Monday, January 31, 2011

Mark Your Calendars!

One of the joys of the winter is that the education team has the chance to travel to festivities around the state. Throughout most of the year our programs are at schools or for private groups. Traveling to festivals give the public the chance to see our birds. And we love when we have the opportunity to share them with you!Photo above: Little Bit is one of our long standing partners in education. This little Saw-whet owl often joins us in his favorite tree stump at festivals and programs.

So now is the time to get out your calendars!
Here are some upcoming events:

Central Wisconsin Environmental Station (CWES)
Amherst Junction, WI
Saturday, February 12th, 2011
2:00pm - 5:00pm
(REGI programs at 3pm and 3:45pm)
CWEStival is a winter family festival. Enjoy snowshoeing, sleigh rides, crafts, and more along with our program.

Klondike Days
March 5 & 6, 2011
Eagle River, WI
Klondike Days is "a family-oriented gala event featuring a variety of turn-of-the-century activities". REGI will be set up at a booth with educating the public both Saturday and Sunday.
Photo above: Steve Fisher talks with a couple of young visitors at Klondike Days in 2010.

Science Extravaganza
March 12, 2011
Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH)
REGI program from 1-2
This is a student driven, hands on science fair with fun for the entire family. REGI's afternoon performance will be just one of many highlights throughout the day.
Photo above: Ishmael, our beautiful Peregrine Falcon, is another of our education birds who often accompanies us to festivities. He is an old pro with lots of fun personality. If you have met him at past programs you are sure to remember him. If you have yet to meet him, you won't want to miss the opportunity.

We hope to see you this winter!

~Molly McKay
Environmental Education Coordinator

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winter Continues at REGI

Yeti, one of REGI's two Snowy Owls, enjoys his winter element.
(Photo by Steve Fisher)

The snow is deep, the temperatures cool, but activity at REGI continues. Marge is busy finishing end-of-year reports, Molly and Karissa are attending a weekend environmental conference at Treehaven, and the staff has recently been busy weighing birds, which we do regularly as part of their constant care. Besides the ongoing responsibilities of cleaning and feeding and rehabiliation, we always make time to work consistently with the education birds, permanent REGI residents who act as avian ambassadors and partners helping us teach others about their species and issues related to them.

The education department has been presenting programs throughout the winter, many of which are school-related. In early March, REGI educators will be at Klondike Days, a two-day winter festival held in Eagle River, WI. Winter may make everything seem quiet and dormant, but there is still lots going on at REGI as we greet a chilly, snow-covered February. Yet, as cold as it is now, the birds may know something we don't (which is often the case!); there have been reports in the area of Black-capped Chickadees starting to sing their spring song! Thanks again to all who have donated money, time, food, and materials to REGI. We really appreciate it.

Steve Fisher
REGI Director of Education

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Thank You From the Birds!

We have had a really great response from everyone regarding food donations. We truly cannot thank you enough. Please keep the fish and other donations coming. On terribly cold days like today, wildlife needs more food than usual to generate enough body heat to keep themselves warm.

Here's another donation idea for you. Are you a trapper or do you know anyone who is? Well, do we have a deal for you! You keep the pelts and we'll take the carcass! Easy as pie. Give us a call if you'd like to donate! Education office: (715) 623-2563; Rehab clinic: (715) 623-4015.

Photo: It may seem strange, but those are frozen muskrats being loaded into the back of that pickup truck. The muskrats came from a trapper in Wisconsin and we are very grateful for these donations. Muskrats are very nutritious and a natural food source for our raptors. Since this photo was taken, only a week ago, most of these muskrats have already been eaten. We could definitely use more! (Photo credit: Alberta Halfmann)

Photo above: What's on the menu today? Delicious donated suckers!

Photo above: Denali, one of the resident Bald Eagles is very happy with her selection of sucker fish. She says, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Photo above: There is nothing like fresh fish on a cold winter day to make an eagle happy.

On another (slightly related) topic, this -19 degree weather has me thinking about our amazing feathered friends. I
n weather like this it is fascinating how birds manage to even stay alive, not to mention thrive. How do they manage to escape frostbite? The truth is that many birds do get frostbite, especially domesticated birds that may not have evolved in the climate, such as chickens and pigeons, but native species have adaptations that help them avoid it.

All birds have feathers; some designed for flying, and others for warmth. If you have ever worn a down jacket you know what I mean; feathers are warm! These feathers can be puffed out to create air spaces that hold heat. To keep their feet warm they can take turns tucking each foot into their warm belly feathers or squat down and cover both at once. Birds also have body temperatures that are naturally much higher than that of a human. With a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit you would take your child to the doctor, but birds are very well at this body temperature.

Some birds, like gulls, have special veins in their legs that transfer heat through a system called countercurrent exchange. As warm blood comes from the body down to their legs, it passes some of its heat to the cold blood returning from the feet. This helps to keep their body warm by not sending super cold blood from the feet into the body.

When birds are compromised or injured in some way, winter can be a very dangerous time. Not being able to get to food or stay warm can result in further injury or death.

Photo above: The feet of a Trumpeter Swan that arrived at REGI with frostbitten feet. Due to a wing injury, this swan was unable to get herself off of the ground or regulate body temperature. The frostbite killed the delicate webbing between the toes causing it to dry up and fall off. Swans can survive with damaged webbing, and this one is quite lucky someone found her and brought her to safety before more damage was done.

If you want to help out your local birds you can make sure your feeders are full of seeds and suet. Simply having food available can save a bird's life in a harsh winter. Keep a lookout for injured birds and try to keep warm!

Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
REGI Wildlife Educator

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A New Swan Joins the REGI "Menagerie"

A Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus), also known as a Whistling Swan, was admitted recently from the La Crosse, Wisconsin area. She was acting oddly and was nearly half the weight an adult Tundra Swan should be. Lead poisoning was suspected, but a blood test found that lead was not the culprit; luckily for this beauty! She has been steadily gaining weight since she arrived at our clinic and has a healthy appetite. Her future looks very bright!

Photo above: This Tundra Swan was admitted in very low weight, but is improving rapidly. Don't mind the yellow color of this swan's feathers, it is only due to the lighting conditions. She is actually a beautiful snow white.

As the name suggests, Tundra Swans spend part of the year far north nesting on the Tundra. During the winter they migrate south to the east and west coasts of the US. We see them in Wisconsin because their migration routes take them directly through the state. (Lucky for us! They are a treat to see!)

There are three species of swans in North America; Trumpeters, Tundra, and Mute swans. All three have brilliant snow-white feathers. Mute swans have been introduced from Europe and are fairly rare in the US. They are easily identified because of their vivid orange bills with black knobs at the base. Upon first glance, Tundra swans look much like Trumpeter Swans so I want to share with you a few of the ways to tell the species apart. Tundra and Trumpeter Swans both have lovely black bills, but Tundra Swans usually have a sunny yellow spot at the base of their bill below their eye.

Photo above: You can see the yellow spot on this Tundra Swan's bill below the eye that makes it stand apart from Trumpeter Swans. The rusty color on top of this swan's head is likely due to feeding in waters rich in iron.

Aside from the yellow spot at the base of Tundra Swan's bills, their body size helps to distinguish them from their Trumpeter Swan relatives. Trumpeter Swans are the largest water fowl in North America and can weigh 22 up to a whopping 28 pounds! Although still large, Tundra Swans only weigh about 14 to 16 pounds.

Photo above: This gorgeous Trumpeter Swan is a foster parent for young cygnets during the summer. She can provide a comparison between Trumpeter and Tundra swans.

Spring will be upon us sooner than we think and the migrations will begin again! Keep your eyes on the sky and happy bird watching!

On another note...
We want to thank everyone who has been donating food for the raptors. We greatly appreciate the positive response from the community. We are still in need of fish and other foods so don't think you're too late! Donations help us all year long. We couldn't do it without you!

Thank you all and have a great weekend!

Karissa Mohr
REGI Wildlife Educator

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thank you! and REGI in the News Again!

Thank you to all of you who have been donating food items for REGI! We have been getting calls about food items and the donations have been coming in. With the high patient load that we have been dealing with we will still be in great need of any donations that you can spare. We are currently the only facility accepting raptors in the northern part of Wisconsin! Our clinic is full, our enclosures are full and we are so busy! Channel 7 contacted us last week. They heard about our need for food and Steve Fisher stopped by the station to tell them a little bit more about it. Check our this video clip to see what they had to say.

One of the birds who is greatly benefiting from donated food is this beautiful dark morph Rough-legged Hawk patient. (Above) This beautiful bird has a rare coloration with light eyes, their eye color is not typically a blue-grey color. He was admitted from Upper Michigan. He has a fractured wing but got to us early, so it was set right. The future looks bright for this beauty. We are looking forward to the day when we can return him to the wild. (The DNR called us to say that they normally bring birds to another facility a bit further north, but they can no longer accept birds. Birds are being transported from all over to REGI.)

For comparison, this light morph Rough-legged Hawk (Above) who was in the clinic in December being treated. The Rough-legged Hawk is a beautiful bird that makes it way down from the Arctic regions during the winter months. We like to say that this is their Florida! They are feathered all the way down their legs for warmth, this is where the name Rough-legged comes from. You may notice that Rough-legged Hawks have very tiny feet relative to their bodies, this is because they eat mostly very small mammals, like mice.

In addition to the normal REGI events and patients we have been fielding calls from people who would like Marge's expert opinion about the reported mass bird deaths in Arkansas. Last week Newsline 9 from Wausau paid us a visit to interview Marge. Watch the video to hear what she had to say. Something that experts, including Marge, believe played a huge role in these deaths were the New Years Eve celebratory fireworks. If you are interested in learning more about acoustic concussions after you watch the Newsline 9 video follow this link to read an interesting article.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

REGI needs your help

Fish are a favorite food among bald eagles; unfortunately, with the large number of bald eagle patients we have, fish have become a rare commodity around REGI.Photo above: A bald eagle patient from this past summer on the day it was released.

Besides the eagles, we also have a resident American White Pelican that loves tasty fish.
Photo above: REGI's resident pelican. This photo was taken during a much warmer time :)

We are asking ice-fishers to bring us their extra catches or to clean last year's catches out of the freezer to make room for the new! This is a great way to help some wild patients and also have a little fun fishing!Photo above: Tess, REGI's educational Bald Eagle, is asking you to bring her a fish!

The birds are a little picky and they won't eat carp, but they love any other type of fish.

We also need food for other raptors such as venison, rabbits, chipmunks, gophers, muskrats, squirrels, etc. If they have been collected legally, without poison, and don't contain lead, they make excellent raptor food and we can take them off of your hands!

If you have any fish or other things you would like to donate, please give us a call. We (& the birds) greatly appreciate your help!
Rehabilitation clinic (715) 623-4015
Education office (715) 623-2563

Thank you for your help and happy fishing!

Karissa Mohr
REGI Wildlife Educator