MAHOMET — “Hoo” was at the Museum of the Grand Prairie in Mahomet on Friday night, Feb. 7?
Participants in the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve’s “Owl Prowl” who gave a hoot, of course.
The Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve hosted “Owl Prowl” from 5:30-7 p.m., and around 20 participants took in the program that prowled for owls outside the Museum of the Grand Prairie.
The program began indoors with a presentation, where Jennifer Wick, public program specialist, talked about owls and their adaptations.
Wick went over the local species that are most common around Champaign County, and other Illinois owl species.
Three of the most common owls in central Illinois are the great horned, barred and screech owls. All three are perch hunters, meaning that they sit on a tree branch and wait for a rodent or other prey to move on the ground below before attacking.
After the presentation, Wick and the participants took a hike around the grounds for about
“We just kind of listened for owls,” said Wick. “Because it was dark out and we don’t use bright lights or anything like that, visibility was limited. So mainly we were listening for them, and we played some owl calls on the hike to see if that will attract any species. It’s really hit or miss.”
Unfortunately, Friday night the participants did not see any owls, despite the fact that more owls can be found in Champaign County amid the winter months, while some species nest or breed during this time.
After the hike, participants gathered back inside the Museum of the Grand Prairie building and dissected owl pellets.
What is an owl pellet?
Well, after an owl eats a small rodent, bird, or bug as part of a nightly diet, its stomach cannot digest fur, bones, teeth, feathers, and insect shells from that food.
These “extra” parts are formed into a tight pellet inside the owl and then are later spit up.
Pellets are usually about as big as an adult thumb and can be dissected to learn exactly what owls eat and what kinds of small animals and bugs live in a particular area.
The owl pellets used at the Owl Prowl were purchased online to ensure cleanliness and safety for participants.
While dissecting, participants used a magnifying glass to look at the tiny bones and, in addition, watched a video of an owl spitting up a pellet in slow motion.
Children and adults participated, including 6-year-old Callie Benway.
Callie was there to learn more for a school project.
“I have this art project at school,” said Callie Benway. “I picked the owl.”
“She wanted to learn more about owls, because she has to do a project on them at school,” said Callie’s mother, Christine Benway. “So we have a lot of information we have to go and fill out about what they eat and where they live and what they can look like or sound like. And this was perfect for us!”