Monday, July 18, 2016

Meet Peter our new Wildlife Keeper

By Peter Gau, Wildlife Keeper

I have always loved animals. In college I studied animal rehabilitation. Since then, I've held many animal related jobs, working with exotic, domestic animals and wild/native animals. Animals are my passion and luckily they're also my job. I had been out of the wildlife rehabilitation field for about a year and decided that I needed to get back into doing what I love.

Most rehab facilities do basically the same type of work, rehab injured and orphaned wild animals. VINS is a special facility because of the education component to it. Every animal caretaker in the world has two jobs. One is the husbandry of their animals, and two is teaching the public about them. Education is so important because most animals that come in to rehab centers across the world are human caused, directly or indirectly. 

VINS has an incredible staff on hand, from our education staff to our camp staff to our administrative staff and of course the rehabbers, each employee is committed to their job. Together we work to heal wildlife and educate people to prevent more incidents. It is every animal caretakers dream to be out of a job, meaning that we do such a good job of teaching that we actually reduce human related animal injuries.

After all being said my first days here have been amazing! My first day we had about 5-6 patients come in. That was crazy in itself, not to mention that I have to learn the procedures of VINS on top of admitting new birds. Just last week we released a Turkey Vulture (TUVU) that has been in our care for two months! I am very happy here at VINS and very proud of the work we do here!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Nest Watch Update – July 2016

By Anna Autilio
Environmental Educator

The nestboxes are empty again as the breeding season passes us faster than a Tree Swallow can fly! While monitoring our boxes for Project NestWatch, we here at VINS were lucky enough to see 7 Tree Swallow families and 1 House Wren family raise between 1 and 6 young birds each. Here is the season summary:

                16 boxes available
    10 active nests
                50 eggs laid
                44 young hatched
                33 young fledged
                House Wren Hatch Date: 7/ 8 June
                House Wren Fledge Date: 26/27 June
                Tree Swallow Hatch Date: 8 – 15 June
                Tree Swallow Fledge Date: 30 June – 7 July

There are still some baby birds yet to come, as some species prefer to nest later in the summer. Keep an eye out for American Goldfinches, which may only start nesting in late July, and Mourning Doves. Northern Cardinals and American Robins may have multiple clutches throughout the summer.

Also remember that fledglings, or young birds who have just left the nest, may not be the most experienced fliers yet. They are often seen on the ground, fluttering and looking lost, but most of the time their parents are right nearby, hiding from humans but providing food for the quickly growing baby until it can master the wind.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Remembering Burlington, An Owl Ambassador

By Jordan Daley, Science Outreach Coordinator

Last week VINS lost a treasured animal ambassador and member of our VINS family. Burlington, a resident Great Horned Owl passed away after ten years of greeting and inspiring visitors to the Nature Center.

Burlington came to VINS in June of 2006, well into his adult years. He was hit by a van travelling at 65 mph. Despite the enormous impact, this bird proved to be determined from the start, quickly eating the mouse he was hunting at the time of the collision. After a long road to recovery, his injury proved too severe to heal completely and the damage to his right elbow and shoulder rendered Burlington flightless.

Unable to hunt in the wild, he was transferred to our permanent raptor exhibits. Burlington's stunning plumage and calm demeanor made him an incredible example of the "Tiger of the Sky." Great Horned Owls are often compared to the predatory cat for their hunting skills; they are the apex predators of the night sky.

Visitors and staff aren't the only ones who benefited from Burlington's presence. He is survived by an enclosure-mate, Barnard, a female Great Horned Owl. Occasionally, during feeding time, Barnard would offer mice to Burlington. In the wild, this courtship behavior helps to strengthen the bond between a mated pair. This mate-feeding is one way we knew they were comfortable in their enclosure together.

Burlington left, Barnard right

Burlington will be dearly missed. He has touched countless lives as an ambassador to the world of owls, inspiring stewardship and conservation. May his legacy continue to do so. 

You can contribute to the welfare of Burlington's enclosure-mate and his fellow animal ambassadors through the VINS Raptor Information, Support & Education program. Please visit for more details. Your contribution supports the specialized care each of our birds receive.