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Who’s Whooo Program at Huntley Meadows Park

It wasn’t the best weather for an outdoor event. Reports had predicted storms. Though the rain had passed through the area over night it was still blustery and overcast. Even with the sun trying desperately to peek through the clouds, occasionally succeeding, a chill remained in the air. The owls didn’t mind. The barred owl even panted a bit after flapping wildly on the handler’s arm, posturing for its admirers. A testament to how well dense feathers insulate an owl against the offerings of winter.


Huntley Meadows Park (HMP) hosted an owl program presented by ‘Secret Garden Birds and Bees (SGBB)’ on 5 Dec 2020. This organization of wildlife rehabilitators, falconers, beekeepers, and naturalists is dedicated to sharing their love of nature through informative and entertaining educational programs, events and activities. This day at HMP the team of Liz Dennison (VMN Banshee Reeks – Loudon) and Tim Dennison showcased 4 owls (Great Horned, Screech, Barn, and Barred) along with Big Red, a red-tailed hawk. As an organization they offer additional programs on general raptor habitat and identification, falconry, seasonal specific raptor behavior, as well as beekeeping and gardening. You may have had the pleasure of seeing them at events around the tri-sate area including Friend’s of Mason Neck’s Eagle Festival and Owl Moon Program. The birds have each been rehabilitated from injury (i.e. being hit by cars) but residual effects from their injuries (i.e. damaged eye sight, beak deformation) precludes safe release back into the wild. They are cared for on SGBB property in Loudon County along with bees and gardens.

SGBB Great Horned Owl – photo Jerry Nissley
SGBB Screech Owl – photo Jerry Nissley

The HMP program was offered through Fairfax County ParkTakes on-line registration system and was fully attended in compliance with current Virginia state limitations. The families in attendance were kept actively engaged and asked many questions about the bird’s behavior, characteristics, and habitat; and were treated to, how should I say, ‘spontaneous natural owl functions’ much to the joy of a couple of nine year old boys in the front row. Father said, “well son you got your wish”! The other function was the regurgitation of an owl pellet, which contained bone fragments from its last meal. Hey – people literally cheer for this bonus material folks!

SGBB Barn Owl – photo Jerry Nissley
SGBB Barred Owl – photo Jerry Nissley

To complement the spontaneous material the scripted information covered a description of each bird, how it nests, seasonal diets, how loss of habitat affects populations, the harmful impact to raptors that eat rodents that have ingested rodenticides, and preservation tactics such as owl box programs. Learning about how owls contribute to the environment and how they survive throughout the year builds a meaningful understanding of these magnificent birds of prey. The following Baba Dioum quote is on their website, “In the end we will only conserve what we love. We love only what we understand. We understand only what we are taught.” I say – we can never be taught too much! We just need to listen. This program was an excellent fun learning experience for all ages.

Contact information for Secret Garden Birds and Bees along with additional resources:

  1. www.SecretGardenBirdsAndBees.com email – liz@dennison.bz
  2. https://RaptorsAreTheSolution.org
  3. https://OwlPages.com
  4. https://www.PeregrineFund.org
  5. https://abcbirds.org

Friends of Mason Neck State Park Owl Moon Program, Zoom session October 17th

Saturday, October 17, 2020
7 pm
FREE
Register here

It’s nearly time for the Friends of Mason Neck State Park’s annual presentation of OWL MOON! This year, they will be bringing the event to you right in your own home using Zoom.

You will meet and learn about all the owls from raptor rehabilitator Secret Garden Birds and Bees, their favorite presenter. A special treat will be the introduction of Phantom – a beautiful barn owl. Find out what makes him unique as you also explore the life of a barred owl, great horned owl, and screech owl.

You will be able to ask questions about all the raptors in the program.
Get the whole family together. This event is appropriate for all ages and is open to the public. Registration is only $10 per person or family, which will help to offset the cost of the program. Don’t miss it!

After you register, they’ll provide you the instructions you’ll need to join the program.

Friends of Mason Neck Owl Moon Meeting, Sep. 14th

Mason Neck State Park Visitor Center
7301 High Point Rd, Lorton, VA 22079
Saturday, 14 September 2019
7 – 9 pm

Imagine sitting outside in the Park as the evening skies grow dim.  The sounds of the night erupt as the park’s wildlife begins its nocturnal prowl.  You might hear the call of a coyote or the hoot of a majestic owl as it flies to defend its territory.

Join Friends of Mason Neck State Park under the tent for a very special program – “A Year in the Life of an Owl”.  Featuring a Barred Owl, a Great Horned Owl, and an Eastern Screech Owl, and presented by the raptor rehabilitators and educators of Secret Garden Birds and Bees, this is a ‘must see’ presentation.

What makes this so special?  In addition to being interesting and educational, you will have the rare opportunity to view and these magnificent raptors up close as the rehabilitator walks through the tent and literally brings the birds to you!

Learn what great horned owls, barred owls, barn owls, and eastern screech owls are doing from January through December. Follow them through courtship, nesting, raising young, fledging and finally dispersal of the young to their own territories.

This event is open to the general public.  Registration is only $10 per person, which will help to offset the cost of the program.  Entrance to the park is free (no parking fee) after 6:30 pm.  You can register at Owl Moon Registration.