Donor Impact, Raptors

Volunteer Spotlight: Ken and Barb Wardius

As Raptor Volunteers for 25 years, Glendale residents Ken and Barb Wardius appreciate the unique opportunity to share their passion for raptors by volunteering together. They also enjoy nature, hiking, birding, and nature and bird photography. They share an interest in maritime history and are the authors of four Wisconsin lighthouse books. Ken and Barb give presentations about lighthouses at libraries, historical societies, and any place that invites them! Ken, a retired biologist, credits a basic ornithology class in college with opening his eyes to the world of birds.

How did you come to volunteer at the Center?

Ken: We are long-time members of Schlitz Audubon, dating back to the 1980s. We answered an ad in the Center Focus newsletter to help with the raptors. The program was very small then and only had a few birds.

Barb: The raptor manager then learned Ken was an amateur photographer and asked him to take some pictures of the birds in a natural setting. I was invited to come along to help with photo equipment. Instead, Diane put a tiny Northern Saw-whet Owl on my glove, and I fell in love!

Why is volunteering here important to you?

Barb: The Center is a wonderful place and it’s important to help where a person can. In the case of the raptors, someone is there every day to care for them. I’m honored to be part of Team Raptor.

Ken: Our Raptor Program’s collection is very special. Many of these birds have overcome significant obstacles and survived. To be able to help these birds live productive, healthy lives is very rewarding. To try to impart why these birds are important in the wild to the public is gratifying too. Schlitz Audubon is recognized as a premier nature center in the Midwest.

Share a memorable volunteer moment or experience.

Ken: There are so many. First bird on my glove. First bird that I flew. First opportunity to work with a new bird. Being up close to the raptors, learning about them and their wild counterparts, and why it is important to take care of the environment so that they as well as humans can live in a healthy world. Making life-long connections and friendships with other raptor volunteers and staff.

Barb: I’m always humbled when someone tells me how knowledgeable I am about the birds or what a cool “job” I have. People are so appreciative of being able to see our amazing birds up close and personal and ask questions about them.

What have you learned while volunteering at Schlitz Audubon?

Barb: Oh my gosh! So much! Starting at the bottom learning how to clean bird enclosures, then learning good animal husbandry to help care for them. Best of all was being trained to handle a raptor on my glove. To me, it never gets old, and it makes all the dirty work worth it!

Ken: Most of what I’ve learned was “on the job training” by very dedicated raptor staff. I also learned that I don’t know everything, but am willing to continue to seek additional new bird knowledge.

What do you find rewarding about volunteering?

Ken: Many of the behind-the-scenes chores involving the raptors are dirty and certainly not glamorous. But it is necessary for their day-to-day good health. It’s rewarding when you see those efforts pay off in healthy, active raptors. Also, at a raptor program, when an audience member’s eyes light up and you make a connection with a bird and an interested child, youth or adult, it’s special. Priceless.

Barb: Caring for these beautiful, amazing birds. Working with wonderful staff who share their knowledge freely and being part of a group of volunteers from every walk of life; all working together for the good of the raptors.

What is your favorite place, animal, plant, or activity at the Center and why?

Barb: I guess you already know the answer! It would be the Raptor Building. My favorite bird would be the one that’s on my glove.

Ken: I’ve been involved with some awesome raptors from the smallest to the largest. It’s really hard to pick just one bird; they are all special.

If you knew someone was thinking of volunteering at the Center, what would you tell them?

Ken: It’s a super place to volunteer. The Center has such a wide variety of volunteer opportunities and great mentors. Find one that combines your expertise, interest, and passion. Volunteers are vital to Schlitz Audubon’s success!

Barb: Go to the website and learn about all the volunteer opportunities that Schlitz Audubon offers. Then sign up for the one that interests them the most.

Thank you, Barb and Ken, for your decades of volunteering at Schlitz Audubon! We appreciate your dedication, as well as that of all of our volunteers.

Interested in volunteering? Learn more.