Sunday, November 4, 2012

“How Nightshade Changed My Life”

By Alexandra Forsythe

They say every birder has a "spark" bird - a bird that captures your heart and transforms you from a bird watcher into a birder.  My spark bird was a Northern Saw-Whet Owl that I named "Nightshade".

I had the honor of meeting Nightshade during the Northern Saw-Whet Owl banding program at the Indiana Dunes State Park last year.  Nightshade was one of the owls caught that night.  Unlike the other captured owls, Nightshade fought ferociously and managed to get herself very tangled in the net.  The net had to be cut in order to free her.  I admired her spirit and asked to adopt her.  Visitors who adopt the captured owls are kept informed of their owl's travels if they are captured again.  Plus, the adoption fees help the Dunes continue to learn more about the owls.  It's an incredible program; you get such a feeling of satisfaction knowing you're helping not just one owl, but an entire species!

Nightshade, in owl fashion, spun my head around and turned me into a birder.  I started looking for birds everywhere I went and thinking about birds almost obsessively. 

I also realized that I wanted to help others appreciate and learn more about owls and other birds.  I created a PowerPoint presentation about Northern Saw-Whet Owls that I had the honor of presenting during two of the Dunes' banding programs.  I also wrote some booklets and created pamphlets that are available as free downloads on the Resources page of my website:

In addition, I am giving a presentation on North American Owls at Pokagon State Park's Nature Center where I work as a volunteer helping visitors identify and learn more about birds.  I designed the owl program so that people of all ages will enjoy it, from quizzes that test your ability to identify the owls of North America to crafts, worksheets, and prizes for the kids.  It will be at 1:00pm on November 11.

I'm hoping people will come to the programs at the Dunes and Pokagon as curious visitors, but leave with a lifelong appreciation of birds.  I think Nightshade would agree!

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