Search Results for: meepy

Meepy fix

Today I helped out at an event at the Wild Bird Center in Fox River Grove. Flint Creek brought six education birds and I was one of the volunteer handlers for the informal program. This was my second program and I had a lot of fun but I get very shy and nervous in front of crowds (no matter how large or small) so I’m not a star with the ‘education’ part – yet. Hopefully I will get better with some experience.

At the program were Meepy, Kotori, Old Red, Darwin, Pip, and Zen. I love them all but it’s no secret Meepy is my favorite, and it was about time I got my Meepy fix. I hadn’t seen her for almost three weeks!

Meepy the Barred Owl

Arthur drove out with me and my parents also stopped by; this was the first time any of them saw me holding a bird.

It was a great afternoon and I’m really looking forward to future programs!

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My visitors came from *where* in October 2013?!?!

This blog had lots of visitors in October (yay!), but not too many notable searches came up in my Statcounter (boo!). Here’s what’s what:

Someone was looking for snakes in volusia county. My blog is by no means definitive but I am certainly on the lookout for snakes all. the. time. I just love them. ๐Ÿ™‚ See my herp life list including snakes here. To the person looking for information on gemini springs snakes, you should really like the following page: Fans of Gemini Springs Park. You will love the album “Snakes of Gemini Springs”!

Someone wondered, will cardinal feed cowbird babies? The answer is yes, Northern Cardinals care for Brown-headed Cowbird “offspring”. Cowbirds are apparently found in central Florida throughout the year, but I have only seen them during the winter months since we moved here (and I’m still waiting to see my FOF BHCO). Someone else wondered what to feed a baby cowbird. To which I say NO.

Someone was looking for what an e-bird kyosk cost. If they had known how to spell kiosk I think they would have found better intel: eBird Trail Tracker.

Finally, someone searched for beatiful barred owl. They are all beautiful, truly, but an individual bird very dear to me, sweet sweet Meepy, recently left this earth. My first owl love will always have a very special place in my heart. Fly free, Meeps.

Meepy and me

Meepy the Barred Owl

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Results: Birding Goals for 2011

When I made my list of birding goals for 2011 back in December 2010, I had no idea that I would be moving from Illinois to Florida in the middle of the year. Even with that fairly major disruption, I didn’t really do too badly with my goals.

1. I wanted to get my life list in order. I expected this would take at least several weeks, but I went on an eBird binge and accomplished this goal before January was half over!

2. I wanted to read, review and cycle out at least 20 books. Here I failed rather miserably. I ended up reviewing just 11 books.

3. I wanted to improve my raptor handling skills, with a few specific tasks I wanted to accomplish: handle birds into and out of travel crates; handle a bird during flight training; and have one of my bird pals eat a meal while on my glove. Helping out with a few programs and the Raptor Internship at FCWR, I got to handle plenty of birds in and out of crates. I moved away before getting to work on the other two, but during my visit in November I gave Meepy a rat while she sat on my glove. She wasn’t overly interested so I proceeded to remove her equipment, both Meepy and the rat resting on my glove. After I got Meepy’s second jess removed, I offered the rat to her again. She was free to go but she took the rat and then she did something very cool, she snapped the rat’s spine! Of course the rat was already dead, but that was Meepy’s first action after taking the rat from me. I was wowed. She held onto the rat for a moment and I felt she was not going to eat it while still on my glove. I raised my arm and she flew to her perch with the rat in her beak. That was pretty awesome. I never got to work on flight training with any birds, so that is one I’ll have to save for the future.

L: Getting Spirit out; top R: putting PA away; bottom R: putting 0511 away

4. I also wanted to improve my bird banding skills. I was only able to help out at the Rollins Savanna MAPS station one day (plus a short training period), and I haven’t visited a banding station here in Florida yet. Another goal unfortunately unfulfilled, for now.

American Robin in my hand with 2011 Rollins banding team in background; photo by Janice Sweet

5. I wanted to keep a BIGBY list for the year, with a target of 75 species. I set that number when we were still in Illinois, of course. I met this target, and then some, with a total of 88 BIGBY species for 2011.

6. My 2011 Bird-a-Day list pooped out after 23 days. I hadn’t set a specific goal here, but this was pretty pathetic. In my defense, my life was really, really hectic those first weeks of the year.

7. Finally, and a bit tongue-in-cheek, I wanted to keep up with my blog reading. While I ended up adding a bunch of new Florida bird bloggers to my regular reading, I didn’t fall too far behind at any point in the year, and I’m happy with that.

Coming up: my birding and blog goals for 2012. Did you have any goals for 2011? How did you do?

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Posted in Banding, Books, FCWR, Life List | Leave a comment

(My) Owls of Illinois

I get a lot of blog visitors from Google searches for “Owls of Illinois” or similar. Not wanting to disappoint all those readers who end up at my totally non-comprehensive Snowy Owl!!! post, here are the owls you can find in Illinois, with a focus on the Chicago area and suburbs, and my own experiences.

Barred Owl

Meepy and me
My second time handling beautiful Meepy, February 2010

Although probably not the most abundant owl found in Illinois, I had to start with my personal favorite bird species, the Barred Owl. They range throughout the entire state, where they can be found in riparian and swampy habitat. They were hard to come by up in Lake County, where we lived, but more common in other parts of the state. Barred Owls are non-migratory. I was lucky enough to see one on an “owl prowl” at Lake County’s Ryerson Woods in November, 2010. Barred Owls are distributed widely across the eastern part of North America and into northern parts of western North America. Because of their spread into the Pacific Northwest, they have been identified as a threat to the endangered Spotted Owl.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
Pennsylvania and me, May 2011

These birds are abundant across much of North America, and can be found all over Illinois. They are highly adaptable and live successfully in a wide variety of habitats, including suburban yards and urban forests. I saw my first Illinois Great Horned Owls (an adult and two chicks) at Grant Woods Forest Preserve in Lake County in April 2011, although I had heard them many, many times before. Great Horned Owls don’t build their own nests; instead, they may use old squirrel or hawk nests, or tree cavities; they may even nest on or in deserted buildings.

Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl
Kotori at the Flint Creek Wildlife open house, December 2009

Eastern Screech Owls range across the eastern part of North American and are common throughout Illinois. This species has two distinct color morphs: Eastern Screech Owls are either rufous or gray in plumage. Despite their relative abundance, I have only heard these little nocturnal predators, the first one at McHenry County’s Glacial Park at a December 2009 “owl prowl”.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl
Flight training with Pip, March 2010

Despite being a fairly cosmopolitan species (breeding on every continent but Antarctica), Barn Owls are an Illinois endangered species. Although I was fortunate to be able to spend time with FCWR’s Pip, so far I haven’t seen a wild Barn Owl in Illinois. Last year, Lake-Cook Audubon hosted a very well-attended talk by Steve Bailey about Illinois owls. Bailey’s presentation sparked the club to start a Barn Owl box program, which is ongoing after finally obtaining all the required permits for placing boxes in certain Lake County preserves. If the program is successful, maybe it won’t be so hard to find Barn Owls in Lake County, Illinois in the future.

Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl
Spirit at an informal program, October 2010

Long-eared Owls, a bird missing from my life list, irregularly visit parts of Illinois during the winter. They frequent open fields with nearby woodlands and if undisturbed will often hang out in the same place for weeks at a time, which makes them fairly twitchable. Unfortunately, a story I heard quite often from other area birders was of a roost of Long-eared Owls at a park in Chicago’s South Loop. Though the birds were comfortable in the urban setting in which they chose to winter, the hoards of birders who came in trying to add them to their lists was a disruption and the birds eventually left. I did get to see one special Long-eared Owl, FCWR’s Spirit, up close several times. I even got to handle her once at a program, which was a real treat.

Short-eared Owl

Glacial Park, McHenry County Illinois
Short-eared Owl habitat at Glacial Park, December 2010

Short-eared Owls are another species that visits parts of Illinois during the winter. They are frequently found in the same habitat as Northern Harriers, and share their low-flying butterfly-like flight pattern. I remember these birds being reported at Rollins Savanna quite frequently, but I never lucked out to see them there. I added Short-eared Owl to my life list in December 2010, during an owl program at Glacial Park in December 2010.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
Lifer Snowy Owl, Ogle County Illinois, January 2011

Snowy Owls visit Illinois during some winters, depending on food supplies (lemming population, mainly) up north. Usually solitary, lone birds may be found hunting in agricultural fields. That’s where I got my lifer Snowy Owl last winter in Ogle county.

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl
Me and a just-banded Northern Saw-whet Owl, Sand Bluff Banding Station, October 2010

Northern Saw-whet Owls are extremely cute little owls that come through northern Illinois during migration. A few birds may spend the year in forested habitat. Science has learned a lot about the migration habits of Saw-whet Owls from banding programs. Though I have never seen a Northern Saw-whet Owl in the wild, I was amazed to see them up close at a banding program in October last year. I even got to hold one of these precious cuties before it was released back into the wild.

Burrowing Owl

Three Burrowing Owls

Burrowing Owls are a southern species, and only very rarely visit the state. This is another species that I have yet to add to my life list. An unfortunate story about this species, too, was brought up a lot in local birding circles. A lone Burrowing Owl was found at Montrose Beach in October 2008, and became a huge attraction to local birders. Birders trying to flush the bird may have contributed to its eventual demise by the claw of a Cooper’s Hawk.

Here in Florida I don’t expect to find several of the species mentioned above, including Snowy Owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl. Burrowing Owls are relatively common so I hope to add them to my life list soon. And I am still waiting for a Barred Owl, very very common here, to show up in our back yard. ๐Ÿ™‚

Since so many of the photos in this post are of Flint Creek owls, here’s a bit more information about them: Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation is a non-profit, federally licensed rehab organization with locations in Chicago and Barrington, Illinois. You can follow their blog here, follow them on Facebook here, and make donations online here. This post reflects my own experiences as a volunteer with FCWR. Any errors are purely my own, and opinions here do not necessarily reflect those of FCWR.

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Posted in FCWR, Illinois | 32 Comments

The Audubon Center for BOP in Maitland

Back in April, Arthur and I visited the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland, Florida. The center is part of Audubon of Florida and treats up to 700 injured raptors each year. In addition to rehabilitating birds of prey, the center has non-releasable education birds in their permanent care. The center is open to visitors six days a week.

We took a self-guided tour of the facility, which houses several permanent residents in lovely mews set on nicely groomed grounds.

Audubon Center for Birds of Prey grounds
Raptor mews set on lovely grounds

A volunteer was cleaning a mew belonging to several Red-tailed Hawks. Other mews housed multiple birds of the same species, including Osprey, Great Horned Owl, Barn Owl and others.

Mew cleaning
A volunteer cleans a mew

Other resident birds were enjoying their time in the “Bird Garden”, visible from the main building. Here we see Picasso the Red-shouldered Hawk in the lower left side of the picture; the Barn Owl in the center is Daisy I believe; the Bald Eagle on the far right is named Francis if I am reading my key correctly.

Bird Garden
A view of the “Bird Garden”

From a different vantage point we watched this Bald Eagle enjoying an after-tub sunbath.

Post-bath Bald Eagle
A Bald Eagle dries off after a bath

Other, smaller permanent residents were on display inside the enclosed porch of the main building. Here we see (counter-clockwise from bottom right) American Kestrels Olivia and Newton, Merlin Sable, and Eastern Screech Owl Buz peeking out from his box.

Audubon Center for Birds of Prey
Small birds of prey

A young Red-tailed Hawk was sitting in another part of the grounds. Look at the first red tail feathers coming in, replacing the striped juvenile feathers. The young bird also has a light eye (visible to top right of bird’s body) that will become darker as it ages.

Red-tailed Hawk new feathers
Red tail feathers coming in

Birds in rehab are never on public display, but visitors can get an idea of the behind-the-scenes work from the patient list board.

Clinic patients
Clinic patients

As we toured the grounds, we spoke with one of the volunteers, Sheena. She was kind enough to bring out a couple of birds for us to see up close. First we got to meet Merlin, a male Barred Owl. He was noticeably smaller than my beloved Meepy, but no less beautiful. Merlin is an imprinted bird who is also missing an eye (that’s a very sad story I may share another time).

Merlin the Barred Owl
Merlin the Barred Owl

Next we got to meet Picasso, a Red-shouldered Hawk. Having never seen a Red-shouldered so close, I was fascinated. He was smaller than I would have guessed (typical that the size is surprising!) and simply gorgeous. Picasso has a permanent wing injury and is also unfortunately missing an eye (I caught his “good side” in this picture).

Picasso the Red-shouldered Hawk
Picasso the Red-shouldered Hawk

We enjoyed our visit to this lovely facility and thank all of the volunteers and especially Sheena for such a warm welcome. I have a feeling this was not our last visit to the Audubon Center for BOP in Maitland…

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Birds of the Year

Earlier this month, the Barn Owl was named Audubon California’s 2010 Bird of the Year by popular vote. Although not one of the six birds nominated by group, the Barn Owl won as a write-in candidate with nearly 70% of the total vote. The species probably got a boost via an extremely popular Barn Owl nest cam that ran over the spring. Molly the Owl got worldwide attention. The Barn Owl is doing relatively well in California; local populations suffer from habitat loss. The species is endangered here in Illinois for the same reasons.

Meanwhile, Dutch bird research partners including the Dutch branch of BirdLife International named 2011 the Year of the Barn Swallow. The population of Barn Swallows in the Netherlands has been cut in half over the past 40 years. Researchers are asking for the public’s help in reporting Barn Swallow sightings as well as previous and potential nest sites. Dutch friends can visit this site to learn more.

While I can’t predict what my bird of the year for 2011 will be, I can say that 2010 was the year of the Barred Owl. I got to meet a very special education Barred Owl named Meepy, and I am looking forward to spending more time with her in 2011.

Meepy the Barred Owl

And one of my most exciting bird sightings of the year took place on November 13th, when Arthur and I attended an Owl Prowl at Ryerson Woods in Lake County and saw our first Illinois Barred Owl! The owl was a lifer for many on the trip and a county tick for everyone except the trip leader (I think), including a friend who has been birding in Lake County for over 40 years. It was so exciting and I regret that I didn’t blog about it at the time (because I didn’t have any photos to share).

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After 3 hours, a Red-tailed Hawk feels like 20 lbs.

Last Saturday I helped handle birds for a Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation program held at the Barn Owl Garden Center in Carol Stream, Illinois. I looked like a wet rat after catching up a couple of birds in the pouring rain, but I was really pleased that all went well after having not seen the birds for several weeks. I put equipment on Meepy the Barred Owl before she was whisked off to meet the mayor (!!), and then I caught up 0511 the Red-tailed Hawk.

There were four of us handing birds at the garden center. Here I am with 0511; Kim is holding Junior the Great Horned Owl, and Tina is holding Pip the Barn Owl. Karen was holding Turkey Junior (a handsome Turkey Vulture) and was kind enough to let me use this photo she took of the rest of us.

The program consisted of us holding the birds while the public came by, oohing and aahing and asking questions. Mostly people like to hear what kinds of things the birds eat, how long they live, and other vital statistics like that. They also want to know the circumstances about the bird becoming an education raptor. Many of the birds in Flint Creek’s care were being raised illegally by members of the public and became imprinted on humans, making them unreleasable. Questions about the birds’ backgrounds became good opportunities for us to educate people on certain wildlife “dos and don’ts” (mostly “don’ts!”).

Often people would start to tell a story about a raptor or other birds they have seen in their back yard. It’s great to hear other people who are genuinely interested in their local wildlife. Some stories throw me, though, like when people say they regularly have a hawk on their lawn that’s twice as big as the bird I was holding – a female Red-tailed Hawk. Hmm!

On Saturday we were also often questioned about the birds’ weights, especially when we would use our non-holding hand for a bit of support. 0511 probably doesn’t weight more than 3.5 lbs, but my arm was numb after holding her for three hours. Still, I couldn’t resist taking Meepy for a bit when she arrived later in the afternoon.

It was a fun program and I enjoyed myself! I closed out the day putting both Meepy and 0511 back in their mews. Today I’ll be volunteering at Flint Creek’s Itasca facility for the first time. Can’t wait to see the birds again!

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Raptor Internship Week 12

Last Tuesday was the final day of the Raptor Internship I took at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation this spring. After 11 weeks of lecture, study and handling work, we spent the first part of week 12 taking our 150-question test and practical examination. After passing the practical portion we were able to take a walk with Old Red, FCWR’s wise old Red-tailed Hawk, on our own. This was the first time we were able to walk solo with a such a big bird. She was magnificent! I did get a few photos during the day, but not of raptors – and I’m saving them for a future post on a different subject. Instead, here is a collection of some photos taken throughout the internship.

During the second week we learned about equipment and put together our own falconry gloves. I was distracted by Meepy, who I could see from my classroom chair.

Meepy resting in her mew

In week 4 we worked with the equipment and got to practice removing and applying equipment with Pip, a Barn Owl with a lot of character.

Posing with Pip after the exercise

In week 5 I went to take Meepy out of her mew. This was the first time I took a bird onto my glove. Luckily there was a student reporter in our class with us who documented it (and my awkwardness) in photos.

Meepy thinks about getting on my glove

In week 6 we got to work with Junior for the first time. I was happy to have another stroll with Meepy, too.

Junior and me

Meepy and me

In week 7 I got to walk with a bird on my own for the first time. Darwin the American Kestrel was a perfect gentleman.

Darwin and me

During week 9 I was lucky enough to get to hold a Red-tailed Hawk for the first time. 0511 was a bit restless. I love this photo, even though it’s blurry. I’ve got a look of surprise on my face – I’m feeling 0511’s strong talons on my hand. You can see Dawn, behind us, has a big smile on her face. She’s laughing at my reaction to 0511’s incredible strength.

0511 and me, with Dawn in the background

In week 10 I got to hold Meepy while she was having her beak coped. Later I held FCWR’s longtime resident Old Red.

Meepy and me after the deed

Old Red and me

I enjoyed the internship so much and I’m really sad it’s over. I highly recommend the Raptor Internship! Before it began I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it and I was late signing up, but I’m so glad I did.

Along with Arthur I’m volunteering with Rescue & Recovery during the spring migration. I hope to continue volunteering at FCWR going forward and I’m sure you’ll hear all about it here on the blog!

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Raptor Internship Week 11

My Raptor Internship at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation is winding down. Since this week was the first session since the initial class that I didn’t take any photographs, this will be a very brief summary of the day. The lecture for this week focused on rehabilitation and medical issues. We also spent some time reviewing previous material in preparation for the final exam next week. (eek!)

In the afternoon we had the usual cleaning duty and handling experience. I took Meepy out of her mew. I heard her vocalize for the first time and I suddenly understood the meaning of her name. She meeped at me! She actually seemed a bit out of sorts and it took me a few tries to get her on the glove. After a walk on the FCWR grounds I put her into the weathering yard and my fellow classmates then all took turns practicing equipment removal and assembly with Meepy. Part of our exam next week will be practical so I think we were all happy to have the extra bit of practice. Until then I’ll be studying my notes!

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Raptor Internship Week 10

The Raptor Internship at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation is starting to wind down — there’s just two more weeks to go! Week 10’s lecture focus was medical care for raptors. There were two coping demonstrations and then we all got in some handling practice. Three students from the Saturday class joined us, so there were eight of us on Tuesday!

The rehabilitation activities at Flint Creek are on the rise as spring babies get into trouble and need help. The first baby squirrels of the season were in Dawn’s care and we got the chance to see them being fed. Look how tiny!

Around lunchtime, Zen came in for a visit. Zen is FCWR’s Cooper’s Hawk.

Two birds had to be taken from their mews, and we drew cards to see who would get them. My card said “JR” so I went out to get Junior, the Great Horned Owl. I was warned that he might give me some trouble, maybe by hanging from the ceiling or by just flying from perch to perch as I would try to get him on the glove. Well, ‘some trouble’ was an understatement. I stepped into his mew and he hopped up to a high perch. I moved my ladder to him and climbed up to offer my glove. He flew up to the ceiling and hung there like a bat. For a very long time. I would climb up towards him and he’d fly off to another perch. This went on and on for some time, most of it with me looking up at Junior hanging completely upside-down from the ceiling. He was getting tired and so was I.

Finally he flew down to the floor of his mew and I could get one jess in. He was standing on my arm very awkwardly and as I stood up to adjust and get him down onto my glove, he bated. I held tight onto the jess while he flopped around until he was finally hanging prone. I lifted him up and got back to work. I got so hot and sweaty out there trying to get Junior, and when I was done I had to hand him over immediately to Karen, one of FCWR’s volunteers, so he could be brought inside.

I had been outside for so long I think I missed some lecture about coping. Coping is the term for clipping, filing and otherwise reshaping beaks and talons. In the wild, raptors wear down their beaks and talons on natural rough surfaces. Coping is a part of regular maintenance for education raptors.

I was happy to finally sit in my chair, relax, and see what other interns would be doing. Classmate Connie had drawn the ‘hold Meepy’ card, which meant she would hold and control Meepy while she was being coped. Meanwhile classmate Lee stood at the back of the room, holding Meepy. She asked to be relieved and, well, without thinking really I kind of jumped up with my glove to get her, practically before Dawn asked if someone could take her. I figured I would just hold her for a minute before passing her to Connie and Dawn for coping… like some positive reinforcement for me after my ordeal with Junior (because, well, I just love Meepy).

When it was time I brought Meepy up to the front of the room and Dawn thought maybe she could try coping Meepy on the glove. Very, very cool! But then I felt very, very bad for having jumped up to take Meepy in the first place. Meepy’s talons didn’t need any work but her beak did, so Dawn worked on clipping and then filing smooth Meepy’s beautiful Barred Owl beak.

As usual Meepy was a star – she did great! She got a mouse for being so good.

When Meepy was done, it was time to work on Junior. First Dawn put him into position on the table and covered his head. Covering the eyes helps a bird to relax in a stressful situation. Fellow student Kristi then held Junior while Dawn clipped and filed his beak.

Later we took turns walking with birds and then got to hold Old Red, another FCWR Red-tailed Hawk. First I took Meepy for a long walk and then held onto Red before she was put back into her mew.

Big thanks to all of my classmates who were so kind to grab my camera to take photos of me holding Meepy and Old Red. Special thanks to Kristi for sending me pictures of Meepy being coped.

Next week: more on medical care, rehabilitation, and review for the final exam!

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