Newsletter of the Columbia Audubon Society | October 2019 | Volume 62, Number 2

Tue. Oct. 1, 2019

News and Notes for October 2019

From the editor

-by Joanna Reuter

The September issue of The Chat was a big one, so I decided to wait until this issue to introduce myself and my goals as editor. Though I’ve been a bird watcher for about three of my four decades, I still cherish the constant potential for discovery. I was motivated to take on editorship of The Chat in order to share this love of learning with Columbia Audubon Society (CAS) members, whether they’ve been birding for a season or are seasoned birders. There are many different ways in which we can expand our knowledge about birds and ecosystems these days; here’s a summary of some methods with a few bits of my personal history for context:

  • Learning though direct observation: Seeing and hearing birds can be thrilling, and the Columbia Audubon Society provides many great field trips to do so in a group context. Much of my birding, though, is on my own or with my husband Eric. I spend a considerable amount of time outdoors, growing food and working on landscape management at our northern Boone County homestead farm, which Eric and I previously ran as a full-time, certified organic farm. When I see a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher eating something off of a tomato cage that further investigation demonstrates to be an outbreak of aphids, it’s a reminder that the food I eat and the food birds eat are not ecologically isolated. Though I am not bird “watching” at all times, I am virtually always listening and attentive.
  • Learning by participation in citizen science: Those of us privileged to have smartphones (a group I have finally joined) can track observations of birds and other organisms more easily than ever before though apps including eBird and iNaturalist, thus contributing to an unprecedented global network of biodiversity data. Perhaps it’s my scientific training that drives me to want to collect data, but I also find that the process of documenting what I’ve observed motivates me to look up questions about what I’ve seen, and that’s a great way to learn.
  • Learning through data: The ever-growing eBird database can answer a variety of questions about birds, as demonstrated in the Broad-winged Hawk article that I wrote for last month’s Chat. I have professional experience doing Geographic Information Systems (digital mapping) analysis, and I’ve more recently picked up the R programming language, which is an extremely powerful tool for data analysis and visualization.
  • Learning about context: My interest extends beyond just birds to ecosystems, landscapes, and the underlying geology. Trained in geology (specifically geomorphology, the study of landscapes), I not only want to know what bird I’m looking at, but what species of tree it’s in, what the human history of the landscape is, and what soil/bedrock underlies the location (among other things). I view modern ecosystems as dynamic and disrupted, regardless of whether they experienced some degree of past equilibrium. Ecosystem history/management questions are challenging but fascinating, something birders and naturalists should talk about more often.
  • Learning from new technology: I marvel at technological advances that, for example, allow the direct tracking of individual birds such as Broad-winged Hawks from North American breeding grounds to South American wintering grounds. I’ve never participated in bird tracking, but I used to collaborate with fish biologists tracking sturgeon movements in the Missouri River. More recently, my mind was blown when I learned that weather radar can be used to track the migratory movement of birds, something I now take (almost) for granted as I routinely check on the Birdcast website during spring and fall migration.

I see The Chat as a way to share knowledge and ideas, and look forward to continued learning and teaching as I take on the editorship. I appreciate feedback, corrections, ideas for content, or submissions; simply email me. Happy birding!

Band With Nature: Volunteers still needed

The 8th annual Band With Nature field trip for 2nd grade students is scheduled for October 7, 8, and 10 (Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday). Students love the diverse bird-related activities, including an appearance by Raptor Rehab. Volunteers are needed to make the event a success. Volunteers can work for a half-day (2.5 hours) morning or afternoon or both, either one day or more. The event takes place at the Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary (CANS). Please contact Bill Mees if you would like to help out.

Brief notes

  • Please note: The October meeting will be held at Fairview Elementary, not at the usual location. Mike Szydlowski, K-12 Science Coordinator for the Columbia Public School District, will speak on the new place-based nature curriculum at Fairview Elementary School and the “Nature School” on the Waters family property.
  • The CAS board still has a vacant position. If you are interested in serving as a board member, please contact President John Besser.
  • If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out the article about bird tracking by Sarah Kendrick, state ornithologist, in the current issue of the Missouri Conservationist. A plan is moving forward to be able to monitor digitally tagged birds passing through Missouri with the Motus system, a really exciting technology that promises to vastly enhance our understanding of the movements of birds (and other organisms) on large geographic scales. If you are not yet a Missouri Conservationist subscriber, you can sign up on line; there is no charge for subscriptions–either physical or digital–for Missouri residents.
  • In case you need another reason to check out The State Historical Society of Missouri‘s new building, here it is: They have an archive of past issues of The Chat.
  • October 19 is eBird’s October Big Day when all birders are encouraged to take a bit of time to watch some birds, document sightings through eBird, and marvel at the diversity of birds from around the world as reports come in from over 150 countries. Whether you spend 5 minutes or 24 hours birding is up to you.
  • Keep an eye and ear out for Red Crossbills this fall, as there are some early signs that this is likely to be an irruption year, with birds coming south from northern forests to feed on cone crops in more southerly regions. Rocky Fork Lakes Conservation Area is a good place to look, and late October through early December is a good time to monitor based on past eBird records. This time frame likely coincides with the maturation of the pine cone seeds that the crossbills feed on at this location.
  • Late October is currently a little sparse in terms of pre-scheduled CAS field trips. Sometimes it is frustrating to schedule a field trip in advance, only to find the weather would have been much better on a different day or even a different time of the same day. We might try some short-notice field trips, announcing trips a few days out when the weather forecast is known. Keep an eye on email and/or the website for such opportunities. Also, please consider volunteering to lead one; simply contact Field Trip Chair Eric Reuter.

Board meeting update

There was not a quorum at the monthly board meeting, so prior minutes were not approved and no new minutes were taken. Those attending (Besser, Mees, Bushman, Hillman, Woods) informally discussed CoMo Gives, plans for the Band with Nature event, and options for replacement of the Wildhaven picnic pavilion.

Supporting CAS

Carrying out our mission through education, conservation, and outreach takes a wide variety of resources, from the valued time of dedicated volunteers to the financial support of members and donors. We welcome and appreciate all participants and supporters of our work through their generous donations of time, money, or other resources.

Submitting material to The Chat

The Chat is published online on the first of every month from September through May. Submissions are welcome, including photographs, stories, and brief notes about bird or nature observations. Please contact News Editor Joanna Reuter with submissions, feedback, or suggestions for content. The submission deadline is the 25th of each month.

Tue. Oct. 1, 2019

Congratulations to Bill Mees and CAS: Eco Schoolhouse Horseshoe Award

The Eco Schoolhouse Horseshoe Award uses an artifact from the past to honor those whose actions aim to produce a better future through environmental education. The award is named for a horseshoe found during the construction of the Eco Schoolhouse, a LEED Gold building that was built with community support in 2008 after fire destroyed a mobile classroom at Grant Elementary. The horseshoe dates back to times when children rode horses to Grant School, the oldest existing school in Columbia. This horseshoe was then bronzed and turned into the Eco Schoolhouse Horseshoe Award to symbolize the over 100-year-old tradition of Grant School as we look forward to the next century of learning and conservation. Every year the award is given to a recipient who has supported environmental education to keep and display until the next school year.

PHOTO: John Nies, Bill Mees, and  Matt Kuensting. John Nies was a CAS Hog Island scholarship recipient.

This year, Bill Mees and the Columbia Audubon Society (CAS) were honored with the award. A former CAS President, Bill currently serves as Vice President, organizes Band With Nature, and has put a huge amount of hands-on effort into ecosystem restoration at the Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary. The presentation ceremony cited CAS-sponsored activities including: supporting educators to attend Hog Island Audubon Camp, need-based stipends for students attending the Tetons Summer Science program, need-based stipends for students attending the Smoky Mountain Science program, the prairie reconstruction at Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary, and the CAS effort to support the place-based curriculum at Fairview Elementary School, as well as field trips open to the public. John Nies, who presented the award, was himself the recipient of a Hog Island scholarship.

A small plaque is affixed to the award, bearing the recipient’s name and the date the award is given. Past recipients have included Smithton Middle School Eco Club, Sustain Mizzou, MDC conservation worker Betsy Blake, UMC professor Dr. Candace Galen, the US Fish and Wildlife Dept., the Raptor Rehabilitation Program, and MDC conservation worker Amy Meier, and last year it was displayed in City Hall for community conservationist Danielle Fox. Congratulations to Bill Mees and to all Columbia Audubon Society members!

Tue. Oct. 1, 2019

Raptor Rehab Q&A

Judy Lincoln with a young Red-shouldered Hawk at Raptor Rehab.

Judy Lincoln with a young Red-shouldered Hawk at Raptor Rehab.

Judy Lincoln is a volunteer for Raptor Rehab, as well as an active member of the Columbia Audubon Society. She kindly answered a variety of questions about many aspects of Raptor Rehab:

What is Raptor Rehab?

The University of Missouri’s Raptor Rehabilitation Project, better known as Raptor Rehab, treats injured raptors with the goal of rehabilitating them for release back into the wild. Some birds that are unable to be released due to the type of injury become educational ambassadors instead, visiting with school children as well as the general public at a variety of different events. Additionally, the project has become a teaching class for interested veterinarian students to learn triage, case management, and electronic charting while honing medical skills.

What species does Raptor Rehab handle?

As the name implies, Raptor Rehab mostly works with raptors, including hawks, owls, eagles, vultures, falcons, and kites (if the bird has a hooked beak, it probably is a raptor that we will care for). The available facilities are designed for raptors, but occasionally other species end up in our care, including nighthawks, herons, bitterns, geese, swans, and a pelican.

On average, how many injured raptors are treated per year, and what are the most common sources of injury?

Typically 90 to 120 birds come in per year. Injuries commonly result from collisions with cars, windows, or barbed wire. Some birds experience injuries as a result of fishing line, leg-hold traps, or exposure to lead pellets. Other issues include a general lack of food or injuries sustained while learning to fly.

Do you work with juveniles as well as adults?

Red-shouldered Hawk. Photo provided by Raptor Rehab.

Yes, but folks sometimes bring in healthy juveniles by mistake. Young raptors are cared for by their parents during the period after they leave the nest but before they master flying. Known as “brancher” babies, these juveniles may be seen on branches or even the ground, appearing vulnerable. In many cases, all is well, though there are cases when the rescue of brancher birds may be warranted: for example, if the juvenile is legitimately injured, if parents are dead, or if there is an active threat from a domestic animal. Some situations are subjective, and consultation with someone at Raptor Rehab may be in order to determine whether to take action.

Are there seasonal patterns in types of injury or numbers of birds that are brought in?

Spring has the highest number of juveniles, for example with injuries sustained while learning to fly or being blown out of the nest. There is often a lull in the fall when breeding season is over and most juveniles have mastered flying and hunting. Winter probably brings in more birds hit by cars while hunting roadsides.

What are the most common species of raptors that come in for rehab?

Red-tailed Hawks and Barred Owls are the most common, followed by Great Horned Owls, Red-shouldered Hawks, American Kestrels, and Eastern Screech Owls. Not all years are alike; some years, for example, we get lots of Bald Eagles.

What are some unusual species that have been treated?

In the 15 years I’ve been here, these are some rarities I can remember: Mississippi Kite, Peregrine Falcon, Broad-winged Hawk, Short-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Barn Owl, and Northern Harrier. We’ve also had Snowy Owls, but they tend to be in bad shape when they arrive, and they usually don’t make it.

Do you have any particularly memorable success stories?
Raptor Rehab Barn Owl

Barn Owl. Photo provided by Raptor Rehab.

One season we had two broods of six young Barn Owls each, and we were able to release both sets. One brood came from a grain silo and the other from a church steeple. That took some fearless, agile ladder climbing!

Here’s a funny release story: On a hot afternoon, we drove a Great Horned Owl to its release site near a lake. It was restive and bumping around in the crate. When released, instead of heading for a nice, large, nearby oak, it flew out over the lake, lost altitude, and landed in the lake, floating like a duck. As we were searching for a dinghy, it was able to take off from the water without webbed feet, and it flew back to the luggage rack on the van. After resting and drying off, it flew into the target oak tree at last.

Right now we’re about to release an slightly electrocuted/concussed Red-tailed Hawk that seems to be progressing well. She experienced only a slight burn on the wing, but she fell about 30 feet onto concrete. She is currently bright, alert, and flying well.

Do wild birds respond to or interact with birds in captivity?

We’ve had tethered owls and hawks threatened by local hawks, one of the reasons we never leave them alone on tether. Once a male came to investigate a soliciting female Red-tailed Hawk who was tethered on the exercise line. Sometimes hummingbirds, bluebirds, and flycatchers check out tethered sunning hawks.

How do you assess whether a bird is fit to be released?

Raptor Rehab brought one of their educational birds, a Barred Owl, to the CAS 60th Anniversary celebration. The 2019-2020 Newsletter Editor and Field Trip Chair are shown admiring the bird. Photo by Kris Hagglund.

After medical treatment, we make sure they are eating on their own, then we exercise them by having them fly increasing laps in the flight cages. Flight quality is assessed based on ease and symmetry of flight, lack of excessive panting, and the ability to gain altitude from the ground. For most species, the ability to catch live prey three times is a prerequisite to release. The exception is for eagles and vultures, which have no need to catch live prey. About 28-30% of birds that are brought in are ultimately released to the wild. A small percentage of the rest go to zoos or sanctuaries, but the majority are humanely euthanized.

What is the release process like? Can visitors come and watch?

Sometimes we have public releases, but many are not public due to the many factors that have to come together: getting landowner permission, coordinating with MDC, fitting vet students’ schedule, waiting for suitable weather, and more. Releases sometimes happen on short notice, even surprising Raptor Rehab volunteers.

What should I do if I find an injured raptor?

First, assess whether it is truly injured. One year we had several calls about a hawk in the US 63 median close to Ashland; it was just very successful hunting animals who lived between the lanes. As noted above, sometimes people conclude that young birds out of the nest need help when in fact they are still under the care of the parents.

If you have found an injured raptor in need of assistance, call Raptor Rehab at the number listed on their website. They can sometimes send a volunteer out to handle and transport the bird.

If it is in imminent danger from pets or other predators, and if you are comfortable doing so, try to contain the bird with a jacket, net, or box and keep it in a dry, dark, quiet place until it can be transported to the Vet School. Take extreme care if doing so. As noted on the Raptor Rehab website, “Raptors have sharp talons and powerful beaks which they can use to protect themselves. Even young or injured birds can be a serious threat. For this reason, the Raptor Rehabilitation Project recommends that you contact us instead of trying to handle or care for a bird yourself.”

Providing clear directions and information to Raptor Rehab volunteers will help to facilitate rescue: Let them know the type of bird, type of injury, and most importantly, where it is and how to get there by offering details about landmarks, an address, and/or GPS coordinates.

For full details, please see the injured raptor page of the Raptor Rehab website.

Can I volunteer with Raptor Rehab?

Raptor Rehab depends on volunteers, who must be at least 18 years old per regulations. To be eligible to handle birds, volunteers take an initial four hours of food prep training, followed by an additional four sessions of training. Wearing rubber gloves, we cut up dead rodents, fish, and chicks so if you’re squeamish, this may not be your ideal job; some eventually get used to it. Some tasks, such as yard work and maintenance, do not require completion of training sessions. For full details, see the volunteer page of the Raptor Rehab website.

Who should I call if I find an injured songbird?

Call Megan Owen, a local song-bird rehabilitator, at 336-601-8909.

Tue. Oct. 1, 2019

Sightings: September 2019

  • September Broad-winged Hawk migration update.  The Hawk Watch Happy Hour “field trip” didn’t yield much in the way of hawks, but it drew ~20 people and was a good time nonetheless. (Email me if you were there and would like to have the eBird list shared with you). As of the time I’m writing this, no reports of stunning kettles have come in from the CAS six-county area, but multiple impressive sightings have been coming in from across the state during the peak period for migration. Here are a few highlights as of 9/28:
    • Jack and Shirley Foreman reported large numbers on September 25 and 26 in Franklin County (east central Missouri). Their eBird list reporting 1,500 on the 26th has some nice photos.
    • Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren reported at least 180 at Tower Grover Park in St. Louis on September 28; Chirssy made this video, which does a nice job at giving a taste of the excitement of seeing a mass of hawks swirling in the sky above you.
    • The peak report so far comes from Nancy Rochovansky, who estimated 8 to 10 thousand (!) on September 28 at her home in Barry County, southwest Missouri. Her report on the MOBIRDS listserv is worth reading.
  • A House Finch with an eye disease that often affects this species was sighted by Nancy Wahrenbrock and posted on the CAS Facebook group. Neither the House Finch nor the eye disease occurred historically in Missouri. House Finches historically had a range in western North America, but they were introduced in the east and then spread rapidly westward, thus eventually colonizing Missouri. Later, the eye disease spread through the eastern population of House Finches, reaching Missouri in the late 1990s, according to a map at Project Feeder Watch, where you can read more about finches, the eye disease, and the opportunity to be a citizen scientist who contributes data about both.
  • Warblers! September is a good month for warbler watching in Missouri. Here’s a listing of 24 species reported on eBird within Boone County this September (as of a few days prior to the end of the month), followed by a few photos of warblers that were submitted through eBird in September in Boone County. The photos are embedded from the Macaulay Library, an archive of photos, videos, and audio recordings submitted through eBird lists.
  • Ovenbird
  • Worm-eating Warbler
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Golden-winged Warbler
  • Blue-winged Warbler
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Tennessee Warbler
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Kentucky Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • American Redstart
  • Northern Parula
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Palm Warbler
  • Pine Warbler
  • Yellow-throated Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Canada Warbler
  • Wilson’s Warbler

 

Please submit sightings! The “Sightings” column contains a sampling of interesting bird and nature observations made since the prior newsletter, with emphasis on the six-county region (Audrain, Boone, Cooper, Howard, Monroe, Randolph) served by the Columbia Audubon Society. If you see an interesting behavior, encounter an unusual species, notice unusually high or low populations of a species, get a great photo or audio recording, or otherwise have something interesting to share, please send an email to me (Joanna Reuter). Reports can (and preferably should) be brief; alternatively, simply send me a link to an eBird list if it contains comments explaining the observation.

Columbia Audubon Society is supported in part by a generous contribution from


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Upcoming Events

Field Trip: Binder Lake, Jefferson City

Saturday, November 2 | 9:00 a.m.


Field Trip: Tim Ernst Presentation at Runge Nature Center

Saturday, November 9 | Noon

Carpool from AC commuter lot at 11:15 a.m.


November meeting: Why Our Yards Are So Important to the Full Life-cycle Conservation of Our Native Birds

Wednesday, November 20, 2019 | 7:00 p.m.


Christmas Bird Count

Saturday, December 14, 2019


January meeting: Sarah Kendrick, State Ornithologist

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.


February meeting: Visiting Magee Marsh, a presentation by Bill Palmer

Wednesday, February 19, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.


March meeting: Robin Hirsch-Jacobson

Wednesday, March 18, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.


April meeting: Greenbelt Land Trust of Mid-Missouri

Wednesday, April 15, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.


May meeting: Picnic

mid-May, exact date to be determined