Learning more about the Farm and Sanctuary

Hello again! It’s been a while since I last posted but my internship is halfway over and I have learned so much in the past few weeks. Besides the daily routine of cleaning animal enclosures and preparing diets, I have had the chance of learning about a lot of other different aspects of wildlife care, education, and conservation.

I spoke last time about my part in an internship project. I decided to focus on designing and building new enclosures for some of our species here on the farm. Our American kestrel needed a new enclosure design because we had moved some of our animals around into more suitable enclosures. I got the chance to research and design all the new perches and the layout of the interior of the enclosure and then with some help, built them. I learned that the falcons needed flat perches to rest on as well as rounded perches that mimicked what they would find in nature. Our kestrel at the sanctuary had a prior wing injury so she has limited flight and needed a lot of low lying perches in order for her to climb around. With all this new research about enclosure designs, I have come to appreciate how difficult it is to keep captive wildlife and be able to care for them so that they are able to live comfortably.

Left: A picture of the kestrel enclosure I designed. Right: The American Kestrel, photo courtesy of Mass Audubon.

One amazing opportunity that this internship allows for is the chance to handle some of the animals at the wildlife sanctuary. All the interns that come through Drumlin’s Wildlife Care get a chance to do some

Handling one of our screech owls who was molting. Below is an audio recording of an Eastern screech owl’s call. Audio courtesy of National Audubon Society.

raptor handling under the supervision of our amazing Wildlife Program Coordinator, Flavio. Raptor handling entails being able to take a bird of prey or a raptor out of their enclosure and keep them on a gloved hand for educational presentations and then bring them back into their respective enclosures. I have been able to work with one of our broad-winged hawks and a screech owl here at the sanctuary. These birds have all been trained to be handled in such a manner and we always handle the animals with their safety and level of stress in mind.

In our downtime, interns also get the chance to learn more about Drumlin Farm as an institution and all the different fields of study and professions that go into the everyday management at Drumlin Farm. We got the chance to meet with Senior Naturalist, Tia and Visitor Education Manager, Sandy.

Talking with Tia, we learned about the efforts of conservation, especially in the lens of keeping invasive species in check. We helped clear out black swallow-wort, an invasive species native to Europe, in a small field on the farm. Tia explained how the swallow-wort plants were outcompeting and reducing the number of local species in the area. Swallow-worts are especially detrimental to monarch butterflies as female butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed which looks remarkably similar to the black swallow-wort, but monarch caterpillars cannot feed on black swallow-wort, leading to declining monarch populations.

A picture of Black Swallow-wort, an invasive species.

We also met with Drumlin Farm’s Visitor Education Manager, Sandy. Sandy walked us through the daily programs that happen on the farm and what a schedule for teachers that work with the farm looks like. Visitor education programs often showcase conservation and biodiversity efforts that the visitors do not immediately see. There are programs about different bird wings, the different weasel species of America and, of course, animal exhibition shows in which a teacher will take out one of our wildlife species and talk about that animal’s habitat, eating habits and their importance to the New England ecosystem. It was a very enlightening experience and Sandy even hinted at having the interns do some animal showcasing in the future as well!

Being able to see all the different parts of how the wildlife sanctuary work and how the farm functions has been extremely educational and I’ve had so much fun learning and gaining experience working in this field.

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