Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bye-bye, bittern!

Earlier this month, a funny-looking, long-legged bird came into our care. The baby bird was found standing alone on a busy road, with no parents around. We raised the bird here at VINS, and today, we released this fellow back into the wild.
This is an American bittern, although as a baby, some may say it looks more like one of the Muppets. Bitterns are wading birds, much like herons, so we released the bird at a nearby marsh at the edge of a pond. Check out our video! 
Below, VINS intern Sarah Sanderson releases the bittern back into the wild.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Using Eurasian milfoil as Fertilizer

For the past couple weeks I have been working on my project as the invasive species research intern at VINS.  I am using the idea of “Invasives as an ally” and trying to utilize Eurasian milfoil as a fertilizer for the garden. The garden site is very dry and low in nutrients and the mineral content of Eurasian milfoil has been shown to improve soil richness and increase organic matter.  In the future I hope to do more research on all the benefits this plant has to offer.

Eurasion milfoil
 Eurasian milfoil spreads easily and quickly by fragments dispersed from the plant. The fragmentation occurs by either the plants’ autofragmentation after flowering or human activity such as boating or swimming. Milfoil most often will out-compete the native plants surrounding it for light and soil nutrients (Buchan, Padilla 2000). These are some of the many reasons that controlling milfoil is important. The idea behind “Invasives as an ally” is to find a way to encourage local communities to control the plant in a way that could temporarily benefit them.

Snorkeling to remove milfoil roots
In order to collect the Eurasian milfoil to be used as a fertilizer I have been working with the US Army Corp of Engineers in pulling the milfoil from Dewey Pond in Quechee, VT. The pond is practically filled with milfoil. Gary Pelton from the Army Corp has been working on it for years to try and eliminate the spread of the milfoil. The first day was spent canoeing to collect the tops of the plant, resulting in a large quantity of milfoil, while the next couple days was spent snorkeling for the roots.  The next week will be spent contacting more resources in order to get the plants needed in order to start planting for the native plant garden!

Buchan, L., Padilla, D. 2000. Predicting the Likelihood of Eurasian milfoil Presence in Lakes, a Macrophyte Monitoring Tool. Ecological Applications 10(5):1442-1455

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Kingfisher Finds Her Groove

This young baby belted kingfisher, who you may have seen as a baby on the VINS Facebook page, is growing big and healthy. 

Watch a video of this kingfisher! The baby bird was found at the bottom of a sand pit. Luckily, a man noticed movement at the bottom of the pit, and when he went to investigate, he found this little gal.

Did you know kingfisher feet look like this?
VINS has taken in this orphaned bird to raise her until she is able to fly and take care of herself in the wild. We are feeding her fish and bits of mouse every hour, and she's gobbling them up.

Check back for updates on this special bird.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Flicker Grand Finale

Remember that crew of northern flickers we were raising here at VINS? Well, they're outta here! The flickers were released back into the wild recently. Watch a video of the birds' release.

Unfortunately, not all of the flickers who originally came in made it -- some passed away while still quite young -- but those that did make it were healthy, chatty, and rearin' to go. Go on with your bad selves, flickers!

Friday, July 6, 2012

So long, mergs!

VINS' Katie Christman releases two mergansers.
Remember those two adorable baby mergansers, the orphans from separate nests that were paired up together while they received care here at VINS?

Well, guess what? Those little babies are now all grown up and were just released back into the wild (together!) at a local pond.  

When baby birds are orphaned, staff and volunteers at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science raise the birds until they are ready to fend for themselves in the wild (where they belong). But don't try this at home! Not only it is illegal to raise wild birds in your home, baby birds require very specialized care that is challenging -- even for us professionals -- to replicate out of the wild. Leave the orphaned bird care to your local wildlife rehabilitator. The birds will thank you!

The mergansers swim their way back to life in the wild.

Mangia, little falcon!

This American kestrel was brought to VINS after being found orphaned in a barn. The kestrel is now a fledgling, but when he came into our care, he was too young to be on his own in the wild, so we took over as Mom and Dad kestrel. Watch a video of this little kestrel being hand-fed!

Kestrels are the smallest falcons in North America. You can often see them perched on power lines, waiting and watching for small birds and bugs to fly by so they can grab them out of the air and eat them.

We'll continue to care for this young bird until he's ready to go into the wild and survive on his own.