Friday, June 29, 2012

Raptor Vet Camp

Camp continued this week with Raptor Vet.  The Raptor Center staff showed campers some of the techniques they use to treat our raptor patients, including bandaging.  Stuffed raptors were used to practice these techniques. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

TRC Clinic Patient Census June 28

The Raptor Center has received 280 patients so far this year.  We currently have 56 patients. 

    Bald eagle   18

Hawks - Buteos
   Red-tailed hawks   13
   Broad-winged hawk   2

Hawks - Accipiters
   Cooper's hawk   1

   American kestrel   5
   Peregrine falcon   4

   Great horned owl   8
   Eastern screech-owl   2
   Barred owl   2
   Northern saw-whet owl   1

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Camps at The Raptor Center

Summer camps have started at The Raptor Center!  Campers have the opportunity to learn about hawks, eagles, falcons, owls and others through many different activities designed to spark discovery. 

Interpretive Naturalist Mike Billington introduced campers to two of our education bald eagles.  He pointed out some of the differences in adult and juvenile birds.  We'll share more photos soon!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Harmon to Fledge Soon

Harmon the bald eagle chick will be 11 weeks old on June 30.  This means that at any time in the next few days, Harmon  could “fledge”, or leave the comfort of his nest, testing his fully developed wings to explore nearby surroundings.   Like any other eagle chick, learning the skills to fly with the grace we all recognize takes time.  You’ve all watched Harmon flap to where he has “levitated” up a bit from his nest.  Because Harmon’s nest tree is very near other trees,  his first “flights” will probably only take him to nearby branches.  So, for a short while, you might see Harmon return to the nest; these visits, however, will soon become infrequent as his flight abilities improve and he begins learning how to hunt. Sometimes, early in  “flight school”, eagles land in rather unusual places (the ground, playground equipment, and fallen trees to name a few).  This is a normal process and most often the young eagles are just fine. Be assured that each year, all of Harmon’s wild cousins make these same tentative steps that will ultimately shape them into magnificent flyers and make them independent of their parents. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Scholars at TRC

The Summer Scholars are veterinary students who have earned the opportunity to work in research with faculty during their summer break. They received grant funding through a competitive process based on proposals they wrote. During the summer, they will work closely with faculty to learn more about the research process as well as take a lead role in one specific project. At the end of the summer, they will present the results of their projects at a research symposium and perhaps have the opportunity to contribute to a scientific paper. The Raptor Center is thrilled to have three Summer Scholar students working on the following projects.

One of the students is Megan Duckett (pictured here), who is working with TRC Executive Director Julia Ponder to evaluate a controlled-release Vitamin K product for use as a mitigation tool in raptors during rodent eradication projects on islands. This idea came from Dr. Ponder’s work with the Galapagos hawks in the fall of 2010. Dr. Ponder, TRC staff, and other partners are actively planning the next phase of this very important project. Keep watching our blog, Facebook and e-communications for information!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Raptor Center All About Owls in St James

Interpretive Naturalist Kelly Scott of TRC presented an All About Owls program recently at the Watonwan County Library.  The St James Plaindealer covered this program, where approximately 70 people of all ages got to meet some of our winged ambassadors.  Here is another link with photos taken of the program.  If you would like to have TRC come to your school or other function, you can find information here

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Raptor Center and Living Social Deal

Programs at The Raptor Center are the Featured Deal on Living Social today for St Paul!  It's a great way to learn about us, and a terrific place to bring your family and friends!

Harmon the Eaglet Merchandise Available

To memorialize the truly inspirational story of an eagle chick who brought thousands of people into his life, a Harmon the Eaglet fan named Diane Serafin has created a website with items for sale using Dr. Julia Ponder's image.  This site has chocolates, clothing, button, notecards and more.  Any profits will be donated to The Raptor Center.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Peregrines in the Midwest - Kentucky Spotlight

The pair of breeding peregrine falcons on the Milton-Madison (US-421) Bridge (see photo) has exhibited exceptional resiliency to the construction which is occurring on the bridge. Walsh Construction is currently working on the reconstruction of this bridge and has been extremely cooperative in working with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) on minimizing disturbance to the falcon pair. The pair nested in a provided nest box on a pier of the bridge where no construction activity occurred in 2012. Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife Resources banded the young falcons in May, with the help of John Castrale, of the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife. There were 3 young, approximately 24 days old - 2 females and 1 male. All appeared healthy. The young were named by Walsh Construction for the famous “Three’s Company” trio: Jack, Chrissy and Janet. (See photo of juvenile).

KDFWR staff were able to get a reading on the bands of the adult female falcon at this site b/g *R/*A (see last photo). She hatched in 2008 at the LG&E Trimble County station in Bedford which is down the river about 10 miles from Milton. Her name is Kessel and we assume she is the same female that was there in 2010-2011. The male at this site is still Asa Crane *D/D (b/r). Asa Crane was the only living falcon left which is known to nest in Kentucky that was released during recovery efforts in the 1990’s. He was released in 1997 at the Kentucky Utilities Ghent Station in Carroll County just 8 miles or so up river from Milton. Thus, he is now 15 years old and was named for a gentleman at the plant who helped with the releases and later passed away of cancer.

We wish to thank Kathryn Heyden of the KDFWR for her contribution of this story, and the incredible amount of work it takes to coordinate the peregrine monitoring and banding each season. We are very grateful to all of the state coordinators who put in so much time to ensure that the body of knowledge we have on this species is added to each year with the banding and other activities carried out. Thank you also to Charlie Gannon for photos.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Benefits of Copper Ammunition Article

We encourage you to read this article on the benefits of copper ammunition from the June issue of Whitetales Magazine, of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

TRC Recognition from US Fish and Wildlife Service

The Raptor Center received a wonderful surprise when we were recently visited by colleagues from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 3 Migratory Bird Division. They presented us with a letter of appreciation and a plaque recognizing our efforts in wildlife conservation. This recognition was extremely meaningful, especially coming from a group we know to be exceptionally hard-working and dedicated themselves. The fact that their team took the time to visit us as a group to make the presentation made it even more special. We value our strong working relationship with the Fish and Wildlife Service and are grateful for the partnership we have with them.

We are sharing a photo of TRC and USFWS staff, as well as a photo of the plaque. We would like to quote a very meaningful line from the letter of appreciation: “ It is through . . . unpublicized work that is done at The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota on a daily basis that we are reminded that the welfare of our natural resources are in the stewardship of exceptionally talented and passionate people."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

More Coverage on Former TRC Patient Chaska Eagle

You might recall this post about a sharp-eyed photographer Jon Smithers who was able to read a leg band on a bald eagle, and confirm that this former TRC patient is a successful member of the breeding population.  The Star Tribune recently carried the story, too.  Keep an eye out for more press! 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

American kestrels

Thank you to those who submitted guesses on our last Raptor Baby Facebook Cover photo. These are American kestrel chicks.
The American kestrel is a snazzy little falcon with fast wing beats and the ability to hover (fly in place) as it searches for its next meal, most often a small rodent or insect. It is striking in color with dark malar stripes, characteristic of many falcon species, running down the sides of its cheeks, and the sexes sporting different colors. The male has bluish-gray wings, blue feathers on its head and a solid cinnamon colored tail bordered by a single dark terminal band. The female has a small blue area on top of her head, but is more uniformly cinnamon with dark barring on the wings, back and tail.

In many areas throughout the country, the population of kestrels has taken a noticeable decline, especially in urban areas. The cause of this decline is under investigation and TRC is helping in this effort through Kestrel Watch, a citizen science project that encourages people to report kestrel sightings to our online site.
 In Minnesota, most kestrels are ¾ of the way through their breeding efforts. The eggs have hatched and the chicks (up to 5 per clutch) are at or close to fledging age. Kestrels nest in natural cavities or cavity-like structures such as nest boxes and the eves of buildings. So, if you are lucky enough to observe a family of kestrels, the males and females are busy right now hunting to feed their large brood, either by dropping food into the cavity or giving it to chicks perched on branches. When the chicks first leave the cavity, they are not polished fliers and will end up in all sorts of compromising places: on decks, air conditioners, automobiles and playground equipment to name a few. In the majority of cases, they are just fine, learning how to refine their hunting skills while they are still being taken care of by their hard-working parents.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fathers Day Admission is Free to Dads for Onsite Programs Sunday

The Raptor Center is offering free admission to our 1:00 onsite program to all fathers on Sunday, June 17 in honor of Fathers Day.  The Raptors of Minnesota program does not take RSVP's, so come early.  You can find directions and other information on our website here

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Peregrines in the Midwest - Nebraska Spotlight

We will continue to share information on these amazing peregrines in the midwest as we compile it.  Nebraska has two sites where peregrine chicks are banded.  The Woodmen Tower in Omaha has a pretty special male; he was hatched in 1994 in Rochester, NY, so that makes him 18!  Zeus b *X/R has been at the site since 1996.  As of this year, he has produced 60 young!  There have been two other females at the site besides the current female, Hera.  She is unbanded, so her history and age is not known, but has been at the site since 2006 with Zeus.  There were five chicks both this year and last - that is a very healthy and productive clutch.  We wish to thank Joel Jorgensen of the  Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and the nice folks at Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society for providing these photos of Zeus.   

Monday, June 11, 2012

Peregrines in the Midwest - Indiana Spotlight

Peregrine chicks are being banded in the Minneapolis metro area, as we have posted recently.  Peregrines are also banded in quite a few others states, as well.  The Raptor Center is very proud to be the headquarters of the Midwest Peregrine Society, which coordinated the reintroduction of the peregrine for the midwest under the direction of Harrison "Bud" Tordoff and Dr. Patrick Redig, co-founder of The Raptor Center. 

The state coordinators that we work with do an incredible amount of work to coordinate all the details that are involved.  We will share some of these as they are sent to us.  Our thanks go out today to John Castrale at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, for his information and photos provided. 

The first photo is of male Zephyr b/r *9/*A, who is at South Bend, Indianapolis.  He is 13 years old, which is quite a feat for a wild peregrine, and at the time of this posting had two chicks at this stie.  The most interesting part of his story is that as of last year (after this photo was taken), he is missing his entire right foot.  We do not know what happened, but he is obviously able to provide food for himself and a family the last two seasons. 

The second photo is of Latesha b/g Z/K, also 13, and is the breeding female at the Wheatfield site.  She was wild produced in Genoa, WI in 1999. 

The next photo (female with eggs) is of Crystal b/r X/*K, at the Gary, IN USS sinter plant. She is also 13 years old, hacked in Labadie, MO in 1999.

The last photo is of Kinney, b/r 7/*3 at the Indianapolis Market Tower site.  Kinney has produced over 60 chicks in his lifetime and was hacked in Lexington, KY - in 1993!  This makes him 19 (not 18, as a sharp eyed follower noted) years old!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Come See Pi and TRC at Northern Spark/Weisman Appearance

Pi will be continuing his training with Gail and some other winged ambassadors of TRC Saturday night at the Weisman Art Museum, as part of the Northern Spark nighttime arts festival.  The Pioneer Press has an article on what events are included in this.  Here is a schedule of TRC's appearance (from 10:00 - 10:50 pm tonight).  The Weisman is at 333 East River Parkway, on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota.

Meet Pi the Bald Eagle at The Raptor Center

 Some of you might have already meet Pi, who is one of our "newer" education ambassador birds at The Raptor Center. Pi is just finishing some of his training to learn how to be an education bird at TRC. He was admitted into our clinic as an already fledged (flying) bird. We found nothing wrong physically, but he showed too much curiosity/interest in people. Some of the behaviors were consistent with birds that are human imprints (meaning, there was interaction with humans during a critical part of the bird’s cognitive and behavioral development.) Imprinted birds do not interact with other wild members of their species in the expected ways related to breeding and territorial behaviors. They also do not show the avoidance of humans that would normally keep them safe. Pi (short for pilot) was recovered on land owned by an airplane pilot, whose nickname is “Pi.”

We determined that Pi would be a good candidate to join our winged ambassador team to help teach the 150,000 people we see each year. Gail Buhl, Education Program Manager at The Raptor Center and Pi’s primary trainer, is working with Pi to ensure that he is comfortable with the different things that he will encounter in his new job as an ambassador. He will learn that doorways, cars, baby strollers and loud noises cannot hurt him as Gail slowly exposes him to these new experiences. This will allow him to grow tolerant with all of these different stimuli in the world he now lives in.

We invite everyone to come to TRC and meet Pi, and our other education ambassadors!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Raptor Center Announces Dates at Minnesota State Fair

The Raptor Center will present programs at the MNDNR Stage at the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday, September 1 and Monday, September 3.  The times for both days will be 11:00am, 1:00pm and 3:00pm.  We will also be at the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) tent on Thursday, August 23.   We look forward to meeting you all and introducing you to some of our winged ambassadors!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Peregrine Banding at Mayo Clinic Rochester - Celebrating 25 Years

The Raptor Center Co-founder and Director Emeritus Patrick Redig attended the peregrine falcon chick banding at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Tuesday.  The Rochester Post Bulletin covered the story.   This year is special, as it commemorates 25 years of the Mayo Clinic site being involved in the Midwest Peregrine project. 
More information on the Midwest Peregrine Society project can be found on the website here

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Peregrines at Bremer and Wells Fargo

Three peregrine chicks were banded at the Bremer Tower, formerly North Central Life in downtown St Paul, and four chicks were banded at Wells Fargo, formerly Norwest Financial Center in Bloomington. 

The first year nesting was attempted at Bremer was1988, and since then a total or 63 young have been produced.  The male is again Sota b/r 8/*E, and the female is Jill b/g 50/B.  Jill is a 2002 hatch from Castle Rock inTrempealeau County, Wisconsin.  Sota is a 1994 hatch from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  
He has been at this site since at least 03/18/98; he lacks toes 2 and 3 on both feet. On the right, stubs are short, on left toe 2 is short, toe 3 lacks only the claw and distal phalanx.  There is no definitive explanation of what happened.  He is obviously still capable of not only finding prey for himself, but also a family each year. 

For the fifteenth year, a pair nested in an open tray on the east side of the building at Wells Fargo. The female is nine-year-old Speedy b/g 30/E, a 2003 hatch from the King plant in Bayport, MN and the male is eight-year-old MPR2 b/g D/32, a 2004 hatch from the Multifoods Tower in Minneapolis, MN.  The first year nesting attempted here was 1997, and a total of 51 young have been produced.

Monday, June 4, 2012

International Visitors to The Raptor Center

Frequently a hub of international activity, The Raptor Center had some fascinating visitors this past week.  Waheed Al Faziri, a conservation biologist from the Sultanate of Oman, toured the center with a fellow biologist from Voyageur National Park. While Waheed was thrilled to be able to see so much of what we do here, we were equally as excited to be able to hear about his work with Sooty Falcons in Oman. Sooty Falcons are tiny falcons, about the size of an American kestrel, whose population has recently been determined to be much smaller than previously believed. Data learned from satellite telemetry on several individuals on the birds’ choices for migration pathways contributed to the overall body of knowledge being used to determine conservation choices.

Later that same day, a group of colleagues from Makerere University in Uganda toured The Raptor Center. These visitors are part of the RESPOND project, a cooperative agreement with USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and other partners that the University of Minnesota is involved with. This multidisciplinary team is working to pre-empt the first stages of emerging diseases that can spread between animals and humans, an area where wildlife play a critical role. (Click here for a University News Release about this important effort.) We look forward to future conversations with these colleagues and the opportunity to work together.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Former TRC Peregrine Patient

The Raptor Center admits approximately 700 sick and injured birds into our clinic each year. We are able to rehabilitate and release many of them, despite the incredible range of injuries they sustain. This second chance at life provides those individual birds an opportunity to resume their role in the ecosystem.

We recently had an illustration of how our work directly contributes and impacts breeding populations of raptors. The folks at the Weston Power Plant in Rothschild, WI photographed their new female peregrine (see photo). These colored leg bands – one a purple USFWS and the other a project band - identified this bird as a female that was found injured in Ohio, in early 2009. Our own executive director Dr. Julia Ponder performed surgery on her wing (metacarpal fracture). Dr. Ponder was visiting Dr. Susan Orosz, a board-certified avian veterinarian in Ohio, when the bird was admitted. Clinic manager Lori Arent “imped” new feathers on her wing and tail just before she was ready to be released. Imping is a process where a new feather can be placed into an old, broken feather shaft, because it is hollow. This allows for the bird to have the needed balance and flight ability until a new feather is moulted in.

She was released in spring 2009 in Osceola, WI. This year, she is the breeding female (eggs are confirmed) at the Weston Power Plant. For more information on the Midwest Peregrine project, including a public database to look up individual site and bird information, can be found at