Maryland Outdoor Club
Sat, May 2 2009 - This One's for the Birds!, pt.1 (View Original Event Details)

Event Organizer(s): Ruwan Alwis
Participants:Ruwan Alwis, Beverly Boher, dorsey burger

Write Up:
Last Fall, I was hoping to run a MOC event to draw attention to and to celebrate migrating birds. I was hoping to string several local birding activities together as part of my event. I was very pleased to find that in re-scheduling my event for the Spring, I could start off with the simple-but-well-led Owl Prowl DNR activity at Soldiers Delight Natural Area. The neat draw for this Owl Prowl versus other ones was its nature-friendly approach, which I learned about while scouting the event last Fall. Leading up to the event, we had eleven attendees signed up but only four made it out. Our attendees had a shared keen interest in birds and collectively possessed a broad depth of experience. The threat of heavy rain showers loomed, but the Owl Prowl was not going to be cancelled.

The park ranger(s) and park staff who run the Owl Prowls at Soldiers Delight have a very good command of their delivery to all types of audiences. With only a few others in the group that night, the park ranger dispensed an information-packed presentation to our group. We learned about the traits of owls that make them such successful night hunters. The pre-night hike talk covered topics like the abundance of rods and the presence of the reflective tapetum structure (associated with nightshine in noctural animals) for enhanced night vision, the differences in feathers of day-flying raptors versus those of owls, and the characteristics of the different local owls in Maryland.

The next part of the evening was the real treat that made this simple event, especially neat. We walked just outside the nature center (without flashlights!) and took a moment to let our eyes adjust to the dark. The cloudy skies above provided enough light that I wasn’t nearly as concerned about the attendees stumbling in the dark as we were led through the park to certain areas where owls might hang out at times. The ranger did several owl calls to see if any resident owls would answer back. We were encouraged to give a try at our own owl calls, especially since one of them sounds as simple as someone saying “Who cooks for you?” Dorsey had some past hardcore experience in owl calls and nature conservation activities out in the Pacific Northwest. He was bold and experienced enough to give it a serious attempt. He even did a non-local spotted owl call. As we neared the stargazing field, we saw several bats flying after insects overhead. Although we did not hear any owls in the park (except possibly the beginnings of a great horned owl call), we did manage to hear a whippoorwill, startle some daytime birds into chattering about, and attract the attention of a red fox whose yelp-like calls were moving in our direction.

We returned to the visitor center to finish off the night with a viewing of the beautiful owls of the Scales n’ Tales program. We saw a small Eastern screech owl, a barn owl, a barred owl, and a great horned owl. All of these birds were injured or unable to return to the wild for some reason or another. Most of the birds received by the DNR park systems’ rehab programs have been hit by cars. They were most likely going after something like a mouse that was eating food thrown out the window from a passing car. If you want to do something to help out owls, it makes sense to keep from throwing out food scraps near roadways, especially busy ones.

Before the post-hike program was done, the barred owl started calling out, which was a real treat because it did give us an idea of how close it does sound to “Who cooks for you?”

Thanks to Melody, Rob, and the other Scales ‘n Tales staff at Soldiers Delight for making this event possible!

-Ruwan



Have some photos from this event that you'd like to share in our photo album? Please forward them to Amy Lipsius at mdoutdoorclub@gmail.com. Please note that we prefer to receive the photos in approximately 640x480 or 750x500 pixels - do NOT send original high-res photos. If you have a LOT of photos, please submit up to twenty of your favorites (only) for a day event, or up to forty of your favourites for a multi-day event. Thank you.