Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Introduction to WBS

Growing up, I regrettably admit, I didn’t know much about birds. I knew the area’s common birds: Robins, Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Crows…or what I thought were Crows.  I later learned they were Grackles.  I must have assumed the big black birds, the actual crows, were Ravens.  It’s all so embarrassing now.
"I knew the most about Bluejays..."
I knew the most about Blue Jays, after having written an essay on Blue Jays in elementary school.  And though I was absolutely wowed with what I learned about Blue Jays, it didn’t register with me that there is a whole wide world of birds to learn about.
Most people don't realize that bats are mammals--not birds
Hawks, bats, owls, vultures…those were the creatures of countless Halloween stories.  The first time I had ever seen a real bat, I was probably close to 16 years old, and I was staying with relatives near Ste. Genevieve.  A small group of bats fluttered above my cousins and me as one night we laid ourselves out on their trampoline talking about whatever it is kids talk about.  I was captivated by these creatures as they swirled above us, and thought it to be the coolest thing ever.  But still, it didn’t register with me that there is a whole wide world of birds (and in this case, birdlike mammals) to learn about.

Around 2003, my husband became aware of the World Bird Sanctuary while attending a postal convention through his former employer.  WBS’ founder, Walter Crawford, Jr. and a volunteer were there with Tobin, a WBS Barn Owl.  They discussed WBS’ history and mission, and they flew Tobin, whose wing brushed my husband’s head as it flew by.
Upon meeting Tobin my husband was "hooked"
From the time my husband and I began dating in 1999 I have learned more and more about birds.  He grew up learning about them and is an official “bird nerd.”  Each time he sees a bird he’ll call it out, and finally, I began to fully realize there is a whole wide world filled with amazing and beautiful birds to learn about.  Since his passion for birds had quickly spread to me, when he came home from work the day Tobin’s wing brushed his head I was immediately…well…jealous…and I had to see this owl.  We made plans to visit WBS that weekend.

Upon arrival, I was in awe of the Sanctuary.  Tucked away in the middle of a hardwood forest, I could not envision a more perfect backdrop.  Oak and Hickory trees surround the sanctuary; an assortment of wild birds from Woodpeckers to Brown-headed Cowbirds to Nuthatches to Chickadees, Mourning Doves, and Titmice flitter about from feeder to feeder; in the distance, the Meramec river flows.
Who would guess that this little piece of wilderness is so close to St. Louis?
Further in is the raptor exhibit and just beyond that, the outdoor exhibit, where most of the birds are kept for viewing.  It is here where, for the very first time, I had seen, “in real life,” all the creatures of countless Halloween stories.  The feeling was almost indescribable.  To see these birds in pictures or on the TV screen is one thing, but to see them, to hear them, up close, to watch them move and take in all their fine details is, in the most literal sense, awesome.  It was here, that I truly and fully fell in love with not only birds of prey but also the World Bird Sanctuary.
To see the Bald Eagles up close is awesome
In the way the staff and volunteers interact with WBS’ animals it is clear to see that caring for these creatures is not just their job, but their passion--a passion that extends far beyond themselves and reaches out to each and every WBS visitor.
It’s in the way they interact with the animals, the way they so willingly share their knowledge and experience - it is born from a true desire to care for, protect, and preserve these vital birds.

I feel fortunate to live close to such a wonderful organization that not only focuses on the preservation and rehabilitation of birds of prey but also on educating the public on the importance of these birds and their ecological roles.  I am so grateful for the opportunity WBS provides my kids to learn about birds of prey, and learn what they can do to help make sure these animals thrive.

The amount of bird knowledge I have amassed in the years my husband, kids, and I have visited the World Bird Sanctuary, I guarantee, I would not have learned otherwise.  Through WBS’ programs - World Eagle Day, Baturday, International Migratory Bird Day, International Vulture Awareness Day, Fall Open House, Owl Prowls, and various concerts and trails days - the staff, and volunteers, I have learned enough (but there’s definitely more to learn!) to proudly, finally, call myself a true “bird nerd”.

Submitted by Sara Borgard, Guest Writer


JoEllen said...

It was your family that introduced me the WBS. After hearing you rave about it, it was something I had to experience....and what an amazing experience it was. I relate so much to the birds of "Halloween". Seeing these animals up close and personal is nothing short of magnificent. I too have become a "bird nerd" and am proud to be. I will spend time just looking up at the sky...and seeing all the glorious creatures that for so many years were just birds.

Photog said...

I know that Sara will be excited that she has been such an influence and created another "bird nerd". And, yes---you can always identify us in a crowd. We are the ones who are always looking up!