to breaking, and also renders feathers less flexible than they should be.
 
In the wild, dark morph Augur Buzzards are believed to account for about ten percent of Augur Buzzards.  In some areas this increases to about fifty percent of the population.  In the eastern part of the Augur Buzzard range there seems to be a much higher population of dark morphs.

The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary be sure to look for our dark morph Augur Buzzard, Keeoo, in the weathering area behind the Environmental Education Center (EEC).  Unless she is performing in an educational program with members of our staff, this is where she spends most days.  

If you do not live in the St. Louis area, we have two other Augur Buzzards—Sam, a dark morph, who will be flying in our Milwaukee Zoo show starting May 26, and Oracle, a normal morph, who will be flying at Stone Zoo in Boston beginning May 1. 

If you live or are vacationing in the Milwaukee or Boston area this summer come out and visit us at these two popular venues and be sure to look for Sam or Oracle

Submitted by Mike Cerutti, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

365 Photo Project: Orchids and Butterflies

The month of February was slow for photo opportunities.  However, I did have some outings that resulted in some nice photos. 
 Can you identify this winged wonder?
My absolute favorite photo for the month is one I took at the St. Louis Zoo in the Monsanto Insectarium.  I did not write down the species of butterfly or where it is from, but it is absolutely beautiful.  I managed to get a full frame photo which makes it a great photo.  I just love the blue, white and black as it makes this butterfly a very striking insect.  Could one of our readers identify this beautiful creature?

Another of my favorite photos is from the MO Botanical Gardens Orchid Show.  Once again I am horrible at writing down the names and species of the flowers.  I believe this one may be an oncidium.  Would any of our orchid savvy readers know if this is correct?  These crinkly orchids always make me smile.  I don’t know why--they just do. 
 Does anyone know the name of this crinkly critter?
Orchids have always played a special role in my life.   For years I would go to local orchid shows with my Mom, and I grew up helping her with her 70+ orchids.  When it comes to taking photos at the orchid show I could spend hours taking pictures.  I just find it relaxing.

I find taking photos to be a great way to spend a day off relaxing.  I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wren Nest Boxes Available

WBS now has Wren Nest Boxes for sale – made from 'upcycled' materials

Robert Seyer has a unique retirement hobby.  He makes Wren Nest Boxes.  Lots of them!

On Saturday, March 4th, Mr. Seyer donated over 1,500 wren nest boxes to World Bird Sanctuary. Proceeds from the sale of the nest boxes will go directly towards helping the birds we rehabilitate at the Kathryn G. Favre Wildlife Hospital at World Bird Sanctuary.

Mr. Seyer started this project to help the Girl Scouts, and it grew from there.  Using materials that would otherwise find their way to the landfill, Mr. Seyer churns out the nest boxes in an effort to stay sane!  "It keeps me out of trouble," he said. 

Combing construction sites for offcuts of lumber or plywood that would otherwise be thrown away, he takes them (with the site foreman's permission, of course) and turns them into prospective bird homes.  He will also use entertainment centers that have been discarded on sidewalks near people's homes, or just about any other source of safe wood that would otherwise be discarded.

You can buy one of these nest boxes at World Bird Sanctuary for a minimum donation of $2.  But hurry!  Nesting season starts soon!

Submitted by Joe Hoffmann, World Bird Sanctuary’s Sanctuary Manager 

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Bat"urday

You're invited to celebrate bats with us at "Bat"urday, on April 7th, 2012!  In an effort to help save bird and bat habitat, we will have a FREE Community Recycling Depot at "Bat"urday!

Bats are interesting and misunderstood creatures.  Learn more about the environmental and economic importance of these animals, the threats they face, and what you can do to help bats survive.

Join us for an interesting day of bat presentations, where you'll meet our resident Straw-colored Fruit Bats, watch our bat trainer give them enrichment, and participate in bat-related fun kids "bat"-activities.  We will also be giving out bat houseplans so that you can go home and build your very own bat house!

FREE COMMUNITY RECYCLING DEPOT INFORMATION
 Keep it out of the landfill and help us save bat and bird habitat!   In partnership with RNA Worldwide, we're working to save habitat.

*   Bring your items to the Community Recycling Depot at WBS.

*   Donations from our wish list would be appreciated - a donation box for wishlist items (e.g. latex gloves; trash bags; etc.) or cash will be at the recycling depot.  Click here for a full list of eligible wishlist items.

*   Get a coupon for 10% off anything in our gift shop, valid on April 7th 2012 only.  One coupon per recycler. 

Items you can bring for recycling include:

Equipment
   Computers
   Network
   Medical and Lab
   Telecommunications
   AV Equipment
   Electronic Operated
   Battery Operated Items

Accessories
   LCD Displays (No Fee)
   LCD Display-laptops
   CD, CDRW, and DVD Drives
   Hard Drives
   Disk Drives
   Zip Drives
   Scanners
   Printers
   Speakers
   Battery back-ups
   Batteries

Miscellaneous
   Adding & Answer Machines
   Phones (Cell, Cord/Cordless)
   Pagers
   Pocket PCs
   Cartridges
   PC and Digital Cameras
   Batteries
   Power Cords
   Cables and Wire
   Appliances
   ALL SCRAP METAL


Sponsored in part by:





"Bat"urday & Community Recycling Depot

Date: Saturday, April 7th, 2012

Time: 9am - 2pm

Place: World Bird Sanctuary, 125 Bald Eagle Ridge Road, Valley Park, MO 63088

Admission: Admission and Parking is FREE!

Bring your unwanted recyclables and bring your camera!  It's going to be a great "Bat"urday!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Census Flights

I am not a morning person, but when my alarm went off at the unholy, dark hour of 6AM on 17 February this year, I eagerly catapulted myself out of bed.  Why?  Today I would fly. 
 The eagle counting crew - volunteer Kendra Spaulding, me, and Naturalist Mike Zieloski
Through a series of unexpected but happy circumstances (and the generosity of WBS Director Jeff Meshach), I was afforded the opportunity to help conduct the last aerial Bald Eagle census of the season.  These winter eagle counts are a long-standing tradition: World Bird Sanctuary personnel have flown the Mississippi River from Alton, Illinois to Quincy, Illinois—a distance of 134 river miles—since 1981.
 We were airborne into a soft morning haze
This particular morning was chilly: delicate frost had etched our surroundings during the night and a soft haze hung low above the earth.  Joe Tebo, a pilot for the charity flight organization Wings of Hope, taxied us into the sunlight, its rays slowly melting the ice sheet coating the wings and fuselage.  WBS Naturalist Mike Zeloski, volunteer Kendra Spalding, and I settled into the small cabin and conducted a sound check with the headsets we would use to communicate during the flight.  Ten minutes later the engine roared and we went careening down the runway.  With a thrust we were airborne, watching our shadow grow smaller as the features on the face of terra firma compacted and shrank.
 The view from my side of the plane
I pressed my face against the window.  Even with all the particulate matter clouding the air, I could pick out the emblematic St. Louis Arch gleaming in the distance, the sweeping height of its elegant parabola as lofty and radiant as my mood.
 Our starting point - the Alton, Illinois bridge
Twenty minutes’ flying time put us at the beginning of the survey route and the count began.  If you were wondering, birding at 115 miles per hour is every bit as intense as it sounds: Mike, Kendra, and I had only a few seconds to scan the land below for perched or flying eagles.  The white heads and tails of the adults contrasted well with the forested backdrop, but the juveniles were disguised as subtle, dark blobs.  I felt like I was on some grand treasure hunt as I excitedly called out my sightings (“Adult, perched, right side!”), and Mike recorded the location and age of each bird on a series of river maps.

Beneath us the Bald Eagles flew gracefully over the river, every delicate, powerful movement backed by a millennia of nature’s invention and tinkering.  Their wings stretched forward, feeling the air currents, reading them, and responding to them.  Meanwhile we hung in a metal box, rigidly droning along above them.
 Counting eagles from 800 feet up at 115 mph can be a challenge
In total, we counted 257 eagles: a high number for this year, but low in comparison with the previous few years.  This year’s mild winter has seen very little ice cover, and the eagles aren’t forced to concentrate around the flowing, open waters of the Mississippi.  We did, however, spot around 500 American White Pelicans and 6000 Snow Geese, many of which swept dramatically past at eye-level.

The Eagle Flight was indeed a wonderful experience that I feel fortunate to have taken part in, but that was no great surprise.  I have always loved flying… it grants the rare opportunity to break free of our overwhelmingly two-dimensional reality.  Even from  the modest height of 800 feet above the earth—the altitude at which we flew on this morning—the world takes on an entirely different appearance.  Everything seems small… Fragile.  But then the greatest epiphanies do usually happen when we view our lives from a new angle.

Submitted by Jennifer Roth, World Bird Sanctuary Intern

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Symbol of Healing

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in a unique way for a very special event.

My mom and step-dad recently reached a milestone of 25 years of marriage.  To commemorate this event, my sister and I, with the help of family and friends, planned a surprise renewing of vows ceremony.  Everything was beautifully prepared and arranged, and friends and family gathered together to celebrate.  My parents were overwhelmed with all of the love and support that was evident in the hard work that was put into the preparations.
 
I was unable to help with much of the legwork, but thanks to our Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital, I was able to bring a very special guest of honor to the event.   My special guest was a juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk that had been a patient at our Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital, and through the efforts of staff, interns and volunteers, was ready to be released back into the wild, where it belonged.
The Hawk letting me know its opinion of the proceedings
At the end of the vow renewal ceremony, I gathered my parents, friends and family, to reveal our feathered friend who had been waiting for the big moment.  My parents were very excited and completely shocked when I revealed what was in the crate.  There was a buzz in the crowd as I carefully brought the young hawk out and told them a bit about WBS, our Wildlife Hospital, and how our special guest had come to be there. 

The hawk seemed less than pleased about being handled once again, and was pretty vocal about it.  We had met on similar terms that morning, as I was the one that caught him up from the mew where he had spent his rehabilitation period, and put him in a travel crate to bring him to the event.  Little did he know that his big moment had arrived.
My mom and stepdad being coached on how to release this young bird
I carefully coached my mom and dad, on how to send this young hawk back on its journey to being wild and free.  In a beautifully wooded area in Beaufort, Missouri, my parents released the hawk that we named “J.D.” (both of my parents first initials).  It was over so quickly.  Young J.D. flew high and free, never looking back.  It was absolutely breathtaking--a moment that none of us will ever forget.  Young J.D. became a symbol of healing, in honor of a marriage that has survived ups and downs, innumerable trials and brokenness, a marriage that has been healed by grace.

Did you know that you could sponsor a “Return To The Wild”, like we did with J.D.?  It can, but doesn’t have to be for a big celebration. 

Your sponsorship of a “Return To The Wild” helps our Wildlife Hospital care for our many patients.  For only $150.00, you and WBS can release one of our rehabilitated birds of prey at your location of choice within a 50 mile radius of the World Bird Sanctuary.

To sponsor a “Return To The Wild” release Click Here (Link: http://www.worldbirdsanctuary.org/index.php/support/return) or call 636-861-1392 or email credfern@worldbirdsanctuary.org.

Submitted by Billie Baumann, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Peregrine Webcam Now On-Line

Peregrine Project Continues Mission of Helping Nature Take Flight
Nesting Activity Available for Viewing on Webcam

St. Louis, Mo., (March 13, 2012) — Ameren Missouri, in conjunction with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the World Bird Sanctuary (WBS), has once again provided a nesting box for Peregrine Falcons at the Sioux Energy Center. For the first time, the activity in the nest can be viewed online. Officials from MDC and WBS will offer ongoing commentary on what’s happening in the nest and a video camera near the nest will provide live feeds to each organization’s website.

“The Peregrine Falcon has made an incredible comeback from the brink of extinction. What we will see at Ameren Missouri’s Sioux Energy Center nest box is the fruit of tens of thousands of hours of labor to make the Peregrine Falcon a common sight again,” Jeff Meshach, director of the World Bird Sanctuary, said. “Yet, there is always something to learn about any of our world's birds and animals. Our camera will provide a window into the nesting life of the world's fastest creature, and I personally will find it hard to get any desk work done as I watch my favorite of the world's bird species.”

“We have worked on projects with the World Bird Sanctuary for more than 25 years to help preserve the biological diversity of the world around us,” said Richard Mark, Senior Vice President, Customer Operations, for Ameren Missouri. “The Peregrine Falcon project has been one of the most exciting projects we’ve been involved in, and this year via video, we’re able to share with visitors to our website the amazing lives these birds lead in raising their young. It’s part of our ongoing commitment to being responsible stewards of the environment.”

The nest can be viewed on Ameren Missouri’s website at AmerenMissouri.com/FalconWatch.  Viewers can link to the falcon camera on the websites of WBS at www.worldbirdsanctuary.org and MDC at www.mdc.mo.gov.
The falcon nesting at the Sioux Energy Center this year was first spotted in the beginning of February. Since then, researchers at WBS and MDC have been following the bird’s habits daily and are posting their observations on the website as updates warrant. Peregrine falcons have been seen at Sioux since early 2011.

The websites will be available until nesting activity is complete and the mother’s young have left the nest.
““This peregrine project will help Missourians discover nature right in the nest of these amazing raptors,” Bob Ziehmer, MDC director, said. “The project illustrates the power of partnerships between private and public sector organizations to help conserve native wildlife.”

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Rookie Files: Hey Buddy, Buddy, Buddy

When I first arrived four years ago at the World Bird Sanctuary in the cold, wintery month of February I was but an intern.  I had a healthy respect and certain degree of caution towards the birds of prey that I was working with, and was ready to learn ways to handle them safely.  What I wasn't prepared for was the parrots.
Roxanne, a Blue and Gold Macaw, shows off her intimidating beak 
During my time as an intern I was always more afraid of working with the parrots than with the birds of prey.  Razor sharp talons and feet that could bruise or break bones did not scare me as much as beaks that could break my fingers.  Parrot beaks have, on average, over one thousand pounds per square inch of pressure.  This comes in handy when cracking open nuts for food in the wild.  It only takes seven pounds to break a human finger. 

Being quite fond of my fingers (and eardrums--a macaw scream can be heard for two city blocks!), I avoided working with the parrots whenever possible. All around me I saw staff members interacting with parrots, cueing for kisses and waves, sometimes being preened by the birds, and quite frankly thought that all of them were crazy.  I could understand that after a parrot gets to know a person, being a social animal they want attention and are even able to show some affection, but the thought of putting a parrot beak (1,000 pounds psi!) near my face seemed like the most insane idea on the planet.  I was content to let everyone else be crazy with the parrots and I would remain safely out of biting range--thank-you very much!
Buddy, assuming his typical "leave me alone" warning stance 
That all changed with Buddy.  Buddy is a Double Yellow-headed Amazon Parrot, and due to circumstances that occurred before we rescued him, not terribly fond of people.  He had a select few humans that he would work for, and one that he loved.  I was not even really on his radar, nor did I want to be as he had quite the reputation.  Little by little though he began whistling to me.   Sometimes I would hear him coo or honk when I left the room.  I noticed that his tail stopped flaring and his head feathers no longer resembled the head of a triceratops when I was nearby. 
Buddy's "happy tail" 
I found all this odd and asked his primary trainer (who he loved) what the heck was going on.  That is when I learned that I had been chosen by Buddy--given my sentiment towards parrots, this did not thrill me!  Buddy, however, is like a fungus and he grows on you.  After a while I would coo back or ask him to do some of his simpler behaviors.  To protect my wrist and lower arm I donned three sweatshirts in mid-June, so that I could learn how to pick him up properly.  Before I knew it I was his new favorite--a position that required me to adopt a new outlook on parrots or let Buddy become bored. 
 Buddy shows off his "cuteness" factor
Now I am one of those crazy parrot interacters.  I use the high voice, ask for kisses, and spend extra time with them.  At our behind the scenes area I am the go-to person for parrot questions from the volunteers and interns on behaviors, cueing, learning how to read their body language, etc.  It is quite the switch from where I started out four years ago.

Buddy has taught me many things over the years.  I learned how to read and interpret parrot body language from watching him, how parrots display affection and how they gain confidence in trying something new.  We’ve had a few bumps along the way--Buddy is not a big fan of being left without one of his favorite trainers for a long time--but I love this little bird. 
 I can't believe I am now the person teaching interns and volunteers how to read Parrot body language
Perhaps the most important thing Buddy has taught me is that sometimes you don’t choose the birds--they choose you.

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Barn Owl Chick Feathers

Around this time of year, I get a chance to see barn owl chicks up close in the World Bird Sanctuary’s propagation department. 
  Barn Owl chick at 1 week -- at this stage the feather follicles are very visible
Barn Owl chicks hatch with every feature perfectly formed--just on a very small scale.  Their closed eyes are surrounded by the beginnings of little facial discs.  Each foot is covered with impossibly small, yet perfect scales, and each toe is tipped with a sharp little talon.  Along the length of pink, nearly transparent skin covering their bodies, are rows of very active little feather follicles.
Barn Owl chick - 2 weeks old - showing the beginnings of its fluffy white down 
When I first saw a barn owl chick, I was surprised to see that its body was not entirely covered with feathers, as I thought a bird’s body must be.  Instead, it appears that the little bird is wearing a pinstripe suit with pink and white fluffy stripes.  The feather follicles form only along certain regions.  The gaps of bare skin in between the follicles are called apteria.  Birds can raise their feathers to allow air to circulate along the apteria.  This helps the birds keep cool, which is crucial considering that birds have one of the highest metabolic rates of any animal on earth.
  Barn Owl chicks at 3 weeks - covered in its insulating layer of down
When the owlet hatches, it is covered in a fine, natal down.  Soon, this stringy down is replaced with fluffy white down.  The growth of this layer of down is readily visible from day to day, and is nature’s best insulating material.  I wonder if the early down feathers that the young chicks grow resembles the integumentary feathers found on some fossil dinosaur species, such as Sinosauropteryx prima, a small theropod discovered in the Yixian Formation in China.
Barn Owl chicks at 7 weeks - still in down but already beginning to develop its wing feathers  
Could the development of feathers in an individual bird’s life somehow mirror the development of feathers on a much larger time scale?  I don’t know, but when I watch the barn owlets, I see something very primitive, intricate, and beautiful develop right before my eyes.  Every aspect of the owl, from its behavior as an adult education bird, to the development of its first feathers provides me with an endless source for questions and a deep sense of appreciation for the complexity of life on earth.

Submitted by Leah Sainz, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

Friday, March 9, 2012

Really Wierd Birds: Part 1

There is such a huge diversity of birds in the world.  Some of them are quite bizarre!  Some have weird feather characteristics, weird facial features, or other physical oddities and some have unusual coloring or strange behaviors.

One species that caught my interest was the Kea, an omnivorous parrot native only to the South Island of New Zealand. 
  Keas are found only on the South Island of New Zealand
This bird has been witnessed doing some interesting behaviors.  First of all, they win the award for bossiest bird.  These birds are very social and live in groups of up to 13.  A social hierarchy is present and dominant birds have been seen to force submissive individuals to cooperate in tasks that only benefit the dominant bird.  In addition to this behavior, these birds have been witnessed attacking sheep!  They rip through the wool with their sharp beaks and eat the high energy fat off of live sheep.  Check out this video

The Hoatzin, native to the swamps of the Amazon rainforest and Orinoco Delta of South America, has a blue featherless face, maroon eyes, and spike-like feathers sticking up on its head. 
  The Hoatzin - an odoriferous bird from South America
Not only does this bird look unusual, but they smell like manure and are nicknamed the “stinkbird.”  They have two spurs on their wings when they are chicks, which help them climb around on branches.  These birds are strict herbivores and the majority of their diet is made up of leaves, which are hard to digest.  They have a unique digestive system and can ferment the leaves they eat in a foregut like cows, sheep, and deer.  Regurgitated plant matter is fed to their chicks.  These birds use most of their energy digesting their food, so they rarely ever fly.

The Resplendent Quetzal is an absolutely gorgeous bird, native to Central America, which comes in a variety of striking colors.  The males of this species have extremely long tail feathers that reach up to 3 feet--longer than its entire body.
The beautiful Resplendent Quetzal--the national bird of Guatemala  
When taking flight, the males will dive backwards off of a tree branch so as not to rip his long tail feathers.  They nest in hollowed out trees and when a male enters, he backs into it then once inside curls his tail over his head and out the hole.

The Bird-of-paradise is a family of birds consisting of 40 species mostly found in New Guinea and surrounding islands.  They come in an array of beautiful colors, have unusual feather characteristics, and super strange and impressive courtship displays and rituals.  This link has some great photos.  Here is a hilarious video of a few courtship displays.   Some look like they should be from another planet!

As you can see, the diversity of birds is so vast!  Part of the World Bird Sanctuary’s mission is to maintain biological diversity on our earth so future generations can enjoy the same amazing animals.  Stay tuned next month for part 2 of Really Weird Birds!


Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Scottish Games

On October 1, 2011 the World Bird Sanctuary participated in the Scottish Games event held annually in Forest Park.
  Some of the Scottish Dancers with Roger Wallace and Clark the Bald Eagle just prior to the dancers' competition. 
The World Bird Sanctuary had Birds of Prey on display as we have in the past, but the highlights of this year’s event were to be the free flights by our star--Clark the Bald Eagle.

We were blessed with a gorgeous sunny fall day out in the park. The sights and sounds of the games put everyone into the spirit of the day--the bagpipes and bagpipers strolling around and tuning up, the antique cars parked near our bird weathering area under the big oak trees, the herding dogs, the sheep, the kilts and clan garb, and the games where men were grunting and tossing large objects.  Many clans had tents with their lineage and clan colors on display.
Walter Crawford and Roger Wallace preparing to fly Clark the Bald Eagle 
World Bird Sanctuary, represented by Clan Crawford and Clan Wallace had two time slots to fly Clark the Bald Eagle.  As Walter Crawford and Roger Wallace readied to fly the Eagle in the center of the main field at the center of the games there was a palpable sense of excitement and suspense. 

With all of the other activities still going on throughout the area would Clark do the right thing and fly to the right place?  With all the colors, activities, sporting competitions, dogs and sheep around I wasn't sure if Clark would be distracted and perhaps fly somewhere besides where we wanted him to--but not to worry.  Like the trooper he is, Clark did great. After the first set of flights people gathered around us to see the magnificent Bald Eagle.

Walt had asked me to be the speaker at the podium for the flights, and I introduced Walt Crawford of the Crawford Clan, Roger Wallace of the Wallace Clan, and Clark the Bald Eagle. After the first flight one elderly woman informed me that I should have introduced the men as being from Clan Crawford and Clan Wallace--not the Crawford Clan and the Wallace Clan.  I appreciated the lesson in Clan protocol, and later in the day for our 2nd exhibition I introduced the men as suggested.
 Erin Carter with Trucker, and Gina Staehle with Millenium available to answer questions about the birds
Also helping us that day were Erin Carter World Bird Sanctuary Intern from Kansas, Gina Staehle WBS Volunteer, and Marci Wallace Roger Wallace's sister.

In addition to Clark’s spectacular flights, we also brought several other birds for people to see.  The Birds on Display were Trucker the Swainson's Hawk, Twig the Eastern Screech Owl, Coal the Great Horned Owl, and Millenium the Peregrine Falcon. 

Submitted by Michael Zieloski, Wold Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Monday, March 5, 2012

They're Back!!!

 If you’ve been following our blog over the past year you may know the story of the Great Horned Owls who managed to fledge two chicks in St. Charles County under some truly adverse conditions last year.

We published this ten part series (called Tales From The Nest) in April, May and June of 2011.  If you missed it and would like to read the whole series, enter Tales From The Nest in the search box in the upper left-hand corner of this page.  

About three weeks ago I stopped by the nest tree to see if perhaps they had returned to use this same nest again this year.  At that time there was no sign of any nest activity (at least that I could see from about 200 feet away and 80 feet below the nest). 

I happened to talk to the neighbor next door to the property on which the nest is located.  He said that he hadn’t seen any nest activity, but that he had been hearing the owls at night, so we knew they were still in the area.

Yesterday I did another drive-by—this time with a good pair of binoculars.  Lo and behold when I got the binoculars focused, there staring at me over the edge of the nest was Mamma.  Of course, there is no way of knowing for sure if this is the same pair that used the nest last year—but it is a very strong likelihood. 

Last year’s pair managed to raise two chicks in spite of freezing temperatures, heavy downpours, hail, snow, and tornadic winds that damaged much of the surrounding area.  In fact, by my calculations the tornado that closed Lambert St. Louis Airport for several days had to have passed directly over the nest. 

Hopefully this year’s pair will have a less traumatic nesting season.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Volunteers From A.O. Inc. Help WBS

Twice a month Sarah Davis, the TBI Program Manager/Job Developer for A.O. Inc Employment Services, and her clients volunteer at the World Bird Sanctuary Monsanto Fund Environmental Education Center.

Sarah usually brings a couple of her clients to improve their skills as part of their rehabilitation program.  Sarah from A.O. Inc assists people with brain injuries.  She helps them by exposing them to nature and birds of prey at World Bird Sanctuary.  Her clients sustained their brain injuries in a variety of ways, but the people she is working with are recovering and want to be put to work. 

The pictures of Sarah Davis were taken in October when Sarah was helping fill our many bird feeders while a couple of her clients were sweeping or vacuuming the Nature Center and amphitheater for WBS.  Sarah and her clients have helped to improve our site for the many guests and wildlife that access the feeders and buildings every day. 

Sarah and her clients helped us spruce up the site for Open House in October, 2011.  One of her clients, a person with no legs, helped us rearrange seating for Open House by moving benches, exhibits, and chairs.  This client/volunteer even carried a bench down the stairs.  He was so gung ho that he wouldn’t even let me help him.  He proved that his handicap could not keep him from making a difference.  He and Sarah also told me that he is a Water Ski instructor for others with injuries.  Impressive!

We cannot thank Sarah Davis and A.O.,Inc and their clients enough for improving our site for our guests.  Sarah’s clients gave something back by volunteering.  I hope each one of them finds something that challenges them in a good way and provides them with prospects for gainful employment in the future.


If you would like to contact Sarah Davis she can be reached at 314-835-0226 or email her at sdavis@aoinc.org

Submitted by Michael Zeloski, World Bird Sanctuary Environmental Education Center Manager 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

INCA

It is with great sadness that we report that Inca, our five year old Abyssinian Guinea Pig has succumbed to the ravages of pituitary disease.

It was noted by his caretakers that he was “not acting right” and that he was losing weight.  Our vet immediately prescribed a course of antibiotics and other supportive therapies.  However, nothing helped and even though he continued to eat he also continued to lose weight.  Even though it was a difficult decision for all involved but we felt that the only fair answer for Inca was humane euthanasia, rather than let him suffer the effects of starvation.

As with many small mammals it is often difficult, if not impossible to pinpoint the cause of an ailment when symptoms are non-specific.  It's almost impossible to diagnose these types of ailments short of an autopsy (called a necropsy in animals). 
 
Inca will be sorely missed by staff and volunteers, as well as the general public (especially the children).  Inca was one of the few animals at WBS that could be touched by our guests, and as such he met thousands of children in his lifetime as part of our outreach programs for the younger set.