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Columbia, South Carolina
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May 13, 2004     The Columbia Star
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May 13, 2004
 

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MAY , 3. Nature T.E iil , The vulture I watched as vul- tures went through their paces, flying low across the lawns at Mulberry Plantation near Camden. The vultures were the first act in a Preview Evening of the International Center for Birds of Prey planned for Awendaw near Charleston. Harris's Hawks, a Lanner Falcon and an immature Bald Eagle, all residents of the Birds of Prey Center had a tough act to follow. Surprisingly, the vultures were beautiful. Vultures feed on carrion, dead and decaying animal flesh and are usual!y con- sidered scary and obnox- ious. I had my first close encounter with a vulture on a NatureScene location in Missouri. In a cave in the dark, narrow, foul smelling recess I saw a nest with three eggs. According to Rudy Mancke, it is not unusual for vultures to nest in caves, but it is never a good idea to frighten them or get too close. "They have a habit of regurgitating their last meal in the direction of a threatening intruder." Black vultures, found in the southeastern US from Texas to Pennsylvania, are most commgn in Florida. They are listed as a threatened species in NC. The two vultures used in educa- II tional demonstrations by the SC Birds of Prey Center were only a few weeks old when they were rescued from the pack of dogs that had destroyed their nest and killed their mother. Now grown, they are healthy and put on quite a show. They run with great, strong wings flapping. Picking up speed, they leave the ground and float from one handler to another collecting their treats. I didn't have the heart to ask what a vul- ture considers a treat. The SC Center for the Birds of Prey Marty Daniels and members of the Columbia Committee for the SC Center for Birds of Prey hosted a most unusual preview party at Camden's Mulberry Plantation. The new cen- ter, being built at Awendaw, will be an unparalleled resource for education, aviart medi- cine, and environmental conservation. According to Birds of Prey Board Member and Treasurer Claude Walker, the center will have no equals when it comes to recovery and rehabilitation of injured and orphaned birds. A capital campaign to fund the center enjoyed a suc- cessful start with a gift of 152 acres of prime coastal real estate just north of Charleston. We were treated to flight demonstrations from eagles, hawks, vul- tures, and falcons. As guests walked across the grounds of Mulberry, two Harris Hawks flew over- head from tree to tree fol- lowing Birds of Prey staff members. Harris Hawks are very social animals, often hunting in pairs or as a group, and have become the most popular hawks used in falconry. The Bald Eagle Jim Elliott, execu- tive director of the Birds of Prey Center, intro- duced an immature Bald Eagle, a two year old brought to the center for rehabilitation of a dislo- cated shoulder. "Many eagles are brought in from encounters with tall towers, bridges, other man-made structures and sadly, often from gun- shot wounds." Elliott explained the eagle's ongoing rehabilitation and short flight regimen. Juvenile bald eagles are mixed brown and white and get their adult plumage at four or five years of age. The bald eagle was chosen June 20, 1782, as the emblem of the US because of its long life, great strength, and majestic looks. (Benjamin Franklin voted for the turkey, proclaiming it a much more respected bird, ) Dr. John Nelson The original mystery plant Each week The Star features an explanation and picture of a mys- tery plant given by Dr. John Nelson, the curator of the USC Herbarium. To learn more about the Herbarium, call him at 777-8196. His depart- ment also offers free plant identification, www.herbarium.org A couple of weeks ago we had Golden Club as a Mystery Plant, a native, aquatic member of the philodendron family. This week we have another philodendron relative I just couldn't resist. This plant bloomed recently in Columbia in the amazing back- yard garden of Jenks Farmer. I brought it to him about five years ago from Florida as a volleyball- sized tuber, and he planted it. Every year since then, it has faith- fully produced a single, colossal, palm-like leaf, about five feet tall. Dr. Dan Nicholson, of the US National Herbarium at the Smithsonian Institution and proba- bly the world's leading authority on the philodendron family, has pro- vided the identification for this thing. This year, Jenks's plant pro- duced its first bloom. The flower is actually a massive inflorescence. A : purplish-green Stalk, about three inches in diameter, holds up a flow- ering spike which is surrounded by a shockingly purplish-red, fleshy bract (or spathe. The spike itself has many tiny female flowers at its base and above those a series of tiny male flowers. Above the flowers, the spike te nates in a prominently lurid, taper- ing sterile andage. True to:'itsgenus, this plant produced a strong stink, largely suggestive of a pile of dead rats. This makes sense since flies and other carrion-loving insects visit and pollinate the flowers. The inflo- rescence lasts only a few days, collapsing and rotting, and then the plant will send up a single leaf. This species is native to warm forests of Vietnam and southern China and is otherwise widely grown as a curiosity. It is fairly easy to grow either in a greenhouse or outside, but if it blooms for you, be prepared for some raised eyebrows and held noses. Photo by Hunter Desportes Answer to last week's my,, :ery plant Sand lupine, Skyblue lupine, Lupinus diffusus I I II II I I II II The Falcon The star of the evening was the Lanner Falcon, a native of Africa, a fast flying medium sized falcon, larger than the American Kestrel and smaller than the Peregrine Falcon. The Lanner Falcon elicited amazement from the crowd as it soared high above the fields of Mulberry and plunged in a deep dive toward its enticer, a magpie wing being swung along the Harris ground at the end of a long string. Missing its mark on the first swoop, the Lanner went into a steep vertical climb before circling again, this time diving with increased speed, preci- sion, outspread talons and success. The bird, brought to SC from the National Birds of Prey Centre in Gloucestershire, England," is used by Jim Elliott and his staff in educational demonstrations. ing the were ers efforts: Mary Robin N and Sally. Columbia members Claude McCuen, McCoy. ' t  J 4t. , :g.. \\; G'R,A,P" H,},C"S : m AKgraphics2003@a01,c0m 803-376-4537 '\\; RESTORE Your OLD PHOTOS TO WHAT THEY oNC Revive your precious memories Into something to share with your family with the best EWS TALK1