Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tales From The Watersheds - Sarah Landers, AmeriCorps member with Raccoon Creek Partnership

The Winter Owl Prowl was just magical! I was so worried all day because the road that leads to the Waterloo Aquatic Education Center (State Route 56) did not get plowed until 2:00 that day. In the morning I woke up to 4 inches of snow and a level 2 snow advisory and wondered if anyone would even come to our event. We started preparations in the afternoon by cleaning up the center and putting on the hot chocolate. Before I knew it, it was 5:00 and behold, our first two visitors showed up. As I was running around keeping them occupied with hot beverage and owl pellets, a group of kids arrived, and then another family and another. People braved the bad roads (some came from Logan) and they braved the cold (I heard that it was 6 below 0) to come to the owl prowl. And they were rewarded! Pat Quackenbush, the naturalist for Hocking Hills brought two owls to show us and teach us about. The moment he brought the first owl (a Great Horned Owl) out of its’ cage, my jaw dropped. I saw my own fascination reflected on the faces of the children and adults in the room. I had never seen an owl so close, heck, I don’t even remember a time that I had ever seen an owl before that evening. Pat did a great job teaching us about the owl and also brought out a Barred Owl. After ogling the owls and learning about their anatomy and hunting habits, it was off on the prowl. We set out into the 4 inches of fresh snow with our flashlights and bodies bundled against the cold January air. The night was clear and the stars were twinkling and the snow was twinkling back. We stood in silence as Pat called: “who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all” and we waited, and waited for the Barred Owl to respond. The silence continued with a few kids shuffling and mumbling every now and then and getting shushed by the group. Then we heard a call back, and then another, and then another. Yes, there were three Barred owls that responded. We stood silent and listened as Pat conversed with the owls, claiming the territory, and then relinquishing it back to them. Once the owls began to move on into the night we hiked through the snow back to the education center, exhilarated, despite the bitter cold.

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