Headquartered on the South edge of Perry, the Dallas County Conservation Board plays host to a variety of educational and family friendly programs throughout each year. Kicking off the 2019 season, Environmental Education Coordinator and Naturalist, Chris Adkins, once again presented the life of an owl in his program titled A Conversation with an Owl.
“I am a native of Dallas County and have been involved in environmental education for the past 39 years. I also trained and obtained federal licensing to work with rehabilitated raptors through Kay Neumann with Saving Our Avian Resources,” Adkins said.
This program, which began over 20 years ago, initially started with a series titled Owl Prowl, where participants had the opportunity to meet with a naturalist and then hike conservation trails while vocalizing the calls of local common species.
But a little over five years into the program, the Dallas County Conservation Board came across a pair of injured Eastern Screech Owls, prompting them to expand their series into what it has become today.
“These birds that were injured and unable to be returned to the wild encouraged us to expand the Owl Prowl format to include a presentation examining the common owls of Dallas County and exploring the adaptations necessary for those avian nocturnal predators,” Adkins said.
The DCCB would later continue their expanded series after coming across an injured barred owl, named Strix, who had been caught in a barb wire fence. Although Strix has since been rehabilitated, the owl did endure some permanent injuries impacting her ability to fly and preventing her from ever returning to her home in the wild.
“Currently, our rehabilitated owl is a female barred owl. Our Conversation with an Owl programming features this bird, allowing a direct experience by the audience with this ambassador from the night time wilds of Dallas County,” Adkins said.
This year's A Conversation with an Owl program was held on Thursday, Jan. 10 at the Kuehn Conservation Area just outside of Earlham. Adkins began the program by introducing three different owl species (the Eastern Screech Owl, The Barred Owl and the Great Horned Owl) that can be found around the Dallas County area, along with their unique characteristics and the calls of these owls.
Adkins then concluded the program with a special appearance by Strix. He emphasized that while Strix was rehabilitated, the owl is not a pet but a wild animal and would need to be approached as such. As the presenter, Adkins handled the barred owl on his fist while he walked the room and allowed each participant a close up view.
“On the surface, the program engages the audience to marvel at the sensory, flight and predatory adaptations seen in our owls. However, the primary goal of the program is to give the participants an opportunity to answer the question, 'What will you learn by looking into the eyes of wildness?',” Adkins said.
Coming up on Feb. 19, the DCCB will host their annual Owl Prowl event at the Kuehn Conservation Area.
“Attending the Conversation with an Owl positioned participants to next join us for the second program in this series, the original Owl Prowl hike. Few experiences in life can match the magic of casting your imitation of a barred owl's call into the full moon lit woods and hearing the return call of a wild one,” Adkins said.
The DCCB will also host a vast array of other programs throughout the next month, including but not limited to, a Star Gazing Winter Constellations Program and an Eagle Watch Program.