By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
Owls have become a common sight around the Walpole Library in the last few weeks. After a live-animal presentation that brought several raptors - including two owls - to the space on February 22, children were invited back to the library last week for “Hoot! The Secret Life of Owls.”
On Thursday, March 7, Sarah from the Museum of American Bird Art came for a visit to teach local kids all about the nocturnal birds and guide them through an owl-themed craft. Sarah had three intensely interested audience members: Allie and Nattie, twins who were six and half years old, and their babysitter.
Sarah began with a short presentation about the different types of owl that can be found all around New England, and the different sounds they make. The snowy owl tends to stick around Cape Cod because it blends in well against the plains of empty beaches during the winter months. Unlike other owls, they make their nests on the ground.
Next, Sarah showed her audience the great horned owl, pointing out the “horns” - really just tufts of feather - on each side of their heads.
Sarah then showed her audience a picture of a mother owl sitting on her carefully-built nest. "Look for the baby," she said. It didn't take long for either of the little girls to find the baby bird, sitting by its mother's feet.
After having the girls hear the different owl sounds, Sarah began reading the children’s classic, “Owl Moon,” by Jane Yolen. The book is about a child who goes out at night to go owling. Owling is the practice of going out looking for owls to observe in the wild.
"If you go owling, you have to be quiet," Sarah whispered as she began reading the story. The story continues, with the narrator providing the necessary guidelines to successful owling as the main characters make their way through the woods. "If you go owling, you have to be brave," the narrator says during a particular frightening moment. The narrator and his father eventually find an owl.
At the conclusion of the story, Sarah brought out three pancake-shaped clumps of air-dry clay, one for each of her audience members and one for herself. "My favorite thing to do when I learn is to do art," she said, placing each piece of clay on the table. She showed off two owls that she or her friends had made previously. She then showed the girls how to turn their pancakes into owls, starting with the wings. "Fold each side like an envelope," she instructed. Then she moved on to the tufts, like the great horned owl, pinching the top of the clay into little triangles. "Now we get to do the fun part and decorate," she said. Alli and Nattie sculpted the clay, making it look more like owls, adding lines to their wings and carefully carving in feathers. "I love your beak," Sarah told Nattie.
"You can name your owl," Sarah told the girls. "Silver," Nattie declared, knowing right away what her owl was destined to be named. After some thought, Allie decides to name her owl “Gold.” The two also decide to name the three unnamed clay owls Sarah brought with her: Speckle, Sparkle, and Shimmer.
By the end of the workshop, the girls had learned all about owls, their habitat, the sounds they make, and the process of owling. They left with their own carefully made clay owls.
It was a hoot for everyone involved.