Friday, January 8, 2010

Owl Prowl

One of my favorite movies is "So Dear to my Heart."  In it, a young boy keeps a scrapbook with sayings by The Wise Old Owl.  Turns out owls aren't so wise.  Their eyeballs take up so much head space that there's very little room left for brains!  This is just one of the things my Schnickelfritz and I learned at the MO Conservation Dept's Owl Prowl. 

Missouri is home to four types of owls year-round with four others that visit occasionally.  Even the snowy owl can be found this far south in the years that the lemmings plunge into the sea (forcing the owls to search elsewhere for food).  Year round residents include the great horned owl, the barred owl and barn owl.  Our lecturer had stuffed birds of each to show us -- it is illegal for anyone to have a live or dead owl in their possession.   The best visual of the evening was when he called Fritz up front and held up two whiffle balls in front of his face.  If Fritz were an owl, these balls would represent the size of his eyes.

Studying animals always reminds me what a wonderful Creator we have.  Did you know the owl is the only bird God designed with a movable toe?  They can position three toes in front and one in back for perching or switch to two in front and two in back to grasp prey.   The "plate" of feathers around their eyes is actually a way of channeling sound into their ears.  One ear is located higher than their eyes and the other lower than their eyes.  This gives them an extra dimension to be able to locate the source of sounds and actually catch mice in total darkness.

Our evening ended by going outside and trying to attract some owls (this is actually a great time of year to spot owls as they are looking for mates).  We had several commercial and homemade owl calls and a recording to play.   We even tried our best owl imitations.  The owls had the last laughs however.  They may not be wise, but they were smart enough to not be standing in the snow hooting in the 8 degree weather.

--Followup:  We disected owl pellets today (Sat).  I found some lab guides online that included diagrams of the skeletons we were likely to encounter.  We were lucky enough to find the skull of a mouse and its spinal column.  Fritz loved this activity.

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