Folks flock to avian event

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 24, 2013 

Unlike her older sister Lorelei, 4-year-old Olive Powelson wasn't interested in digging through a wad of fur and bone coughed up by an owl.

"I don't want to get my hands dirty," she told her mother, Daylann Hart-Powelson.

No worries. A presentation on live raptors was set to start in a little while in another classroom at the McNary National Wildlife Refuge environmental education center.

"She really likes bald eagles," Hart-Powelson said of her younger daughter's interest in the predatory birds.

There was something for everyone at the refuge Saturday during the second annual Winter Birds event put on by Friends of Mid-Columbia River Wildlife Refuges.

Volunteers, wildlife officials and visitors said the event was a good way to learn about the refuge, the numerous birds and animals the rely on it and pique the curiosity of young and old alike.

"Seeing and learning helps people be connected and appreciate what's in their neighborhoods," said Sue McDonald, visitor services manager for the Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuges complex.

McDonald and Shannon Hays-Truex, board president for the Friends, said the event was established last year to bring people to the refuge to explore it while also recruiting possible future Friends members and volunteers.

They said there was good attendance for the event last year, but they were overwhelmed by the more than 100 people who showed up at the beginning of Saturday's event. Hunters, bird watchers, Scout groups and others clogged the main classroom for the introductory presentation.

"I'm glad to see a lot of families and children," Hays-Truex said.

And the visitors came from all over the Mid-Columbia, with Scouts hailing from West Richland and Benton City, and Hart-Powelson and her family from Richland.

Along with the live raptor show and hands-on owl pellet dissection, visitors could visit with a wildlife videographer, take a guided hike or help volunteers band birds caught at the refuge.

Garth Malin, a Kennewick resident and sophomore at Washington State University Tri-Cities, helped handle and release a few of the sparrows and juncos examined by volunteers. He said he plans to get a degree in wildlife ecology and the day's events meshed well with that goal.

"I'm getting some good information on what (biologists and ecologists) do and how they do it," he said.

However, despite Olive's misgivings about the owl pellets, there was no shortage of children lining up to get one and see how many different bones they could find in theirs.

"It's a favorite," said volunteer Erin Patterson. "You can't go wrong examining owl vomit."

w Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricity; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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