Newsletter of the Columbia Audubon Society | October 2019 | Volume 62, Number 2
-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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Call Megan Owen, a local song-bird rehabilitator, at 336-601-8909.
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.
Saturday, November 2 | 9:00 a.m.
Saturday, November 9 | Noon
Carpool from AC commuter lot at 11:15 a.m.
Wednesday, November 20, 2019 | 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 14, 2019
Wednesday, January 15, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, February 19, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, April 15, 2020 | 7:00 p.m.
mid-May, exact date to be determined