Sunday, May 24, 2009
Great Horned owl
The crown jewel of Ontonagon County in upper Michigan -- basis of the fictional Porcupine County of my mystery novels -- is the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park at the western end of the county. It figures in all my novels, and yesterday the Lady Friend and I attended an event there that one way or another will make its way into a whodunit.
This was a splendid "Birds of Prey" presentation put on by the Wildlife Recovery Association, a refuge in Shepherd, Michigan, that takes in sick and wounded birds found in the wild and nurses them back to health for release into their natural environment -- or gives them a permanent safe haven if they are too injured to return.
Joe Rogers and Joanne Williams, principals of the refuge, brought a large clutch of birds, mostly of prey, to show a small audience in the park's little auditorium. Rogers is a born showman as well as an ornithologist, and he charmed the youngsters while keeping the adults rapt and laughing with his slick patter.
He astounded everyone with his vocal imitations of owl hoots and hawk cries. The Lady Friend said they were dead on; she couldn't tell them from the real things she had heard in the woods.
He opened the show with a pygmy python, hardly a winged raptor, but a gentle creature that caused adults to squeal and small children to beam while they petted it as Rogers passed around the audience:
Then it was time to bring out the actual birds of prey:
Great horned owl
Joanne Williams brought the barred owl to every kid in the audience, and their cell phone cameras got a thorough workout.
Aggressive birds pecked an eye out of this saw-whet owl, brought to the refuge by the volunteer who found it. It remains as a permanent resident.
In his windup to the show, Rogers grossed out the grownups but delighted the kids in telling them how the turkey vulture delicately picks carrion out of its huge nostrils with a talon after dining.