Friday, November 13, 2009

Autumn in the Park

Autumn is already well underway at Mountsberg Conservation Area, and the Raptor Centre is beginning to prepare for the coming winter. At this time of year, park visitors often ask us about how winter affects our resident birds. How do they cope with the cold? Where do they go in the winter? How can they stay warm? The answer to such questions depends on the individual needs of our birds of prey. With over thirty resident raptors currently in the park, there's a lot to keep track of as the weather starts to get colder!

As the temperature drops, the quantity of food our birds require goes up; some of the smaller birds are fed more frequently than they are during the warmer months to keep energy levels high. Migratory species, such as Turkey Vultures, are brought inside during the worst of the cold. Temperature-sensitive species such as Barn Owls also come inside, as does any individual bird with reduced tolerance to the cold. Mountsberg is currently putting the finishing touches on new indoor winter housing with full-spectrum lighting that will help to make the winter months more comfortable for our temperature-sensitive birds. A note to park visitors: while our birds are inside for the winter they are off public display. If you visit the park and don't see your favourite feathered friend, they are probably away for their winter vacation!

Not all of our birds have trouble with the cold. Some species, such as large owls, hawks, and eagles, have thick plumage and are very capable of comfortably surviving a Canadian winter. These birds are monitored daily to ensure they are coping well with temperature changes. Our Snowy Owls definitely enjoy winter, and are often to be found nestled down (and perfectly camouflaged) in a snowbank!

Snow removal during winter is always a challenging chore at the Raptor Centre. Luckily, our staff and our dedicated volunteers are adept with shovels and scrapers, and are ready to brush off perches and shovel pathways first thing in the morning after a heavy snowfall.

Winter is certainly a wonderful opportunity to see Mountsberg's raptors against a different backdrop, but it isn't quite here yet! There are still lots of gorgeous fall days left to enjoy. We are also happy to report that Pawgwashiing Migizi ('Pawgwa') the Bald Eagle and Pittsburgh Pete the Peregrine Falcon are both adapting extremely well to their new homes, and some lucky park visitors may see them out and about during their training!

As always, if you are interested in supporting our non-releasable birds of prey, please come on out to the park and enjoy what Mountsberg Conservation Area has to offer. Consider adopting a Mountsberg raptor as an environmentally-minded Christmas gift; if you adopt a raptor for a year, you will receive a free annual pass to all Conservation Halton parks. What better way to bring the love of nature to a friend or family member! Contact Conservation Halton Foundation Director Brian Hobbs for more information.

See you on the trails!