We traveled to the Audubon Center at the Riverlands to enjoy a prime location to observe migratory birds. After spending some time in the Audubon Center with an education eagle, we drove to the bird blind at Heron Pond. As Wash. U. students, the bird blind was of special relevance. It was designed and built by a class in the WUSTL Graduate School of Architecture. The focus of the studio was on camouflage and the blind is designed to hide bird watchers from the various species that frequent Heron Pond. It uses one cantilevered side to allow for a better view of the pond and variegated shades of brown to mimic the coloring of the soil and grass around the structure. From the blind, we were able to observe flocks of ducks and gulls, though the aviary highlight of the day was a group of 12 trumpeter swans, spotted on the drive to the blind.

The area itself is home to numerous bird species, many reliant upon the standing bodies of water that lie along the Mississippi River. During the winter months, countless species of migrate from colder climes for a matter of weeks, generally to feed. Many species travel only as far south as is necessary to find waters not completely covered in ice, so warmer winters tend to see fewer species at and around the Center, with most individuals halting their winter migrations farther northward. In addition to university students, numerous birdwatchers visit the Center to get a look at species not otherwise found in Missouri, such as gulls, ducks, pelicans, and more. Trumpeter swans are perhaps the ultimate target for bird enthusiasts visiting the Center, and depending upon the weather each year, dozens or individuals can inhabit the waterways at one time. During out visit we saw only a small group, a dozen individuals, but during colder years, more tend individuals tend to be driven farther Southward to the confluence and beyond. Another prime target for visitors to the Center are Bald Eagles, which nest and feed along the backwaters situated in Riverlands along the Mississippi river. Even on days where eagles are nowhere to be found, visitors may rest with some

consolation: the Center itself often has its own rescued eagle on duty, patrolling captive inside the building for visitors to see up close.

Sadly, we were not able to spot an American Bald Eagle from the observation center. However, they did have an education eagle, a Southern Bald Eagle from Florida.  She was a majestic animal to have the opportunity to be that close to.  Rescuers were unable to release her back into the wild because she had had been hit by cars on two occasions. This meant that she could not be released because of the damage to her eyes, which would not allow her to hunt and survive sucessfully. Here are photos of the eagle. 

Entry by August Gremaud
2015 Trip

During this visit to the Audubon Center at the Riverlands, we conducted an experiment. We observed different bird species from the Heron Pond Avian Observatory for thirty minutes.

Question: Which of the three observed bird species—trumpeter swan, bald eagle, and Canada goose—is the most social? 

Variables: number of clumps and size of clumps (number of individuals)

Hypothesis: Canada geese will be the most social species. For years, I have observed them socializing in flocks and flying in large groups. Bald eagles will be the least social. They are known for being elusive and are not likely to travel in large flocks. They are birds of prey, and traveling in large flocks would make them less successful hunters. 


Results: Canada geese were the most social because the species had the largest mean clutch size. Eagles were the least social of the birds because they were only seen active alone or in pairs.

2015 Trip