Eyes On Owls Returns To Harwich Community Center Saturday

By: Russ Allen

Marcia Wilson and a great-horned owl. MARK WILSON PHOTO

For the 13th year in a row, in what has become a highlight of the winter, owls will invade Harwich on Saturday, March 9. 

Sponsored by the Harwich Conservation Trust, with proceeds going to help support HCT’s ability to create and complete land preservation projects including efforts to protect wildlife habitat for local owls, Marcia and Mark Wilson will present a new program, “Owls from Near and Far.” The two inspiring and intriguing live owl shows at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the community center.

The Wilsons will bring owls that are found locally including a striking great-horned snowy owl with golden irises (called the “tiger of the woods”) and two eastern screech owls, one red and one grey. They will also showcase a South American spectacled owl, a barred owl with its dark charcoal-colored eyes, and a barn owl. A mystery raptor will also make an appearance.

There will also be an “owl gallery” with pictures and signed copies of Mark Wilson’s newly published book for children grade 3 to 6 called “Owling: Enter the World of the Mysterious Birds of the Night,” which discusses 19 species of owls and profiles six people who work with them.

The naturalist-educators annually tour the Northeast offering audiences up-close looks at these secretive raptors. Each owl has a permanent disability, which prevents release into the wild. The Wilsons are permitted by state and federal agencies to tour with the owls for educational programs. Mark, a retired professional photographer with The Boston Globe, leads an introductory slide show. The duo then walk around with the owls tethered to their gloved hands to highlight the raptors’ behavior, biology and beautiful feathers. Volunteers from the audience even get a chance to hoot alongside the owls.

The Wilsons founded Eyes On Owls in 1994 as an educational enterprise that brings wild owls to schools or groups so the public can learn more about our wild neighbors and their habitats.

The owls they care for are permanently disabled; that is, they can't survive on their own in the wild. Many of the owls are survivors of collisions with vehicles. Each owl is given a safe, clean, low-stress home and all the mice they need to eat. Several times a week, the Wilsons bring a selection of owls for a program to help people learn about these fascinating birds.

The owls are not pets, they stress. Owls have sharp talons and beaks, special dietary and health requirements, as well as special housing custom build for each bird. Non-flighted owls get handicapped ramps in their aviaries.

“Most folks rarely encounter owls up close, so this is a fun opportunity to see different species, marvel at their features, and learn about their life histories and habits,” said Michael Lach, HCT’s executive director. “It’s an amazing experience.”

The Harwich Conservation Trust is a leader in creating public-private land conservation partnerships that sustain Harwich as a livable, vibrant community for current and future generations. Harwich’s sandy beaches, windswept marshes, quiet woods, and sun-dappled waters create a fragile place that is home to residents and a destination for tourists. Overdevelopment erodes the environmental qualities that shape a sense of place. HCT seeks to preserve Harwich’s quality of life by protecting priority lands because it is the smart, practical, necessary thing to do for ourselves, our families, our town, our region.

In addition to offering nature programs and other activities including Native American trail hikes, stargazing lectures, and its “Meet the Local Farmers” event scheduled for Saturday, March 23, at the community center, HCT is an active partner in the process of setting aside conservation land while supporting the creation of environmentally sound affordable housing and protection of our historic treasures. HCT conserves land to protect the very qualities that shape the shared, special place known as Harwich.

For further details, visit www.harwichconservationtrust.org.

Tickets or the owl program are $5 each for ages 5 to 11 and $10 each for ages 12 to adult. The program is not recommended for ages under 5. Reserve online at www.harwichconservationtrust.org.  Tickets will also be available at the door. 


Eyes on Owls

Saturday, March 9

11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Harwich Community Center

$5 ages 5 to 11 and $10 each 12 to adult

Tickets at www.harwichconservationtrust.org or at the door