Owls amaze, audience hoots at Enfield Public Library
By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Enfield - posted Wed., Apr. 17, 2013
Maybe it was the effect of spring vacation - or maybe the popularity boost owls received thanks to the “Harry Potter” books and movies - but the chance to see a variety of live owls up close and in person drew a capacity crowd to the Enfield Public Library on April 16.
The occasion was a visit from the Wingmasters raptor rehabilitation program, the first at EPL in a couple of years. Julie Collier, who is certified to keep and rehabilitate birds of prey that have been sick or disabled, brought five owls and one falcon to delight and amaze adults and children alike.
More of a performance than a presentation, the event lasted over an hour, with listeners remaining afterward to view Wingmasters photos and Collier's drawings of the birds in her care.
Collier wove humor among her myth-busting facts and questions to the audience, as she introduced them to the six birds of prey that made the trip from their home near Amherst, Mass. To set a standard of comparison for the owls - the advertised subject of the program - Collier first introduced the American kestrel falcon, a bird that she said is disappearing from the area of western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut, mostly because of habitat loss. The brightly-colored male drew gasps of amazement from the children in the audience. Among the differences between the kestrel and the owls, Collier said, were its colorfulness, its speed of flight, and its long tail, which provides agility, and the noise its feathers make as it flies and dives.
"I take care of birds of prey in trouble," Collier explained. She nurses the birds while they are developing or recuperating, and feeds them as they require. She may also teach a bird how to hunt. Any under her care that are capable of taking care of themselves in the wild are returned to their natural habitat. "I've been doing this for 30 years, and I have never been thanked by any bird of prey I've taken care of," she said. Then she added, "Mother's Day will come and go. There will be no card." But, being frank, Collier said that putting a bird of prey back in the wild is "what I live for." She now has 20 birds under her care, the largest of which is a 17-pound golden eagle. The smallest bird she has is the saw-whet owl that she brought to show the library audience.
Two big problems affect owls in this area in the wintertime. Many are injured at night, being hit by cars as they swoop down on prey. The other problem is illegal shooting of owls. In the summertime, young birds falling out of their nests creates a different problems. Regardless of the cause, Collier is often called in to rescue the feathery victims.
"There are so many stories about owls that are not true," Collier explained. "Owls are not wise." On a 'smartness scale' of 1 to 10, Collier said her golden eagle would be a 10. "He is smart," she said. "Owls are not." By comparison on her scale, "owls are a 1,” she said.