Missouri must-see: World Bird Sanctuary

If Meramec Caverns in Stanton, Mo., had been open, there’s a chance we may not have even thought of going to the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park when I visited my husband in St. Louis last week.

My time there was limited, and my first stop (of course) was the Saint Louis Zoo, which I explored Wednesday while Bill was at work.

We headed out to the caverns on Friday. I was excited, because the last (and the first) time I saw anything like that was on the way to Washington, D.C., with the rest of my sixth-grade class.

Upon finding out Meramec was undergoing repairs of some sort, we pulled out our guide which listed 25 Free Things to Do in St. Louis. When I noticed the World Bird Sanctuary, I Googled it and found it was on our way back.

We stopped first at the Visitor’s Center, but not before noticing all the wild birds taking advantage of the nearby bird feeders, and a cardinal, singing his heart out (probably taunting all the raptors who couldn’t get to him). I managed a half-way decent picture.

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This little guy serenaded us as we walked around.

Inside the Visitor’s Center, were a number of cages containing various owls. I fell in love with Lief, a little Northern saw-whet owl, who hid behind the greenery hanging at the top of his cage. His big, round, orange eyes seemingly asked for privacy, so I did not take his picture that day.

Next was a bigger owl; I didn’t take his picture, either, but I was delighted when he engaged me in conversation. After heading outside, we discovered a number of raptors in a very large, open-air cage. They were all tethered, and as it was chilly, they were not too active at first. When the sun warmed the air, though, they all seemed to wake up and become more interested in their visitors.

Several caught my eye, as well. There was Ivory, a quiet but attention-grabbing white hawk. We discovered Chrys, a dark-feathered long-crested eagle, who jumped around a lot, but I did manage one decent shot.

white hawk
Ivory, an eye-catching white hawk, has lived at the sanctuary since 1992.
long-crested eagle
Chrys, a long-crested eagle, was a little hard to photograph because of the dark feathers.

And there was an adorable barn owl. The sanctuary has several, and I didn’t take note of this one’s name while snapping photos. I did notice he/she wasn’t too happy with the tethering situation on that particular day, but did stop pecking at the leather long enough to pose for a few pictures.

barn owl
Beautiful markings on this little barn owl.

Not to be forgotten was a red-tailed hawk, of which the sanctuary also has several.

red tail
Stunning and alert, this is one of the raptors that caught my eye.

After admiring these birds for a good, long while, we meandered back to the outside exhibits, where we saw a number of stunning eagles, some pigeons, snowy owls, and this guy, who looked like he couldn’t wait to get into some trouble.

osprey
This osprey had a mischievous glint in his eyes.
eagle eye 2
As I couldn’t capture a decent eagle picture at the zoo, I was glad to discover a number of these regal high-flyers at the World Bird Sanctuary.

Somehow, we completely missed the Nature Center and Gift Shop, which is what happens, I guess, when you forget to look at the map.

It was, however, a very satisfactory self-guided tour; one well worth taking.

Postscript: After posting this, a reader asked me about tethering. The ones tethered were on display. The birds have large cages they stay in, which include shelters for when the weather is bad. Many of the birds at the center are rescues, and some have lasting injuries to wings or eyes which would make it difficult for them to survive in the wild. The World Bird Sanctuary is a non-profit organization, and accepts both donations and dedicated volunteers. They have a great website: www.WorldBirdSanctuary.org

Are we there yet, Spring?

I’ve been in an awful rush for Winter to be over this year. It’s been really mild, as far as Winters go, but as nice as it is to curl up in front of my warm fireplace on chilly days and nights, Spring just can’t get here fast enough this time around.

Last month, I had such a bad case of the Winter blahs I went shopping in search of flowers. And found nothing. (It was February.) It’s been so warm lately, though. So yesterday, I went to find some soil conditioner, which I like much better than mulch, because you can use it in and on top of the soil, and, well.

I found everything from flowering spring plants to blueberry bushes. It was a feast for Winter-weary eyes. My husband, who is working hard a few states over, will be pleased to know I did not go overboard. The few plants I selected are starting to bloom now, and several should flower all Summer long.

leopard's bane
With sunny yellow flowers and a name like leopard’s bane, who could resist?

I took a long time deciding, but came home with leopard’s bane, some bushy plants with purple blooms that are supposed to attract butterflies, and a few inexpensive lavender plants. I’ve been wanting some good lavender for a long time, and the last plant I purchased didn’t do well at all.

transformed
I forget what they’re called, but these plants with purple flowers are supposed to be butterfly magnets.

In addition to all the digging and mulching I did yesterday, I transplanted my perpetually unhappy ground-hugging gardenia – again. I’ve moved it, revived it, split it, given part of it away on several occasions, but I haven’t killed it yet.

It’s always happier in a container than in the ground, so I found the Ironite and moved the bush into a rectangular planter I never know what to do with. We’ll see how it goes this time.

new home
Poor, unhappy gardenia. Maybe this daffodil will cheer it up.

My husband’s grapevine is waking up already. I know we have another month to go before the danger of frost is gone, so I hope it will be OK.

grape vine
This grapevine is already producing leaves. Last year, a little grey tree frog took up temporary residence on its branches.

Unbelievably, our little strawberry plant, which did very little last year in the way of fruit, stayed green all winter long. Right now, it has one bloom.

lonely strawberry
This is not the best planter for a strawberry, but it kept the berry plant alive and green all Winter.

Spring officially arrives Sunday. I’m trying to decide if I should go ahead and plant the lavender, or wait until the danger of frost is past. At any rate, my Indian feathers, which are already sprouting, have some flowering plants to keep them company by the mailbox until they, too, start to bloom.

If I had the space, and the money . . . but I don’t. Until then, this little garden of mine will have to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can’t stop Spring

I stepped outside this morning after talking myself into a walk. And, oh my. My temple bells were in full bloom. I snapped a few pictures before I walked through the neighborhood.

And I found some bees buzzing.

this one has a beeI kept taking pictures. Because, unfortunately, these are the only blooms in my yard right now.

row of crocus

I walked through the neighborhood. I had heard a woodpecker before I got out of bed, which made me smile. I saw robins. I noticed some grape hyacinths in a neighbor’s yard, and wished, not for the first time, that I had planted more spring bulbs last fall.

I was almost home when a huge hawk swooped in and landed in one of the nearby trees. It must have had a two-foot wing span. I moved closer to see it, but it flew away, and I heard its calls.

temple blooms

Right now I have the doors open, and the breeze is ushering almost-springtime air into the house. I have lots to do today. But for this moment, I am welcoming Spring.