A LOT of people ask us to relate our family’s experience with the various volunteer opportunities that we participate in for homeschool. (Yes, the high-schooler gets an environmental lab credit for this 🙂 ) A particular curiosity for folks most often seems to be about the Saw-whet Owl Study that goes on every fall. We only have had the opportunity to participate in 2012 & 2014 as owls aren’t particularly fond being awake and caught during the daylight hours. Owls are all-night party animals! My children and I are not.
In 2012, Aidan was too young to participate and Annika and I only went a couple of times because it was SO abysmally cold! And late. And even at her 13 years, Annika had the attention span of a butterfly and didn’t enjoy waiting for the Saw-whets to get themselves caught, studied and banded.
In 2014, we were blessed with such marvelous weather (and appropriate ages), that we were able to participate on several nights with our most amazing (and dear) friends who run the Study. Michelle is the “Owl-Go-To-Gal” and has been conducting the study in Minnesota for several years now. Thanks to her tireless (okay, maybe she’s a little tired, she works a daytime job besides conducting the Study) data gathering along with others around the country participating in the same-timed Study, we now know more about these cute little fella’s than we ever have before!
Don’t let those little adorable bright eyes and squish-able looking puff-balls fool you. By just looking at them, it can be hard to remember that owls are incredibly dangerous, seen by several cultures throughout the world as ill omens. Especially when they look like little toasted marshmallows! I read a description on Pinterest that described them as “flying pillows, filled with seething hatred.” It’s true. All of it. Hate-filled-toasted-marshmallow-pillows. But, boy-howdy, even when they slice your finger open or snap and bite you, you just can’t deny that they are SO CUTE!
These Saw-whets are caught in fields with impossible-to-see nets. State-licensed naturalists remove the owls from the net and place them in a cloth bag. Below is a list of what is happening with the little owl in the photos above and hopefully the bullet points will line up in the order they should be with the photos in the gallery:
- The 2nd picture shows Michelle feeling through the bag to locate the owls head. (Owls are bite-y, so it’s good to know where that beak is BEFORE you open the bag).
- In the 6th – 13th pictures, the owl is being banded with a tiny, numbered, light metal band that fits just right on the owls leg. Extra care is taken to ensure the band is not too tight to be uncomfortable, but that it’s fully enclosed so it won’t come off when the owl is swooping to catch dinner. Various measurements are taken and they are also weighed.
- Number 10 is the naturalist checking (and finding(!!!!)) a Carnus Hemapterus Fly, info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnus_hemapterus Prepare to be grossed out.
- Pictures 13 – 16 are simply photos of their adorableness. Yup, go ahead and say “Awwwww”!! Totally cute, right?
- I love the pictures 9 and 10 where the little owl is looking straight at the camera!! Just makes me smile! I’m sure he saw his reflection, but it looks like he’s curious as to what that thing is! 🙂
Okay! On to the video: Warning: (!!!) Aidan naturally watched this video with Annika and I during school because we always study Owls, Nocturnal Animals and Bats in October every year. I don’t know why, it just seems to fit…. ANYway, in this video, one of the owl babies does die and the mother feeds this dead bird to its siblings(!!!???) Okay, sometimes nature isn’t pretty, but is pretty creepy!(??) Hello? LOL! So Aidan, after several years, is STILL mad that I had him watch that video with us. *sigh* But there is so much that is so great and enjoyable about it. But proceed with caution for tender hearts (mine included, I just blocked the trauma out, lol!) Also, as usual it seems with every secular video, they push the theory of evolution as fact, *sigh*, so there you have it, you may wish to review it first and hit mute at the marker.
And, coupled with this I will recommend with the prior caution of an evolutionary bent, but still a good read aloud for elementary students is Explore Night Science, http://www.amazon.com/Explore-Night-Science-Great-Projects-ebook/dp/B009REY31M/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1429893434&sr=1-1&keywords=explore+night+science – EBOOK Available
I think these bookmarks are absolutely the coolest ever and free :)! Print on card stock and laminate, of course if you homeschool you have a laminating machine, right? 😉