Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Resolution - Bird Lists!

Soon we will all be thinking of our New Year resolutions.  How about keeping track of the birds you see throughout the year - for yourself, for others, and for the birds themselves? 

A real-time, online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales.

eBird's goal is to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers. It is amassing one of the largest and fastest growing biodiversity data resources in existence. For example, in March 2012, participants reported more than 3.1 million bird observations across North America!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Omaha the Red-tailed Hawk

If you haven't visited The Raptor Center, then you might not have met Omaha, one of our winged ambassadors.  Omaha was found starving with injuries to his left wing in the winter of 2002 in Omaha, Nebraska.  An x-ray showed he had sustained a gunshot wound that fractured his left humerus. The bone had healed abnormally, causing him to lose proper mobility in that wing. This meant that the young hawk, hatched in 2000, could never be released into the wild.  He now helps TRC educate the public on how hawks and other raptors assist with ecosystem health, and how we all interact with our environment.  He is also a great example of the range of plumages for red-tailed hawks.  We think he's a very handsome bird!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Southwest Florida Eagle Cam

For those of you waiting for our MN/IA eagle cams to be busy, there is one currently on a nest in southwest Florida.  The nesting season for eagles in Florida is approximately October - April or May.  The camera is 60 feet above the ground, in a slash pine tree.  The pair has been at this site since 2008/09, where they raised 2 chicks.  For each of the last seasons there has been just one chick.  Interesting note for that part of Florida - there are 133 eagle nests in a 25 mile radius.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Two Articles on Birds and How They Learn Their Songs

Hopefully it is a slower week for most of our friends.  TRC is always fascinated at the things all birds learn how to do, and vocalizations are particularly complex.  We found a couple of articles on songbirds we'd like to share;

A Bengalese finch outfitted with headphones. 
(Credit: Image courtesy of Emory University)
one on research showing the mechanisms of how the brain learns to correct mistakes in songs,

A male swamp sparrow.
(Credit: Robert Lachlan, Duke)
and another on how noise, from nature and humans, influences which songs a bird learns to sing and can create lasting changes to his species' top tunes

Friday, December 21, 2012

Galapagos Hawks Release (with video!)

Great news from Galapagos!  I have been in touch with Gail and am excited to report that the first hawks are being released from captivity. Click here for a video she sent.  The hawk population that has been in temporary protective captivity includes adults representing eight breeding territories, resident juveniles from the island of Pinzon and a number of immigrant juveniles we believe came in from other islands. After five and half weeks of captivity and lots of free food, it is time for them to return to the skies. The plan, which Gail and colleagues are implementing, is to release the adult breeders first to give them time to re-establish their territories and then the juveniles (hoping that those that migrated in will emigrate right back out). During this process, the team will keep an eye on the newly released birds. By Christmas, the team will be back in Puerto Ayora, beginning the next phase in which the birds will be monitored via radio telemetry with supplemental feeding being provided while the prey-base, (long suppressed by the invasive rodents) recovers. No doubt the hawks will miss the eradicated rodents as a food source. As the ecosystem balance is restored, however, these flexible hunters will hopefully find a wide variety of items to hunt.

- Juli

Happy Holidays from TRC!

Please enjoy this holiday e-card from all of us at TRC - feathered and non-feathered. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dr. Ponder's Pinzón Journal Entry #14

Land snail
I wanted to share a couple of other stories with you. It is worth noting that in addition to the current work on Pinzon, the team in Galapagos also did follow-up work on the islands that underwent rodent eradication in January, 2011. The results of that work were quite exciting. In addition to confirming that the rodents are gone, members of the monitoring team also documented the presence of two species – a land snail and a gecko – that were previously thought to be extinct. Both of these species, which have been looked for in the past, were found this year on the island of Rabida; presumably their populations are growing thanks to the removal of rodent predation.
This is what it is truly all about – the recovery of native and endemic populations and the prevention of extinctions! How proud we are to have had a role in this process and how grateful we are that our many supporters made it possible.

We also have a story to share from Gail, regarding her “charges”, the Galapagos Hawks. If you’ve been following the journal blog, you know that there are 60 hawks (including all most of the known breeding adults on Pinzon) being held in captivity for the duration of the invasive rat eradication efforts. There are other hawks who have immigrated to the island after we trapped the local residents. As per the project plan, these hawks are offered meat with a rodenticide antidote(Vitamin K) to offset any possible exposure. One female hawk in particular has become a fairly regular “customer”. Gail mentioned recently that for some reason, she has been running along the roof of the enclosures, perhaps eating insects. When she gets somewhere she can see in, she watches for awhile before resuming her activities. According to Gail, she sounds like a herd of elephants on the roof, although I am pretty sure that the roof is insufficient to hold a single elephant. You can see the hawk’s foot shadows through the roof in the last photo.

- Juli

Note from TRC Regarding Eagle and Child Video

Many of you saw the fake video yesterday of the eagle supposedly snatching a child. TRC staff spent much of yesterday talking with reporters and concerned citizens who called for more information. We were happy to see this video debunked so rapidly on a national level as we were very concerned about this negative and misleading image of eagles. And as always, we were also happy to be able to provide scientifically accurate information to people looking for the truth.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Photo from Fan HQ/Cole De Vries and US Wounded Solider Fdtn Appearance

Adam Barnett, Interpretive Naturalist at TRC, and Maxime the bald eagle appeared Saturday at Fan HQ.  Twins pitcher Cole De Vries supports the US Wounded Soldier Foundation, and TRC is always proud and happy to be a part of honorable efforts like this. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dr. Ponder's Pinzón Journal Entry #13

Dr. Ponder is back, but our Education Program Manager Gail Buhl is still on Pinzón. She sent some pictures recently, and Dr. Ponder wrote some notes to accompany them. 
Gail cleaning: Cleaning day also brings out the hawks' natural curiosity. As one scrubs the walls, the residents watch closely. It is important for the humans to be careful - given the poor, lava rock footing in the holding areas, it is quite possible to grab a nearby perch to steady yourself and almost get a hawk foot instead. This image shows both an adult hawk (left - chocolate brown) and juvenile. 
One of our team members, a park guard from the Galapagos National Park, is prepping 10 pounds of goat meat for the daily feeding. Each hawk gets around 100grams of meat a day, although sometimes it is challenging to determine how much is meat and how much is bone. Our management strategy includes frequent weighing of the hawks. For some hawks, it has been a matter of finding "roommates" who do not steal their food. For others, we have to work hard to keep them from getting obese. Perhaps we can guess who is stealing food!
Press gathering: Local media were invited out to Pinzon to see the activity there. The hawks, of course, were a huge highlight as both video and still cameras were pointed their way. While Gail had the ability to be selective in which hawk enclosures she opened, the hawks were their usual curious selves. Excellent portrait candidates!
While keeping the birds safe during the active phase of the project is critical, it is equally important to monitor what happens after their release. This data will be used both to inform post-release activities and future eradication projects. Post-release activities will include supplemental feeding while the prey base is recovering.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Bird Count

This past weekend many nature centers, birding groups and individuals began to take part in the 113th Christmas Bird Count – the longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations and help guide conservation action. Information here on the national Audubon site.    From December 14 through January 5 tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, go out on an annual mission - often before dawn. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the Holiday season.   Go to our TRC Facebook page to share stories about unique or unexpected bird species you saw!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dr. Ponder's Journal from Pinzon

In case you are just joining us, here is a history of Dr. Ponder's journal posts from her time on Pinzon. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Saturday December 15 TRC Appearances

Dr. Ponder will appear on KMSP Channel 9 Saturday at 7:45 am.
Dr. Ponder will appear on KMSP Channel 9 at 7:45 am Saturday.  She will talk about her experiences with  the Galapagos Hawks and the ecological work currently being done on the island of Pinzon.  
TRC staff will be at Fan HQ - Ridgedale Center
TRC staff and one of our education ambassador eagles will appear Saturday at the Fan HQ store, Ridgedale Center, Minnetonka.  Twins starting pitcher Cole De Vries is signing autographs from 11:00am – 12:00noon, and his charity of choice is the US Wounded Soldiers Foundation.  To support our military members, TRC will have a bald eagle present prior to the autograph signing from 10:00am-11:00am. 

Winter Solstice Snowy Owl Sale at TRC

These items are 21% off in the online gift shop.
To celebrate the winter solstice, we put some of our favorite Snowy Owl items on sale for you.  The sale starts today and runs through December 21.

The first photo has the items that are on sale in our online gift shop
These items are 20% in our TRC gift shop at 1920 Fitch Avenue.
The second photo shows the items on sale if you come see us on the St Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Proyecto de Restauración de las Islas Galápagos

Amigos de habla hispana, The Raptor Center quiere compartir con vosotros un comunicado de prensa del Proyecto de Restauración de las Islas Galápagos, del cual formamos parte.

DPNG culminó con éxito erradicación de roedores en varias islas

El proyecto de restauración de ecosistemas, permitirá que las tortugas gigantes de la isla Pinzón vuelvan a reproducirse en su hábitat natural.

Con el objetivo de eliminar de forma permanente roedores introducidos en las islas, la Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos (DPNG), con el apoyo de Island Conservation, la Fundación Charles Darwin, Laboratorios Bell y The Raptor Center de la Universidad de Minnesota desarrollaron la segunda fase de aplicación de cebos en la isla Pinzón, que tiene una extensión de 1800 hectáreas.

Edwin Naula, Director del Parque Nacional Galápagos, destaca que la institución y sus aliados en este proyecto emplearon técnicas efectivas para erradicar las especies invasoras, que representan una amenaza para los ecosistemas, y en el caso de Pinzón para especies como la tortuga gigante.

Con ayuda de un helicóptero al que fue adaptado una tolva, que permite la dispersión de los cebos desde el aire, el equipo de erradicación realizó la aplicación por rutas establecidas con ayuda de un programa especial, que permite verificar que ningún área quede sin cobertura durante el vuelo de la aeronave.

Esta mañana, continuando con el programa de restauración ecológica, la DPNG e Island Conservation culminaron la fase de aplicación de cebos del proyecto de erradicación de roedores en las islas Pinzón y Plazas Sur. El trabajo continuará, antes de declarar a las islas libres de roedores invasores, los guardaparques y técnicos monitorearán dos temporadas reproductivas de esas especies.


El éxito de la eliminación de ratones permitirá que la tortuga gigante de Pinzón (Chelonoidis ephippium) se pueda reproducir con éxito en estado natural, por primera vez en décadas. Las ratas negras (Rattus rattus) introducidas han impedido que las tortugas gigantes se reproduzcan con éxito por casi 150 años, debido a la depredación de huevos y crías. En los últimos 45 años, el programa de reproducción y crianza en cautiverio de la DPNG ha permitido la repatriación de 550 individuos juveniles, una vez que alcanzan los cuatro años.

Análisis previos demostraron que los cebos utilizados no representan riesgo para los quelonios, y en el caso de especies sensibles como los gavilanes y lagartijas de lava. Además fue construida una área especial donde permanecen bajo cuidado 60 gavilanes y más de 40 lagartijas.

"Es un placer para The Raptor Center ser capaz de proporcionar la experiencia necesaria para proteger a los gavilanes, permitiendo así el avance de este importante proyecto de conservación y facilitando la recuperación de las poblaciones de tortuga y lagartija de lava", dijo Julia Ponder, directora ejecutiva de The Raptor Center.

Danny Rueda, Director de Ecosistemas de la DPNG, anunció que en el año 2014 este proyecto será replicado en islas más grandes como Floreana, de 17.200 hectáreas. Las acciones a implementarse en esta isla se encuentran en la fase de socialización con la comunidad.


Los proyectos de las islas Pinzón y Plaza Sur están basados en el éxito de proyectos de erradicación realizados el año pasado en las islas Rábida, Plaza Norte, los tres islotes Beagle y tres de las Rocas Bainbridge, donde luego de los últimos monitoreos se deduce que los roedores fueron erradicados. Estas islas albergan 12 especies únicas de Galápagos consideradas en peligro de extinción por la Unión Internacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (UICN), entre las cuales están el pingüino de Galápagos y Scalesia stewartii (una margarita con forma de árbol y el equivalente en plantas a uno de los pinzones de Darwin).

El trabajo en las islas fue realizado con la aplicación de un cebo específico para roedores donado por Laboratorios Bell, como parte de una serie de proyectos diseñados para proteger a las especies nativas a través de la eliminación de ratas y ratones invasores de las islas Galápagos.

A pesar de que el monitoreo post-operativo es de largo plazo, el director del Programa de Ecuador de Island Conservation, Víctor Carrión, explicó que en la isla Rábida fue registrado el descubrimiento de la presencia de un caracol de tierra y un gecko (salamanquesa) que se consideraban extintos.

Los técnicos de la DPNG destacan que además de permitir la recuperación natural de los ecosistemas de las islas y las especies nativas, los proyectos ejecutados en los dos últimos años han avanzado en el desarrollo de infraestructura, capacidad y conocimiento necesario para futuras erradicaciones de roedores en Galápagos.

Proceso de Relaciones Públicas - Parque Nacional Galápagos - Ecuador

Para mayor información, escríbanos a:, o visite Oficina Isla Santa Cruz, Pto. Ayora, Telefax: (593)05-2526189/511/190, Casilla Postal: 17-24-1154,

Oficina Técnica San Cristóbal, Pto. Baquerizo Moreno, Tel./Fax.: (593)05-2520138/0497,

Oficina Técnica Isabela, Pto. Villamil, Tel: (593)05-2529178,

Oficina Técnica Floreana, Pto. Velasco Ibarra, Tel: (593)05-2524869,

Update on Galapagos Project

Dr. Ponder has returned from the Galapagos island of Pinzón.  Read the University's Academic Health Center article, with information from a recent press release, here.  The Raptor Center is one of several partners in this important effort, including the Galapagos National Park and Island Conservation, the Charles Darwin Foundation, Bell Laboratories, the Galapagos Government Council and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
We feel this information is so important, and we want to share it with our Spanish speaking friends.  You will also see a blog and Facebook post in Spanish that includes the press release on the project. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Last Day for TRC's Online Auction

Today is the last day to bid on items in TRC's online auction.  It's a great way to plan some great experiences with friends and family, give truly memorable gifts, AND support TRC!  All proceeds go to support the work we do.

Click here to see all the unique and fun things we have!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Learning About Northern Saw-whet Owls

Read this great New York Times article about new information we are learning about Northern Saw-whet Owls from research done by banders. (Make sure you use the phrase "a parliament of owls" at your next bird-friend gathering to impress them!)

TRC Online Auction Tuesday Spotlight: Not Just for the Birds!

Great Gray owls are a species that can be seen in the Sax Zim Bog area.

What would an auction offering from The Raptor Center be without including birds?  Spend a memorable & fun-filled day birding in the Sax-Zim Bog of northern Minnesota with experienced birding tour guide Erik Bruhnke. Sax-Zim Bog is known for many year-round specialties, including Great Gray Owls, Boreal Chickadees, Gray Jays, Black-backed Woodpeckers, Black-billed Magpies and many more! You can bid on a day tour with Erik!

Erik Bruhnke of Naturally Avian Tours

 Or – how about getting to meet some of TRC’s winged ambassadors? “Adopting” an ambassador bird is a fun way to support the work of The Raptor Center. Adoption gifts help feed, house, and provide medical care for these education stars that cannot be released back into the wild because of extensive injuries. For a one-year adoption you will receive a professional color photo of the bird you adopt, an opportunity to visit your adopted raptor and have your photo taken with the bird (held by staff or volunteer), certificate of adoption, and a brief biography of your raptor.

Raptor Center birthday (Hatchday) parties help accomplish the mission of The Raptor Center by providing a distinctive educational experience for participants, as well as financial support for the essential work we do. Make your birthday dollars count while providing a truly memorable experience for your child. Bid on these, and other, fun opportunities. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Minnesota Golden Eagle Travels Check In


We would like to share some updated travels of the Minnesota golden eagles.  Thank you again to Mark Martell of Audubon Minnesota for sharing these maps. 
GOEA 45 map
Eagle 45 (Jeanette) is in southern Ontario, Canada. She has moved from near the shore of Lake Superior to the Lake Nipigon area. Her radio continues to give us problems as the GIS transmitter works only on occasion.


GOEA 46 map
Eagle 46 (Hda Wah’pe) was in the Whitewater Management Area (Winona County, MN) from Nov 25 – Dec 7, in an area he spent much time in last winter. On Dec 8 he moved north and spent the evening in Winona County.


GOEA 53 map
Eagle 53 (Jack) moved east out of Iowa and into northwestern Illinois. On Dec 5 he was in Henderson County, Illinois which is the furthest south we have tracked a golden eagle.

Click here or the full list of partners, as well as the background on this project.

TRC Online Auction Monday Spotlight: Canoe the St Croix

In light of our snowy weekend, perhaps it would be fun to dream of warm days and a relaxing canoe trip on the beautiful St Croix River.  How about a day with Chris Heeter, founder of the Wild Institute, and Dr. Patrick Redig, co-founder and director emeritus of The Raptor Center as your guides?  Paddle a gentle section of the river, picnic along the shore, float, poetry, learn about birds and raptors in particular, relax, awaken your wild spirit. No canoe or birding experience necessary.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Enrichment for Nero the Turkey Vulture

Turkey vultures, as you know, are very used to putting their heads into (body) cavities to retrieve bites of their food.  We often will put Nero's food into objects so he has to spend time getting it out, as a way to mimic natural behavior.  This is an enrichment activity to keep him healthy. 
A nice piece of rat will be a part of Nero's lunch today.

Nero had to figure out how to retrieve his food. 

TRC Online Auction Friday Spotlight:Sporting to Experience

For the sports fans, TRC's online auction offers lots of opportunities to watch or play.

Experience the Red Baron™ WCHA Final Five as it marks its 13th consecutive season hosted at the Xcel Energy Center. This season's March 21-23, 2013 tournament will again feature the six-team, five-game format that debuted a year ago, culminating with the Broadmoor Trophy championship contest on Saturday night. The tournament has become a perennial favorite in Saint Paul and this year marks the end of the Minnesota Gophers being a part of the WCHA.
We have four tickets to the championship WCHA Final Five game, March 23rd, 2013, at the Excel Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

You can also enjoy one of the oldest, finest and hardest to play courses in the state of MN! You plus 2 friends will join donor Beau Farrell sometime during the 2013 season (~ April to Oct 2013) for 18 holes that you will not forget. Play amongst the old growth trees and splendid views of Lake Calhoun & Downtown Minneapolis for a truly priceless experience!  Bid on 18 holes of golf for three people total at Minikahda Country Club.

We also have tickets for the Timberwolves, Minnesota Gophers hockey, ski/snowboard, and other fun things to do!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Meet Darner the Female American kestrel

You may have already met Darner, one of our female American kestrels, but didn't know it!  Darner has been a part of the education winged ambassador team, but has only recently gotten a name.  Why "Darner"?  Green darner dragonflies migrate about the same time that many of the kestrels move south.  This gives the kestrels meals "on the go", so to speak, when they travel. 

Darner was hatched in 2009.  She was found near Austin, MN.  She is blind in her right eye, and cannot vocalize. 


TRC Online Auction Spotlight Thursday: Painting and Photography Classes

Have you dreamed of learning to paint or photograph?  Have you dabbled, but would like to have someone spend time with you one-on-one to learn more?  Robert Hagberg, one of TRC's Flight Crew volunteers, has graciously agreed to offer two classes just for our auction!  He is offering just (8) eight spots in a plein aire painting class at Taylor's Falls, MN. The day will start with a short discussion and demonstration on the medium. Most of the day will then be devoted to providing you with the opportunity to paint with the helpful guidance of an experienced, professional painter. There will be painting exercises and a lot of individual instruction.

Robert is also offering an (8) spot-only class to take better digital photos. The age of digital photography has made it so much easier than a meter in one hand and a camera in the other. Learn about pixels, white balance and why everyone talks about shooting in RAW.  We’ll get together for an afternoon to discuss some basics, and then head out to shoot

Robert Hagberg is a signature member of Oil Painters of America, and Rocky Mountain Plein Aire Painters. He has been in numerous national shows, and is a featured artist in the upcoming book, "Art of the National Parks", where his paintings of Acadia National Park will be presented. His work and resume can be viewed at