Snow birds

It rarely snows in this part of North Carolina, and although some was tentatively forecast for last night, we could hear the sleet falling as we went to bed, and again this morning.

Still, some wet flakes fell while we slept, dusting everything in about an inch of powdery white, and started back again after breakfast.

I had filled up the suet cage in anticipation, and threw out plenty of seeds and stale bread throughout the day to keep the ground-feeders occupied. My husband thawed the birdbaths and made sure the birds all had water to drink. And my youngest grandson and I enjoyed the show.

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Suet is like a magnet for these brown-headed nuthatches.
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Snow makes the color on mourning doves really pop.
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I haven’t been able to ID these cute little yellow and black birds. Suggestions, anyone?
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A real snowbird – a dark-eyed junco.

 

Brevard Zoo, Take Three

The first thing you notice when you enter the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Fla., is its jungle-like atmosphere. It’s full of trees and vines, and the heat and humidity common to Florida only add to the effect.

I wrote previously about Brevard Zoo’s big cats, and meerkats, but I was fortunate enough to see some interesting birds in and around the foliage, as well.

Some were water birds, like the sandhill cranes, and the roseate spoonbills.

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Roseate spoonbills look like a cross between a pelican and a flamingo.

Other large birds, like these eagles, and the vultures, prefer to hunt from the sky.

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Eagle and immature eagle. Did not manage to see the other parent.
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This king vulture, on the right, struck a pose while trying to keep cool.

You can pay extra to feed the smaller birds, or walk through the aviary to see what other birds you can find.

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.

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Ivory, an eye-catching white hawk, has lived at the sanctuary since 1992.
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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.

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Beautiful markings on this little barn owl.

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

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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.

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This osprey had a mischievous glint in his eyes.
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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