Seasonally-suitable Owl Prowl a big hoot

By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Ashford - posted Mon., Nov. 7, 2011
Silo, an older barn owl, is a born-in-captivity raptor originally from South Dakota that is now a Horizon Wings program bird. Silo participated in Horizon Wings' first Owl Prowl on Oct. 22. Photo contributed by Horizon Wings. - Contributed Photo

On Oct. 22, Horizon Wings held its first Owl Prowl event at its Ashford location. Horizon Wings is a non-profit organization that specializes in the rehabilitation of raptors, and also offers educational programs with its non-releasable birds. Raptor rehabilitator and Horizon Wings co-founder Mary-Beth Kaeser said the successful turnout of 175 guests at Owl Prowl has encouraged her to make this an annual event.

During Owl Prowl, visitors toured four separate stations to see live owls and learn about them from demonstrations. Educational materials were provided about the featured species, which are native to Connecticut. Each education station conveyed information about how to protect owls, and recordings of owl calls were played. Kids could also complete a coloring page that listed owl facts.
To give the event a festive, Halloween flair, Kaeser said that décor included scarecrows, “blinking eyes” in the trees and creatively carved pumpkins. Hot chocolate, hot cider and homemade goods were also served.

The event was followed up a week later by the destructive winter storm. Ashford was among the many Connecticut towns that suffered extensive power loss as a result of the storm. Kaeser said that electricity was restored to her home and the Horizon Wings facility on Nov. 4.
“We have a generator,” said Kaeser. “The big thing is that we have four freezers full of food [for the birds]. We had to use our generator more for our freezers than anything else,” she said.

Kaeser said that none of Horizon Wings’ program birds were harmed or suffered as a result of the storm. One large, fallen limb temporarily blocked the cage of Silo, the barn owl, but it was promptly cleared away so that her cage could be accessed. Kaeser said that Atka, the young bald eagle, has been a bit uneasy over the situation.

"I’m very thankful it [the storm] wasn’t in the dead of winter, because we have some birds that need more heat. We had a couple big limbs come down, but we were really lucky there was no damage to the cages,” said Kaeser.

Due to the situation, Horizon Wings canceled its Nov. 5 Owl Prowl event at Northwest Park in Windsor. That event has been rescheduled to Feb. 4, in conjunction with the park’s cabin fever events.

Horizon Wings will conduct presentations at The Hoot in Mansfield on Nov. 19, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and at the Enfield Library on Dec. 29 at 6:30 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

Owl Prowl and other educational events sponsored by Horizon Wings also function as fundraisers. Currently, Horizon Wings is raising money to install water and electricity in each of its aviaries, “in order to provide heat to birds,” as an alternative to the current process of relocating the needier raptors  - the barn owl, the American kestrels and the one-winged barred owl - to seasonal, on-site shelters during the winter.

Kaeser estimates the cage project will cost $10,000, but a generous donor has offered to meet half of the expenses. Kaeser said that she is doing well in terms of raising the remaining funds, but does not expect to be able to implement the cage upgrades until next year.

For more information on Horizon Wings go to or call 860-429-2181.

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