Birds at school

Posted on Apr 9, 2014 | 0 comments

Barred Owl

For all the time I spent learning about ospreys and other birds while writing WASHASHORE, I spent relatively  little time in the immediate presence of birds. I mean, I did my best to see them in the wild, and I spent a whole lot of hours waiting for ospreys to return to the nest, or watching them fly overhead, or listening to the music of the birds in the early morning in both Ohio and Martha’s Vineyard.

But making eye contact? Not so much.

I got my chance today, though, when I finally met Manon VanSchoyck and the collection of birds of prey she brought to a presentation for sixth graders at New Albany Middle School. I wanted to meet her and see what she does because we are planning to visit schools together in a joint program of writing, book talk, osprey talk, conservation discussion and bird presentations. Alas, Manon doesn’t have a rehabilitated osprey, but she has plenty of raptors and birds of prey. Today she brought a screech owl, a kestrel, a barred owl and a great horned owl.

Great Horned Owl

Hiboux, the Great Horned Owl

It turns out that owls are very good at eye contact. And when the stare is coming from beneath the angled brows of an enormous great horned owl like Hiboux (right), who appears quite powerful despite a paralyzed wing resulting from a bout with West Nile virus, it’s a tad bit intimidating. My parents revered aConcord_free_public_librarynd treasured books. In fact, my father hoarded them. They lined the walls of our house and you had to wend your way between stacks of them to get to his desk.Especially when he pairs the stare with a loud clacking of his stiletto-sharp beak.

But it’s also thrilling. These birds are stunning – from the majestic barred owl, with its disc-shaped face and fluffy feathers to the tiny, Furby-like screech owl. And Mrs. Van gave a lively, information-packed presentation that kept the kids enthralled for close to an hour. I’m really looking forward to working together.

I’ll have to make sure I speak first. Who wants to follow the live birds of prey?

Perhaps I’d better start working on my stare.


Screech Owl

“Who do you think you’re looking at?”






For more information about my school and library presentations with Mrs. Van, go here. For information about Mrs. Van’s organization, Ohio Nature Education, go here.

Leave a Reply