Evening with the Owls

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Farm Forum

In her best-selling book “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” J.K. Rowling writes of a dark shop called the Eeylops Owl Emporium where Harry and his classmates who are enrolled in a school with the unusual name of Hogwarts, choose their pet owls. They have an assortment of owls to choose from including the Tawny, Screech, Barn, Brown or Snowy. These owls in Rowling’s fictional novel are more than just pets, but deliver messages and packages from home; much like the carrier pigeons did in the trenches of World War I.

It is by no accident that J.K. Rowling chose the mysterious owl for the characters in her book. Owls have excellent night vision and often hunt in total darkness. They glide silently with only intermittent wing beats over fields and prairies where they prey on small mammals such as voles and mice. Only a few people have had the privilege to witness a kill.

Owls swallow the small animals whole. In their booklet “Owls of South Dakota”, Douglas C. Backlund and Eileen Dowd Stukel describe owl pellets. “Owls do not have a crop like most birds. The food is digested in a modified chamber of the stomach, called the proventriculus. When the digestion process is complete, the muscular walls of a second stomach chamber, called the gizzard, compact the remaining bones and fur or feather into a pellet. Owls must regurgitate the pellets before they can feed again. Owl pellets have provided vast amounts of knowledge about owl diets.”

This Saturday evening, August 2nd, the annual program “Evening with the Owls” will be hosted at the Oahe Downstream Recreation Area beginning at 8:30 p.m. Nathan Baker of the Game Fish & Parks will be featured and copies of the publication “Owls of South Dakota” will be available free of charge. I will bring some foil-wrapped owl pellets for you to examine. If the thought of looking at an owl pellet makes you feel slightly squeamish, you may skip that part of the program!

The program is free to the public but a vehicle park sticker is required for entrance to the park. You may purchase a one-day park pass if you so desire. We hope that you will come and enjoy the “Evening with the Owls.”