Have you noticed how much hustling about there is right now out in the world of wildlife? Everyone’s scurrying around to find new homes and territories and stock up their dens and burrows and bellies for winter. Seems like the squirrels around here are having a festival of foolishness around the roadside ditches.
Mr. Fix-It and I were off for a walk, alone, the other day (how often does that happen!!) and collected a bunch of turkey feathers and an empty turtle shell to take back and show the kiddos. Phew! The turtle must have vacated recently and it smelled terrible!
Then we hit the nature walk jackpot–Birds of Prey!
There’s nothing more fun that coming across some awesome wildlife. A Great Horned Owl swooped right over top of us from one side of the gas line to the other and roosted in a tree just a few feet away! Then I was bummed the munchkins weren’t with us, but super-excited that I carried my camera the whole way!
Unlike eagles, whom I’ve noticed are very shy about having people around and fly off at the slightest approach, the owl didn’t seem to care that we were there. He/She just sat up there and watched us both the whole time, pretty much unconcerned other than keeping one (or two) yellow eyes on us the whole time.
So we took the pictures back to the munchkins and I looked up a bunch of owl facts to share with them. I came across some pretty interesting stuff!
First we hopped over to National Geographic to get the basic low-down. I love their animal fact pages–like an online encyclopedia–just the quick, critical stats.
Then we found the International Owl Center (IOC) which is currently hosted through the Houston Nature Center in MN. I thought it was a very family friendly way to absorb some information.
Turns out that there’s been a rash of bad owls-as-pets incidents since Harry Potter took off in recent years and the number of owls in sanctuaries has increase significantly. It also turns out that there are estimates that upward of 60-80% of Great Horned Owls have rodent poison in their bloodstream from eating dead rats, mice, and bugs that were killed by ingesting poison. There’s a great, simple list of ways to live an “owl-friendly” lifestyle published by the IOC that the kiddos immediately latched on to.
Then we when to the All About Birds site, which is hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Their Great Horned Owl page included vocalizations, which I love to share with the kiddos! There’s a lot of good stuff there, including lots of pictures, maps, and comparisons between similar owl species to help with identification. This site is where we learned that Great Horned Owls are some of the fiercest of the birds of prey and can take out other birds as large as geese and osprey for a meal, as well as everything from mice to rabbits and skunks and even porcupines.
I think All About Birds is probably my new favorite bird fact website.
A couple other resources…
- Owl Fun Facts for Kids: Great pictures and easy to digest text with a reasonable price. I would suggest putting it on your wish list for a few weeks as this looks like a Kindle title you might be able to catch on sale for FREE if you’re patient.
- Birds of Prey: Owls!: Another one with great pictures! More “fun facts” than an organized reference about owls, but a good price.
- Adopted by an Owl (Hazel Ridge Farm Stories): This is one of a children’s book series by wildlife rehabilitaters Robbyn and Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, about their adventures caring for injured wildlife at their home. It includes amazing art by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen and the story is both factual and unique. This series is a new treasure for us and will be on our “great for gifts” list from now on!
- The Book of North American Owls: Great beginner reference book for little naturalists–not a “baby book” as my Cowboy would say, but still definitely elementary level.
- Owls of North America: This is a hefty non-fiction volume, but covers everything–and makes it sound exciting! I’ve got my eye on a used copy because I’d love to have it on our shelf permanently.
I love how these little everyday moments lead us on this great family adventure of learning about something new!
What have you stumbled across lately that captured your interest?