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DayCreek Journal

March 10 , 2006

Happy 9th Bird-Day Alice!

Alice - A Great Horned Owl.

March is here and it's time again for Houston, Minnesota's Festival of Owls. The Festival of Owls is a celebration of owls and of course to celebrate Alice's Hatch-Day. Alice fell out of her nest when she was young and unfortunately can never be released into the wild. Alice has however delighted the hearts of children and adults alike and is the star attraction of the Owl Fest and Houston's Nature Center. The nature center is run by Karla Kinstler who is Alice's human mother. Karla takes care of Alice and makes sure she gets her daily feed of gopher parts.

Saw-Whet owls are extremely small for an owl and are about the size of a robin. Pictured here is a Saw-Whet that was brought to the event from The Raptor Education Group named "Little Bit".

The event started on Friday, March 3rd and Jo and I arrived just in time for the Friday evening owl banquet. Shortly after dinner, Greg Munson of Quarry Hill Nature Center came in with a Saw-Whet owl that was captured not too far from the event. Greg was going to give a demonstration on bird banding when he looked at the bird and realized the bird had already been banded! The odds of this occurring are quite astounding. First, it isn't always assured that you can call-in and capture an owl and secondly, to find that the owl had been previously banded was unbelievable. We are now anxiously awaiting to find out where the bird was originally banded. Saw-Whet owls are migratory in nature so it is anyone's guess where this bird came from.

Their voice sounds pretty close to the sound made by a truck backing up in reverse.

After the Saw-Whet Owl stole the show, it was time for the event's keynote speaker: David H. Johnson, Director of the Global Owl Project. His speech was about owls in lore, culture and conservation. It was a rather eye-opening experience to find that in other parts of the world, owls are still captured for rituals, their healing powers and...even food.

I had a sobering discussion with David on Saturday regarding the habitat loss of owls. Owls are in decline just about anywhere people are located. Their habitat is being destroyed by urbanization and agriculture. It truly is a sad state of affairs and unfortunately the majority of the public are totally oblivious as to how we are effecting the well-being of these and many other species of birds.

The highlight for me of this year's event was the photographer's brunch. For a modest fee, we were able to photograph many different owl species in a natural setting. As a matter of fact, it was so natural that we, the birds and our gear all got covered in snow!

Here's a few photographs of the birds we were able to photograph. (Above in this article are Alice:The Great Horned Owl and Little Bit: The Saw-Whet Owl.)

Malcom: A Barred Owl
Wookie: A red phase, Eastern Screech Owl
Oscar: A Long-Eared Owl
LuLu: A Barn Owl