Sunday, June 29, 2014

Photo Project: May of Year 3

May has been a very busy month with lots of photography options.  My first opportunity came with a work adventure.
The Osprey parents weren't too happy with the humans at their nest (photo: Cathy Spahn)
World Bird Sanctuary works with many organizations when it comes to bird issues.  In this case it came with an Osprey that had nested on a crane over 180 feet in the air.  The organization wanted to help the birds, yet the crane was needed.  So, several of us went on an adventure to rescue the eggs.  I stayed on the ground taking photos, since I have a very large fear of heights.  Walter and Adam ventured up in a lift to the nest to rescue the eggs. 
Hopefully these Osprey parents will find a better location for their next nest (photo: Cathy Spahn)
While taking photos of what was going on I took a few nice photos of the Osprey parents as they hovered overhead.   The eggs were taken to World Bird Sanctuary to be put in the incubator.  If the eggs hatch we will then raise the young for release back into the wild.
Rustle the Nine-banded Armadillo enjoying Camera Day
The next photo opportunity came at World Bird Sanctuary’s Annual Spring Camera Day.  I usually work the event, so I do not have a ton of time to take photos, but I can usually take a few.  There are two photos that came out of this day that I really like.  The first is Rustle, the Nine-banded Armadillo.  This year I decided to try something different and went for Rustle.  Rustle is a very challenging subject to photograph because he does not sit still.  We put Rustle on a table with logs, leaves, flowers, and rocks.  He went to town plowing it all over and knocking about 80% onto the ground.  Then he discovered a small colony of ants that came out of the log and he got a nice big snack!  He had a good time and will be a guest again at camera day, but possibly in a different set up.
Notice how well Oliver blends into the tree trunk--would you spot him in the woods? (photo: Cathy Spahn)
The next Camera Day photo opportunity came at the end of the day.  I really wanted to try getting a few photos of our two Eastern Screech Owls Timber and Oliver in the same photo.  First the trick to this photo was to keep the birds separated so they could not get to each other.  The first set up involved a large log and one screech owl up high and one down low.  That was a good idea, but the photo was still very distant.  Then I remembered that we have a screech owl box set up.  We put Timber inside the box, since he does not mind the box.  Then we put Oliver on top, since he was not sure of the box earlier in the day.  They both sat perfectly!  This was my favorite of the two birds and a nice way to show the two different color phases.

The last work adventure that resulted in many photos was a sudden trip.  One day I was leaving to head out bird watching when Jeff Meshach, WBS director, pulled up and asked if I would like to go with him to place Barn Owls for release. 
Me and Jim the farmer waiting to release the babies into their new home (photo: Jeff Meshach)
Away we went heading south to a farm with 6 Barn Owls to be hacked into the wild.  Hacking is the process of putting young birds into an artificial nest, or in this case a barn.  The nest is closed for a period of time (so the babies can’t leave) and humans provide food.  Then the doors are opened. 
The newly released Barn Owls looking over their temporary new home (photo: Cathy Spahn)
As the babies fly to and from the artificial nest, humans provide food for anywhere from a few days to a week.  This supplements food they may catch as they develop their flight skills.  The young are then off and on their own.  This method has been used for a long time and has helped to bring many endangered species back from the brink of extinction, such as the Peregrine Falcon.  This photo was taken by Jeff of Jim the farmer and me with two of the owls ready to go.

So these are just a few of my photos for the month.  Sometimes the photo opportunities are planned and other times they just happen.  I have had people say they want to come with me to take photos.  I can fully admit sometimes it really is just dumb luck on what comes about.  What makes the big difference is just getting out and taking photos--not just sitting at home waiting for something to happen.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Friday, June 27, 2014

Amazing Animal Encounters

It’s that time of year again.  The World Bird Sanctuary’s Amazing Animal Encounter are here on weekends all summer!
These mini shows started memorial weekend and are offered every weekend until Labor Day weekend.  The shows are at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays.  The show lasts about 30 to 45 minutes.
Since Amazing Animal Encounters are "Naturalist's Choice" they are rarely ever the same twice (photo: Flannery O'brien)

The animals at each show are naturalist’s choice.  This means they pick a bird of prey that flies over your head, a snake that you may get to touch, the exciting armadillo, or even one of the parrots that may talk for you.  There are a few other creatures that our trainers can choose from as well.  Best of all it is free to come out and see all these amazing animals up close.

The World Bird Sanctuary wants to teach the public about our environment and the creatures that live in it.  We want to show people that everybody can live together in this world.   So please bring as many people as you can fit into your car to have a fun filled day, as well as a learning experience.
This day Patriot the Bald Eagle was a featured bird (photo: Flannery O'brien)

If you decide you really enjoyed what you see and you want to help us further, there are a few ways to help.  Please donate at the end of show or when you come to visit--even if it’s only the change in your car’s ashtray.  When you purchase items from our gift shop you help to feed and care for the animals on site.

My favorite way of helping is our Adopt-a-bird Program.  When you “adopt” one of our animals you will receive information and pictures about the animal you adopted, and an official adoption certificate.  The money to adopt the animal goes toward food and other care for that animal.  My little cousin adopted Timber, our Screech Owl, and she tells everyone about “her” bird.  My cousin is only 10 years old and she’s already making a huge difference by helping organizations like the World Bird Sanctuary, and by telling everyone she knows how she helped and ways they can help, too.

So come out and see us and ask tons of questions and maybe have your picture taken with some of the animals.  Hope to see you soon. 

Submitted by Christina Ranken, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Eagles of the World: White-bellied Sea Eagle

The White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogoster is also known as the “White-breasted Sea Eagle” due to the white plumage on the head, breast, under-wing coverts, and wedge-shaped tail.

Photo of a White-bellied Sea Eagle as seen from below (photo: The Wikipedia files)

In contrast to their white plumage the tops of their wings are mostly gray with black flight feathers.  Their beaks are mostly a bluish-grey with a darker hooked tip.  In addition, they have yellowish-grey legs and feet, long black talons, and brown eyes. 

Moreover, these one-of-a-kind birds are known as one of the largest raptors in Southeast Asia.  Like most raptors the female is larger than the male with a wingspan that can reach up to seven feet.  Juveniles often have brown plumage until the age of 5 or 6 years, when their dark feathers are replaced with white feathers.

This photo of a White-bellied Sea Eagle shows his beautiful plumage (photo: The Wikipedia files)

About half of the White-bellied Sea Eagle’s diet consists of fish, which is why they choose to hunt and breed near water.  Although this raptor prefers fish it is an opportunistic hunter and will eat whatever is available.  Therefore, its diet also consists of carrion and whatever else they can find. 

The White-bellied Sea Eagle seemingly uses a unique hunting technique when catching fish.  It will most often fly into the sun or at a right angle to the sun to avoid casting a shadow that may alert its potential next meal.  White-breasted Sea Eagles have also been known to harass other smaller raptors, forcing them to give up the food they are carrying.  They may even steal food from their own species, including their own mate.

The White-bellied Sea Eagle has a unique hunting technique (photo: The Wikipedia files)

The breeding season of these raptors differs depending on the location which they inhabit.  A pair will spend around three to six weeks constructing a nest before laying any eggs.  It is common that the female will lay a clutch of two off white colored oval eggs, which she will incubate for a period of six weeks.  It is rare that both eggs will hatch due to infertility; although, if the first clutch is not a success the pair will attempt a second brood. 

The nestlings are recorded to fledge (make their first flight) at around 70 – 80 days, although they will stay close to the nest for another 6 months, or until the next breeding season has begun.

Submitted by Callie Plakovic, World Bird Sanctuary Outreach Coordinator

Monday, June 23, 2014


If you’ve been waiting to send in your order for a World Bird Sanctuary inscribed brick, the deadline for our Summer 2014 installation is almost here. 

World Bird Sanctuary inscribed bricks are installed three times a year—July, October and February.  The stairs leading down to our stage area have been completed, and we are now installing bricks on the large main landing of the amphitheater.

Even though a large percentage of the inscribed bricks are memorials to loved ones, there are a multitude of other messages.  A few examples are:  anniversaries, birthdays, friendships, scout troop accomplishments, engagements, weddings, Mother’s day and Father’s day sentiments, World’s Greatest Mom, World’s Greatest Dad, birth of a new baby, in memory of a beloved pet….the possibilities are endless!
So, if you’ve been procrastinating, get your order in on time to be part of the next installation.  The deadline for orders for the next installation is July 1, 2014.
There are two sizes of bricks, 4"X8" with up to three lines of text
A 8"X8" brick with up to six lines of text

For more information or to order online and use Paypal Click Here and follow the instructions.  If you prefer to pay by check or credit card call 636-225-4390, Ext 101

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Really Weird Animals: The Tarsiers

Here’s a group of weird looking animals for you; the tarsiers.  Native to the rainforests on islands of Southeast Asia, they look like baby aliens!

Philippine tarsier (photo: Wikipedia files)
There is still some debate as to exactly how many known species and subspecies of tarsier there are.  Endangered Species International states that most recently the tarsier family, tarsiidae, is divided up into three genera, which includes 18 species and subspecies of tarsier.  The most well-known is the Philippine tarsier.

Tarsiers are tree-dwellers and among the smallest primates in the world.  For example, the Philippine tarsier measures only about 3.35 to 6.3 inches in height and the Pygmy tarsier about 4 inches, not including the tail.  The length of their tail ranges from 8 to 10 inches long.  Some species have sparsely furred tails while others are more bushy-tailed like the Spectral tarsier.  They all have very large eyes, large ears, soft fur, and long hind legs.  The long legs enable them to leap distances of up to 5 meters between tree branches. 

Tarsiers are nocturnal and their large eyes help them to see extremely well at night.  Their eyes are the largest in relation to its body of any mammal.  Just one of their eyes is heavier than its brain, but around the same size.  Like owls, they cannot move their eyes in their sockets and to compensate they can turn their heads almost 360 degrees around their body.  Their large ears are very sensitive to the tiniest sounds, or sign of prey or predators.  They have long fingers with sticky pads on the end of each which helps them to climb and catch prey.

Philippine tarsier showing long tail (photo: Wikipedia files)
 Tarsiers are the only primates that are strictly carnivorous, eating mostly insects, but occasionally small birds, lizards, and bats.  Unlike other primates, tarsiers do not move around in search of prey.  They sit and swivel their heads around and watch and listen.  Once they spot a prey item, they leap and grab it in their hands.

A few species of tarsiers are known to be monogamous.  Mating can occur any time of the year.  Just one baby is born after a 6-month gestation period.  They are born with fur and eyes open and can cling to branches within one hour and can leap within a month!  They do not build nests, but just place their young in a safe place nearby while hunting.  The mother will also carry her baby around in her mouth or on her back.

Philippine tarsier with baby (photo: the Wikipedia files)
 Most species of tarsiers are endangered or threatened, and some are labeled critically endangered.  Threats include habitat loss, hunting, agricultural pollutants and human disturbance. They are extremely shy animals that prefer to stay away from human contact. 

Unfortunately captive breeding programs have been quite unsuccessful.  Tarsiers do not take well to living or successfully breeding in captivity.  Wild tarsiers that are captured and held in captivity only show around a 50% rate of survival and in many cases they perish quickly of overstress by committing “suicide”. 

Captive Philippine tarsier being handled (photo: the Wikipedia files)
Conservation efforts must focus on their wild habitats and populations.  Legislation has been passed in the Philippines to end the capture of the Philippine tarsier from the wild for the pet trade and to help stop habitat destruction.

Submitted by Sara Oliver, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist


Thursday, June 19, 2014

There’s no Business like Show Business!

World Bird Sanctuary’s educational bird programs at zoos can be an interesting lifestyle.  I’ve been doing zoo shows for World Bird Sanctuary since 2008 and supervising since 2011 and I still get excited every year.  There is nothing quite like moving to a new city, meeting new people and educating a whole new population of zoo goers.
Even the stage may change from year to year

Every year is a new experience, not only because the staff changes every year, but so do the birds, and occasionally the location.  One year I might be in Boston, the next in Milwaukee, and even if I return to a city the next year, the stage itself might be completely different.  That means coming up with new creative patterns for the birds to fly.  I think that might be one of the things I love most about zoo shows.  No two years are ever going to be the same.

My first year as a trainer was different than my first year supervising, and even now with three years and four shows of supervising under my belt things are still different one year to the next.  This means I will probably never tire of zoo shows.  In fact it is more than likely that I will physically exhaust myself before I become bored.

Every year is a new challenge both because of the new staff and the new birds.  Some years I have recurring staff members who have done zoo shows before; some years I have mostly rookies.  It is amazing to watch people learn and grow as they discover the unique way that zoo shows operate.  It’s interesting to watch the light bulbs go off over trainers’ heads as they learn how to manage time in order to be ready for shows, as well as learning how to think ahead in the show.

The oh so important show pouch

During our shows we move quickly from one bird to the next, with little to no time between them.  For new speakers for the show this is especially challenging, since they need to learn how to pack a show pouch (our oh so stylish fanny packs) properly.  During the show a speaker needs to able to switch effortlessly from one bird to another, pulling out the food rewards without slowing down or stopping to look into the pouch.  It is a learned skill and everyone has their own way of packing their pouch.  Some people use “snap caps”, tiny plastic cups with lids, empty applesauce cups and even pill containers to hold the food so that it does not spill during the show.

The staff members are not the only rookies.  Every year we have at least one new bird.  Sometimes a bird may be at zoo shows not to actually be in the show, but so it can be acclimated to people and the daily routine.  It is one of the best ways to get an education bird ready for shows and programs.
One of this year's rookies--Chique, a Blue-fronted Amazon

This year we have four rookies to zoo show programs: Chique a Blue-fronted Amazon, Suk a Common Raven, Evita a Red-legged Seriema, and Zeus the Golden Eagle.  We even have a few sophomores this year, like Reese our Great Horned Owl and Vader the Black Vulture, who both had great rookie seasons last year and are ready to amaze again.  Even birds that have been doing shows for years might begin doing new patterns or behaviors, both to keep them enriched and make things interesting for the audience.

Show season is my favorite time of year because it is both familiar and different every year.  Be sure to stop by the Milwaukee County Zoo in Wisconsin or Stone Zoo in Boston, Massachusetts to see what we have planned for this year.  Feel free to visit multiple times!  When you work with live birds, no two shows are ever the same!

Submitted by Leah Tyndall, World Bird Sanctuary Zoo Show Supervisor

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

“Oh, I’m Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor!”

Have you ever heard of Shel Silverstein?  Oh, of course you have.  He’s a great writer!  He is best known for his silly and creative poems for children.  One of my favorites is called Boa Constrictor.  The title of this blog is a line from that poem.  I suggest that you check it out sometime!  Now, on to the star of the article! Meet Slayer, the Colombian Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor imperator)!

Slayer, World Bird Sanctuary's resident Boa Constrictor (photo: Lisbeth Hodges)

There are two subspecies of the Colombian boa constrictor, imperator (Bci) and constrictor (Bcc).  The Bci is the more common of the two subspecies in the pet trade.  The Bcc is extremely rare to be found in captivity, as well as in the wild. 

These beautiful snakes are native to the South American countries of Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela, and Ecuador, and the Caribbean islands of Trinidad, Tobago, French Guiana, and Suriname. The habitat in these locations varies from tropical rainforests to arid semi-deserts.  Rainforest areas are more desirable habitats for these reptiles because of the humidity and the greater abundance of varied food.

Boa Constrictors eat mostly small to medium sized mammals, but will also eat lizards, birds, and amphibians.  Snakes have very slow metabolisms, and it takes from 4-6 days to digest their food after ingestion.  We feed Slayer 1-2 large rats once every two weeks. 

Boa constrictors have two lungs, but one is smaller on the left side of the body and the right side is larger and functional. Most other snakes only have their left lung present.

Just like other snakes, Boas use their tongue to smell their surroundings.  When they stick out their tongue, it catches molecules in the air and then retracts into the mouth and touches the Jacobson’s organ at the roof of their mouths.  This tells them what they smell near them, such as food.

When she’s not eating Slayer lounges around in her exhibit in the World Bird Sanctuary Nature Center, or travels with us to educational programs.  From time to time we take her outside and give her a bath.  These snakes are very capable swimmers and Slayer seems to love to get in her pool as you can see below.

Slayer enjoying a swim on the amphitheater stage (photo: Lisbeth Hodges)
 Female snakes are generally larger than the males.  Female Colombians range from 6-8 feet and males 5-7 feet.  The longest on record is 10 feet in length!  Boas can live a very long time in captivity.  The normal lifespan is 20-30 years.  The longest living Boa Constrictor reached over 40 years!  Slayer is at least 11 years old and we have had her since 2011.  We acquired her from a gentleman that could no longer care for her because of her size.  She is currently about 6 feet in length and weighs around 20lbs. 

Boas are ovoviviparous, meaning that they give birth to live young.  The eggs hatch inside the body and then the young exit the female.  They can produce 10-65 in a litter!  That’s a lot of kids! The females can also store sperm in their bodies up to one year! Amazing!

Slayer is available for adoption in our Adoption program.  To find out more information, call 636-861-3225.  All adoption donations are tax deductible.  This season she can be seen in the nature center at the World Bird Sanctuary (link) which is open daily from 8am-5pm.  Slayer is a very beautiful snake.  You should stop on by and visit her! 

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Earth Week 2014

As the readers of this blog probably already know, Earth Day 2014 was April 22. 

U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day in 1970, sparking the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of acts such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

On that first Earth Day, approximately 20 million Americans joined the rallies. By 1990, 200 million people and 141 countries were celebrating Earth Day and talking about environmental issues, and participation has been expanding ever since.

Me (Johanna) and Patriot
I spent my Earth Day in Jefferson City, MO.  Missouri American Water graciously paid for the World Bird Sanctuary Director of Education, Mike Zeloski, and me to travel to Missouri’s state capitol for four days.  Mike and I brought raptor awareness and the importance of clean water to local schools and the community. 

We spent most of the week doing radio interviews and visiting local elementary and middle schools.  Since I’m still a fairly new staff member, Mike did most of the speaking during the shows, with me only speaking about a few of the birds to gain confidence and experience. 

The crowds enjoying Earth Day activities on the steps of the Missouri State Capitol
On Friday, April 25th, we brought our program to the capitol steps as a part of Jefferson City’s Earth Day celebration, put on by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
This year marked the 20th anniversary of Jefferson City’s Earth Day celebration on the capitol lawn.  Being new to Missouri, I have no experience with previous years’ celebrations, but I thought this year’s celebration was fantastic.

The south lawn of the capitol was crowded with people, many of them 5th grade classes that had been let out from school to take a field trip to the event.  Numerous tents were scattered across the lawn sponsored by groups such as the Missouri Stream Team and Runge Nature Center.  These tents featured educational activities and, of course, freebies for the students.

In the center of it all stood a raised stage, where drawings and the Environmental Survivor game show were hosted.  All of this was against the beautiful backdrop of Missouri’s capitol building.

The sun was warm, children were darting to and fro after Frisbees, and everyone was learning something about the environment. It could not have been a more wonderful day, and I could not have had a more wonderful introduction to Jefferson City.

Submitted by Johanna Burton, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist 

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Common Buzzard: Vulture or Hawk?

Some people mistakenly call our native vultures buzzards.  What they may not know is that a buzzard is in fact closely related to a hawk. 

Long long ago when people started moving to North America from Europe they would look at the skies and say, “Look at the buzzard.”  Little did they realize that the bird soaring overhead wasn’t really a buzzard.  It was a vulture that looked similar in flight to the buzzards found throughout Europe. 

Rochester, WBS's Common Buzzard (Photo: Christina Ranken)

A great example of a buzzard is the Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo.  Common Buzzards are found throughout  Europe, extending into Asia.  If you ever go to Europe, the best way to spot them is when they are soaring around in circles, just like our vultures do here in the U.S.  Also, the Common Buzzard often will have a “v” shape, with the ends of their wings well above their backs as they soar—again, just like our Turkey Vulture here in the U.S.   

During mating season the Common Buzzard male will perform aerial displays to impress a potential mate, soaring, tumbling, and loop the loop in the sky.  This impressive display is called a “roller coaster”.

After finding a mate the pair will then build a nest.  The female will lay a clutch of two to four eggs.  Common Buzzards do not reach sexual maturity until they are three years old.  They are also known to have a life span of twenty-five years in the wild.  This is quite long for a hawk their size. 

This buzzard falls into two groups—the Eastern group which can be found in the Atlantic Islands of Cape Verde, the Azores, Canaries and Madeira, east through most of Europe.  The Western group can be found in northern and central Asia, as far as Japan.  There are several subspecies in each group.

These guys are not a threatened species.  As of 2009 the number of wild Common Buzzards estimated is around 4 million individuals.  Though they are doing great now, they were almost wiped out at one point in the United Kingdom, due to poaching and loss of food. 

Common Buzzards prefer to eat mammals.  Studies have shown that their favorite food is rabbit. They are opportunistic eaters, so even though rabbits and other small mammals are what they prefer, they will eat just about anything they can find, including snakes, lizards, worms and insects. 

We now have a common buzzard at World Bird Sanctuary’s nature center.  His name is Rochester and he is learning to become an education bird.  Soon he will be traveling with the rest of our crew to teach the public about Common Buzzards.  Be sure to look for him when you visit the World Bird Sanctuary (link).  He usually resides in the weathering area behind the Nature Center—unless he is traveling to an education program with our naturalists.

As with all of our animals, Rochester is available for adoption through our Adopt A Bird program.  Click here if you would like to adopt Rochester, or call 636-225-4390 XT 0 for further information on how you may adopt a bird.

Submitted by Christina Ranken, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist


Wednesday, June 11, 2014


 Last Wednesday morning, June 4, Sanctuary Manager Joe Hoffmann was saddened to find that  Gomez the Red-legged Seriema had died in his enclosure on the World Bird Sanctuary exhibit line.  He apparently died in his sleep.

Gomez with a prize
Gomez was very old, having been hatched at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington in 1991.  A Red-legged Seriema’s life expectancy in captivity is estimated as 10-20 years.  At 23 years old Gomez surpassed even the maximum life expectancy.

Gomez arrived at the World Bird Sanctuary in 1992 and began his training to participate in educational programs.  His specialty was to demonstrate how his species, native to South America, hunts in the wild by capturing prey and slamming it against the ground to kill it.  According to WBS Director, Jeff Meshach, Gomez was our best and most reliable “slammer.”  He spent the majority of his education program career at Busch Gardens Tampa in the World Bird Sanctuary’s educational shows at that facility.  We are sure that he educated well over two million people while in Florida.

In 2004 he was retired from performing and paired with another Seriema in our breeding program.  However, as you can see from the photo, he had not forgotten how to “slam.”  He is pictured with a tree frog that he found and caught in his enclosure, and of which he seemed very proud.  The morning this photo was taken he seemed to be showing off his prize to anyone who would pay attention.

Gomez will be missed by all—staff, interns, volunteers and visitors alike. 

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

Monday, June 9, 2014

365 Project: April photos

April is a month when photos greatly increase due to the nicer weather.  This means more outside programs, more wild bird opportunities and of course, spring flowers.  This blog will include all three.  

Jake, a Great Horned Owl (photo: Cathy Spahn)

First I will start off with a photo of Jake, the Great Horned Owl.  I was on a display at the Onondaga Caves State Park and Jake was sitting in the grass with some prairie grasses behind him.  I just love this photo.  I find that Jake is just a beautifully photogenic Great Horned Owl, and with the right background he is just beautiful.

Two of the Forest Park Great Horned Owl fledglings (photo: Cathy Spahn)

Sticking with the theme of Great Horned Owls, I have also chosen a photo of two of the three baby/fledgling Great Horned Owls at Forest Park, Near downtown St. Louis.  This pair of Great Horned Owls has nested and raised babies near the Muny, an outdoor theater in Forest Park, for years.  If you happen to know where they like to hang out you can find them relatively easily. 

One of the babies was just fascinated with the sound of my camera.  The female sat close by, but never did anything. Fortunately, they are used to people, so they are more comfortable, but still cautious.  When photographing young animals always keep an eye on the parents.  If they start getting restless you are too close or doing something wrong and it is time to back away.  Never push your luck with parent birds/animals.  For example, the limbs of the tree in this photo are not in the best locations, but I was not about to scare the birds or make Mom unhappy, so I dealt with the limbs.  Even with the interfering limbs it is still one of my favorite photos.

Tulips shot from below (photo: Cathy Spahn)

Spring flowers mean color.  I spend many hours every year out at the Missouri Botanical Garden taking photos of flowers.  On this particular shot I decided to do something a little different.  I chose to shoot these tulips from the ground looking up.  I just loved how this came out and have to try this again with other flowers.

Prothonotary Warbler, Castlewood State Park (photo: Cathy Spahn)

The last photo I have chosen is of a Prothonotary Warbler. This is a migratory species that shows up middle to end of April.  They nest near the water.  I went for a walk in Castlewood State Park, which is across the Meramec River from World Bird Sanctuary.  I had a total of three Prothonotary Warblers flying around.  I find their yellow to be just the most spectacular color.  The blue on the wings with the yellow makes it a beautiful bird.  The light that day just made these birds stand out.

Even as I write this, the photo opportunities have been stacking up for May.  If you love taking photos I really recommend trying a 365 project or other form of a photo project.  I find myself getting out more and seeing so much more than I normally would.

Submitted by Cathy Spahn, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Spring Migration Blitz Nets Record Numbers

How do they do it?  Millions of tiny songbirds migrate thousands of miles from their wintering grounds in Central and South America to their nesting grounds in North America each spring.  Studies show that they often take longer routes to take advantage of jet-stream patterns to save energy.

Blackburnian Warbler (photo:  Valerie Geile)

This spring brought many, many birds along the Mississippi River flyway to the mist nets at the World Bird Sanctuary (WBS).   A record number of migrating birds were banded at WBS from April 21 through May 12 this year.  Sixty different species were captured, and a total of 853 birds were encountered in all!  Last year’s total was 675 birds which was significantly more than the average of 300 birds per previous season.

Cerulean Warbler (photo: Linda Tossing)

Of the 60 different species banded, there were 23 different warbler species.   The most commonly caught were Tennessee Warblers (183) and Nashville Warblers (120), both numbers up from last year.  Special birds caught in the spring of 2014 include a Cerulean Warbler (the first ever caught at WBS), a Blackburnian Warbler, and a Wilson’s Warbler.

Wilson's Warbler (photo: Laura Bailey)

In a wooded ravine at WBS, banders opened 24 mist nets before sunrise daily for three weeks to see what birds might drop by.  These 10-foot high nets look like a combination of a badminton net and a Roman shade.  Since the nets are hard to see, birds fly into a net and drop into a pocket.  They are then carefully extracted, identified, measured, assessed, banded, and released.

The statistics collected were submitted to a database under the auspices of the Bird Banding Laboratory, part of the United States Geological Survey (USGS).  The USGS issues permits to qualifying banding organizations that place uniquely numbered bands on captured birds.  If a banded bird is recaptured, it is interesting to find out where it has been or how long it has been in our area.  The data accumulated from this study could be useful to monitor population growth or decline for various species, their life spans, migration paths, and survival rates. Changes in habitats for bird species may be reflected in capture numbers as well.  Banding is thus an important tool to further the understanding of bird populations.

Chestnut-sided Warbler (photo: Susan Eatoon)

Why would a bird leave comfortable territory to travel to parts unknown?  There is a greater chance of survival and success in finding food and shelter when there are separate breeding and wintering grounds.  In the spring a different food source becomes available in the new location and there is less competition for nesting sites.  With colder temperatures a return to warmer climes is necessary.  Change in day length, temperature, amount of food available, and genetic predispositions trigger migration.

Bird banders at WBS are dedicated to monitoring bird numbers in the St. Louis area.  They not only band daily during spring migration but they also band weekly throughout the summer and fall.  Northern Saw-whet Owls are captured during special nightly sessions in October.

If you are interested in observing or helping with the capture and banding process, public demonstrations are conducted every first and third Thursday of June, July, and August near the wildlife hospital at WBS.  The World Bird Sanctuary is located off the Highway 44 North Outer Road, accessed at the intersection of Highways 44 and 141 near Valley Park.

For more information click here

Submitted by Mary Elise Okenfuss