Visitors to the Jamestown Audubon Center and Sanctuary this weekend got a rare glimpse at winged creatures who are notorious for their nocturnal activities.
On Saturday, the Audubon hosted its second annual "Owl Day," in which visitors had an opportunity to learn more about and interact with five different owl species: screech, barn, great horned, snow and barred.
The event took place from 1-5 p.m., with two 45-minute presentations by Mark Baker, a licensed raptor rehabilitator from Olean, being held at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The owls were brought to the event by Baker, who discussed the differences between the owl species and reasons why they are unable to be released back into the wild.
Mark Baker, a licensed raptor rehabilitator from Olean, displays five owl species during the second annual “Owl Day” held at the Jamestown Audubon Center and Sanctuary on Saturday.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
A number of hands-on activities were held throughout the day, including: owl pellet dissection to see what owls eat, an owl-calling contest in which participants mimic their best owl call, an owl craft station and a behind-the-scenes tour of the food preparation area for Liberty, the Audubon's resident American bald eagle. Area Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops were also in attendance, as participation in the event provided an opportunity for scouts to receive an Owl Patch.
According to Katie Finch, a naturalist with the Audubon, she chose to expand Owl Day for this year after it had received such a positive response last year.
"We did it for the first time last year knowing that owls captivate people's imaginations probably more than any other bird," Finch said. "So, we wanted to educate people about owls because they're more than these cute birds with forward-facing eyes. They're actually designed to be hunters. They're birds of prey, and they eat live animals. So we had Mark Baker bring in his owls last year, and we just stayed in the auditorium. And we were overwhelmed with the response we got, we were packed. This year, we invited Mark back again with his live owls and we expanded the day to incorporate the rest of the building."
Also being offered was a nighttime "Owl Prowl" from 6-8 p.m., in which participants walked through Audubon's trails playing owl recordings in order to elicit a response from the owls currently living on the sanctuary. "Prowlers" were also taught their own owl calls in order to find out how their senses compare to those of an owl.
"The owls will often respond back, so you can actually hear the owls out here," Finch said. "We know that we have owls on the property. We have several nesting boxes that screech owls will use to rest or nest in, and we have had two successful screech owl nests just this past year."
Finch said she was expecting between 250 to 300 visitors, based on last year's projections.
"That's a great number for an event like this," she said.