Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas with the Owls

Christmas Day is one of only a couple of days out of the year that the World Bird Sanctuary is scheduled to be closed to the public.

We, the staff, and some dedicated volunteers, come in that morning and feed the creatures and go home early.  We also check on the safety of all the creatures and make sure the heat is working for all that need it.

One of our policies for days with below 32 degrees fahrenheit temperatures is that we feed the outside birds a second time in the late afternoon.  So a staff person must come in to feed the owls a second time. I am in town for Christmas, so this duty has often been mine.

A Northern (yellow shafted) Flicker enjoying a treat of tree nuts during a snowstorm
I like it better when we have snow to go with the freezing temperatures. The earth seems different. More wild. Less noise. The earth seems quieter when blanketed in snow. The Sanctuary grounds are peaceful in the fresh snow. The crunch of snow underfoot makes it sound like winter…Christmas. Snow blowing in the breeze is wispy white and beautiful.

So it is late afternoon as you go into the food prep area and collect your unfrozen meal for the owls--usually mice or rats; then bundle up and head out to feed the owls. This is a quiet magical time. You get to visit each and every owl--Screech owls, Great horned owls, Short eared owls, Barn owls and Eagle owls. The woods are quiet except for the crunch of my footsteps, or the noise of the old wood doors creaking open. 

Tigger, the Tawny Owl, trilling and watching the snow from his weathering area box.
Best of all, are the vocalizations of the owls. Some of the owls choose to interact with you...especially the ones that we have hand raised. Some of them hoot; some make chirping vocals.  You feel lucky to have this focused time with the owls. You get to see each and every one up close, noticing all the feather colors and variations. Being with the owls on Christmas is somehow special!

Shakespeare, our resident Barred Owl, frequently interacts with staff and visitors by demonstrating his distinctive "hoot"
Then to top it all off, Shakespeare, the Barred Owl, hoots at you.  People say that if you put human words to the Barred Owl’s vocals, the Barred Owl’s hoot says "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" What a great set of sounds.

Time with the owls, on Christmas, with snow all around is….Magical!

You can have a magical evening with the owls too. Sign up for one of our Owl Prowls in January or February. Come visit their world at night. Maybe if you’re lucky, there will be snow on the ground.

Submitted by Michael Zeloski, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist


D-Wing said...

The Owls don't look too impressed.

Photog said...

You're probably right. For the owls snow is just another normal event in their day. We humans, on the other hand, are lucky enough to be awed by Mother Nature on many different levels.