This evening Alex and I went to the Carrie Murray Nature Center for what was billed as an “Owl Prowl.”
We got to meet four of the Center’s owls up close: a barred owl, a great horned owl, a screech owl, and a barn owl. As the naturalist showed us the birds he told us about owls’ range, physiology, life cycle, health, habits, and personality, all in a loose flow of conversation.
Some of the more surprising pieces of information he imparted:
- A European eagle owl can take out a small deer or wolf.
- Snowy owls from the Arctic have been seen as far south as the Carolinas – they come down looking for food when the rodent population up north crashes.
- A full-sized great horned owl like the one in the second picture weighs only five pounds… but it can still exert enough pressure with its talons to break a human’s arm.
- The greatest danger to owls in this area is getting hit by a car while hunting in the street.
After the show-and-tell portion he had owl pellets available for dissection. These were from his own owls; they hadn’t been sterilized like the one we bought online, and, um, you could tell. We dissected one and discarded two others as two disgusting to dissect.
Finally, we went outside and took a short tramp through the woods as dusk faded to full dark. There was a beautiful and enormous full moon. We heard some daytime birds, but no owls. Unfortunately, although all the kids seemed prepared to be quite quiet to look for wildlife, there were a couple of fathers along who felt compelled to keep up a running conversation with the naturalist. Any owl out there would have heard us coming a long way away. It was still exciting for Alex to be out in the woods at night, but I hope we’ll have an opportunity someday to really do the thing properly and silently.