Category Archives: Festivals & Events

IMBD @ Disney

The 20th International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) was celebrated last week, on May 12th. Arthur visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, where the day was observed through various activities highlighting many different species of birds.

Celebrating International Migratory Bird Day at Animal Kingdom

Guests entering the park could be “banded” and then visit various “stations” in the park to have data taken, like leg length, “bird height,” and migration distance.

bird banding
One of the “bird banding” stations

Throughout the park, stands and kiosks were set up to share information about birds and how people can help them. Providing Purple Martin housing, the importance of shade-grown coffee, and saving shorebird habitat were among the topics shared.

Egg display

Piping Plover Poster
Saving Piping Plovers of the Great Lakes

Rafiki’s Planet Watch hosted several activities. A new, permanent exhibit on the Whooping Crane program Operation Migration was unveiled. The exhibit includes a retired ultra-light airplane used to teach Whooping Cranes to migrate. Guests were invited to dress up as a Whooping Crane adult and feed food (rubber caterpillars) to a (model of a) baby Whooping Crane.

Rafiki's Planet Watch
Operation Migration and other activities at Rafiki’s Planet Watch

retired Operation Migration plane
Retired Operation Migration ultra-light plane

feeding "baby"
Feeding a baby Whooping Crane

"baby whooping crane"
Baby Whooping Crane statue

An informal program with an eduction Red-tailed Hawk also took place at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

Red-tailed Hawk program
Red-tailed Hawk and handler

I like how Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrates wildlife-themed commemorative holidays, like IMBD and IVAD. Other upcoming events are listed at the bottom of this post.

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Posted in Disney, Festivals & Events, Holiday | 1 Comment

Wildlife Festival at Lake Woodruff NWR

Lake Woodruff NWR lookout

On February 25th we attended the first Lake Woodruff NWR Wildlife Festival. The free event included eco-buggy tours of the refuge, guided bird walks, live music, and more. At the visitor center there was a nature fair with stands from Halifax Audubon and West Volusia Audubon, bat experts and rehabbers Fly by Night, Lyonia Preserve, plus other wildlife experts, local artists, and other vendors. FWC and the US Army Corps of Engineers had impressive stands with loads of information about prescribed burns and invasive species, respectively. It was a nice little nature fair with a good amount of stands, plus a food truck and plenty of picnic space. Thumbs up to the crew that put together the festival!

We started our visit with an early morning walk around the refuge, where we spotted 36 species of bird through the various habitat types in the refuge. Lake Woodruff NWR is a gem here in Volusia County and I am looking forward to getting to know it better.

Lake Woodruff NWR

Flock of White Ibis and Glossy Ibis

Blue-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal drakes

Lake Woodruff NWR

Dragonfly with larva
Dr. Terry Farrell shows off a dragonfly and dragonfly larvae and other creatures found in and around the waters of Lake Woodruff NWR

Pied-billed Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

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Posted in Festivals & Events, Florida, Volusia Birding | 1 Comment

Random Space Coast shots

Arthur and I had a blast at the 2012 Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival, our first. I had wanted to attend the festival for years but we only got the chance this year, about 6 months after moving to central Florida. Since we’re semi-local, for the most part we eschewed the field trips aimed at finding Florida specialties. Instead we attended trips to lesser-known spots and classroom presentations focused on local wildlife with which we are still becoming acquainted. We had a great time meeting new friends (although I am disappointed that I managed to miss meeting several online friends who were at the festival) and birding the Space Coast of our new home state. Here are some random photos from the festival.

Eastern Meadowlark
Eastern Meadowlark @ St Johns NWR, Black Rail trip, January 25

Looking for Black Rails
Looking for Black Rails @ St Johns NWR, Black Rail trip, January 25

Birding Hatbill Road
Birding Hatbill Road, North Brevard Hotspots trip, January 26

Richard Crossley
Richard Crossley signing his ID Guide, January 27 [photo by Arthur de Wolf]

Golden Silk Orb-weaver
Female Golden Silk Orb-weaver @ Enchanted Forest Sanctuary, Forest Biodiversity Hike, January 28

Gopher Tortoise
Captive Gopher Tortoise @ Enchanted Forest Sanctuary, Forest Biodiversity Hike, January 28

GHOW on old OSPR nest
Great Horned Owl sitting on an old Osprey nest @ Merritt Island NWR, January 28

Corn Snake
Me with a Corn Snake, Cold-Blooded Critters presentation, January 28

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Posted in Festivals & Events, Florida, Space Coast Fest | Leave a comment

Volusia County Gull Spectacle

One of the largest concentrations of gulls found anywhere in the United States occurs on winter afternoons right here in Volusia County, Florida. A stretch of beach in Daytona Beach Shores hosts from 30,000 up to 50,000 loafing gulls as they gather before nightfall. The gulls group together on the beach in the late afternoon before heading just offshore to spend the night. This short video clip featuring Michael Brothers of the Marine Science Center explains this unique phenomenon.

While I find this huge concentration of birds amazing, I have to admit I still haven’t fully embraced the joy of identifying and ageing gulls. Luckily for me, there are birders that are more than up for the challenge. Even luckier, they are happy to share their knowledge with larophobes like me.

During the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival, a team of larophiles, including Michael Brothers and Alvaro Jaramillo, headed the Gull Fly-in based at Frank Rendon Park. Here Arthur and I joined several other birders in happily watching the gulls flying in in huge, unbelievable, remarkable numbers. We watched them gather into gigantic flocks on the beach that must have stretched for several miles.

Before the field trip began, Arthur took this video as we drove along a stretch of beach, heading to the park. This was taken at about 2:45PM, hours before the gull numbers reached their peak.

We birders gathered at the park to watch the gulls fly in before we headed down onto the beach.

Gull flying in

Gulls flying over birders


The most common gulls in the flocks were Ring-billed, Laughing, Herring, Lesser Black-backed, and Great Black-backed. Among these species, keen eyes can pick out the birds that are different. Shortly after we stepped onto the beach, Alvaro found a California Gull. There was also a Glaucous Gull and a hybrid gull that I didn’t get a chance to see. Another highlight was watching a Pomarine Jaeger harassing gulls out on the water. But the biggest highlight was simply seeing huge numbers of beautiful birds hanging out and doing their thing.

Glaucous Gull
Glaucous Gull


California Gull
California Gull – notice dark eye, red/black on bill, red gape, brown speckled nape


Birders & gulls


Gull prints

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Posted in Behavior, Festivals & Events, Florida, Space Coast Fest, Volusia Birding | Leave a comment

Target Acquired

Before our first programs at the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival last Wednesday, Arthur and I stopped at Riverbreeze Park, which lies on the Indian River in Oak Hill. This was a new spot for us; I found it by browsing recent eBird sightings for Common Loon in Volusia County. We spent some time birding from the fishing pier.

We saw a couple of loons swimming in the water as soon as we arrived. Target acquired!

Common Loon

I also added American White Pelican, Spotted Sandpiper, and Black Skimmer to my Volusia list.

As we left the park, we saw lots of Great Blue Herons moving around their roosting trees. They were getting ready to start their day. Just like us! Next stop: Titusville and the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival!

Great Blue Heron roost

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Posted in Festivals & Events, Florida, Space Coast Fest, Volusia Birding | Leave a comment

Best Bird of the Year 2011

It should come as no surprise to anyone with any familiarity with this blog that my best bird of 2011 is actually a pair of birds: the Mooseheart Bald Eaglets.

The first baby Bald Eagle flies free!

The adventure began back at the end of May, when FCWR became aware of a downed Bald Eagle nest in Mooseheart, Illinois. The race was on to keep the parent Bald Eagles on site and replace the fallen nest, reuniting the baby eagles with their parents.

Eaglet On Ground
One of the eaglets on the ground

When the parents unfortunately failed to care for the babies in the new, human-made nest, the eaglets were brought back to FCWR for care. Arthur and I helped with their initial enclosure – complete with a new “nest” – but this was only a very tiny part of their time in the care of FCWR. The eaglets were eventually transferred to a new, large flight chamber, where they learned to fly and all of the other skills they would need to be released back into the wild.

The release at Starved Rock State Park was magical, and I feel so lucky to have been able to attend as a FCWR volunteer. Both babies flew strong from their release site on Plum Island.

In case you missed the release videos, here they are:

If you click through to the older blog posts, you’ll see more photos and video of these beautiful birds. The Mooseheart Eaglets were easily the highlight of my 2011!

Mooseheart eaglet rescue 1

Mooseheart eaglet rescue part 2

Mooseheart Bald Eaglets to be released next week!

Starved Rock Eaglet Release

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, Festivals & Events, Illinois, Rehabilitation | 1 Comment

Guest post: ARC’s Fall Owl Fest

On Saturday Arthur attended an event at a raptor / rehabilitation center back home in central Florida. While I continue my Illinois visit, Arthur was kind enough to write up what he saw there. Thanks for this, my first blog guest post, honey!

While my wife Amy was off to see the release by Flint Creek of the two Mooseheart Eagles at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois, I drove over to Apopka to check out the annual Owl Fest at the Avian Reconditioning Center. The ARC is open to the public every Saturday from 10am to 4pm (see our visit in September), but the annual Fall Owl Fest is its largest event.



I got there just after 10am and it wasn’t very crowded yet, but the parking lot quickly filled up. There was live music, activities for kids, green-living exhibits and product vendors, but what drew the most attention was, of course, the pavilion with live owls and birds of prey. ARC’s resident Education Ambassadors were on display on perches and gloves, showing off their beautiful feathers. Among the many birds were two Bald Eagles, a Barred Owl, Kestrel, Swallow-tailed Kite and two Barn Owls.




In September we got to see ARC co-founder Scott McCorkle fly a pair of Harris’s Hawks. At Saturday’s event he flew a Peregrine Falcon named Cora. The bird first flew around in circles over the excited crowd. Then the falconer took out a corded lure and swung it around and around for the bird to chase. It was very cool to see the falcon swoop by at lightning speed.



You can visit to learn more about the organization.

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Starved Rock Eaglet Release

Saturday was magical.

The first eaglet flies free!

Two beautiful young Bald Eagles were released at Starved Rock State Park on a perfect fall day.

So many people came to share the day with Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation.

A short program started at 11AM and when I walked out with Darwin I was amazed at the huge crowd, the bird paparazzi, all the positive energy.

Media and fans have been posting photos, videos, and beautiful tributes on FCWR’s Facebook page and elsewhere on the web. The coverage has been phenomenal. The following list is just a handful:

Chicago Tribune blog: bald eagles gone wild
Chicago Tribune video: Rescued eagles released at Starved Rock
Daily Herald: Eaglets rescued at Mooseheart released at Starved Rock
Sun-Times: Mooseheart’s eaglets return to the wild
Kane County Chronicle: Mooseheart eagles take flight at Starved Rock
St. Charles Patch: Up and Away: Mooseheart Eaglets Soar …
Flickr: Returned to the wild!
Blog: Mooseheart Eagles … First Flight Toward Their New Home
Facebook album (FCWR): Mooseheart Eagles’ Release Day
Facebook album: Mooseheart Eaglet Release and More
Facebook album: Eagle Release
My Facebook album: Bald Eagle Release

Transporting the eaglets to Plum Island for the release; Phil & Scott photograph the crowd

The crowd waits for the eaglet release

The releases on Plum Island were spectacular. The birds flew strong and the crowd was mesmerized.

The release of the first eaglet

The release of the second eaglet

The program afterwards drew another huge crowd. Journey was a star and everyone was amazed by his story, and by his beauty.

Journey and Dawn

My heart was completely full of love from being with so many friends, old and new, feathered and otherwise. It was truly a magical day. If only Arthur was here with me, it would have been absolutely perfect.

Pip, Bill and Kim

Kotori and Frank

If you are on Facebook, please take just a moment to help FCWR in the Chase Community Giving campaign. Voting is FREE and each vote gives FCWR a chance at a bigger funding amount. Please vote and share with your friends.

Darwin and a very happy blogger. I’m still smiling!

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Posted in FCWR, Festivals & Events | 1 Comment

Mooseheart Bald Eaglets to be released next week!

Click HERE for larger version of the flyer. Visit the Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation page for details.

I am so excited to be able to join my Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation friends next Saturday, November 12th, at Starved Rock State Park for a very special event. Regular blog readers may remember that back in the early summer, a Bald Eagle nest fell to the ground in Mooseheart, Illinois. The two eaglets inside were unharmed, but the parent birds weren’t caring for the baby birds so the eaglets were recovered, checked for injuries and general health, and later placed back into an artificial nest erected by volunteers.

Eaglet On Ground
One of the Mooseheart babies on the ground

When the parent eagles unfortunately did not accept the new nest, the eaglets were brought to Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation until they would be old enough to survive in the wild. That date is coming up very soon – next Saturday!! I’m flying up to Chicago to be there for the release and I’m just bursting. I miss my FCWR friends so much!

The event should be spectacular. The release is open to the public, with a $10 minimum suggested donation to help defray the huge costs of building a flight chamber large enough for the eaglets. In case you’re wondering what that flight chamber looks like, FCWR posted the below video of the eaglets. Look at them, aren’t they beautiful!? If you watch closely, you might see an adult Bald Eagle in the chamber with the youngsters. The adult is non-releasable due to a permanent wing injury. He’s serving as a role model for the eaglets.

In preparation for the release, the eaglets were recently banded by a licensed eagle bander from Wisconsin. Scott Strazzante from the Chicago Tribune recorded some of that day’s events, which you can find here and here.

Will I see you at the release? The weather report looks favorable, but please note that for the safety of the birds, the release could be postponed due to inclement weather. If you’d like to see more of the eaglets, FCWR has posted photos on their Facebook page.

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Posted in FCWR, Festivals & Events, Illinois, Rehabilitation | Leave a comment

Celebrate Migration at IBSP this weekend!

Here’s an event I wish I could attend! The Illinois Beach State Park Hawk Watch will celebrate their third annual “Migration Celebration” on Saturday, October 15th – and all are welcome! I attended last year as a handler with FCWR and I had so much fun. The weather looks perfect for raptor migration this weekend, so head out to IBSP this Saturday!

Turkey Vultures migrate over the IBSP Hawk Watch. Here’s Turkey Jr at the Migration Celebration last year.

If the prospect of hot hawk migration action isn’t enough to excite you, though, the “Migration Celebration” has more to offer visitors.

Scopes lined up at Hawk Watch during last year’s Migration Celebration

There will be an hour-long bird walk starting at 7:30am. Birding at Illinois Beach State Park is usually excellent, and if raptors are on the move, chances are other migrants are also around.

There will also be things to keep children busy – fun and educational raptor-themed activities.

And of course, like last year, Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation will be in attendance with education raptors on the glove. The Ferruginous Hawk Journey will be there. If you don’t know about Journey’s amazing story, it was covered by ABC Chicago earlier this year: Hawk travels 1,500 miles by train.

Beautiful Journey. This photo was taken during his first public appearance in early 2011.

So pack up your binoculars and head to IBSP this Saturday! I really wish I could be there!

0511 and me in the wind during last year’s Migration Celebration

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Posted in FCWR, Festivals & Events, Hawk Watch | 1 Comment