GREEN Five-year-old Ava Waechter loves owls. And, as she proved time and again at last month’s Planet Green Seminar, she is no slouch at identifying them either.
"What does she like to do?" an incredulous Judy Semroc, conservation outreach specialist for the Cleveland Natural History Museum’s Natural Areas Division, asked Ava’s mother after several correct owl-identification answers. "I’d steer her toward ornithology."
Given her daughters penchant for the mysterious mice-hunting denizens of the nighttime sky, attending "The Wonderful World of Owls" seminar was pretty much a foregone conclusion, Heather Waechter said.
"She has just always like owls," Heather said. "And this has helped us with the one that lives behind us."
Which, Ava confidently concluded, is a Great Horned Owl. She added that she also enjoys learning about all birds at school.
The event was the first of several planned Planet Green forums, part of the city’s newest Living Green initiative. The Planet Green Forum is a series of seminars designed to educate and inform about the natural world of residents’ own backyards.
The Wonderful World of Owls, held March 28 at the Central Park Community Hall, was presented in partnership with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Future Planet Green events will include The Faces of Conservation, Hike & Wine Tours, and Beautiful Birds and Their Habitats. Green Community Development Administrator Sarah Haring said the plan is to eventually host these events at Southgate Park.
"The Living Green Initiative started in 2012 and it is about preserving our resources," Haring said at the March 28 program. "We wanted to start (the Planet Green Forum) with something that had a high interest. I think we hit on it."
Indeed, the event drew a filled house of owl aficionados as Semroc explained what species of owls spend time in Northeast Ohio – either part of full time; where to look for them; and not-so-commonly-known details such as the difference between a barn owl and a barred owl, what differentiates the tufts on a great horned and a long eared owl, and how smelling a skunk in a tree could be a sign of a nearby owl.
"They eat a great diversity of vertebrates and don’t have a good sense of smell," Semroc explained. "So an owl does not care what a skunk smells like."
A former petroleum geologist and science teacher who has co-author of two natural history guides and regularly hosts nature hikes, interpretive programs and photography events, Semroc gave tips throughout the Wonderful World of Owls presentation on what not to do – and not do - when owl "hunting."
In short, Semroc said, as nature’s night shift workers, owls are masters of disguise during the day, using vine tangles, wetlands and crevices in trees as ingenious hiding places. She added that it is also essential that those hiding places be kept private.
"I hope the presentation increases awareness and interest," Semroc said at the end of the presentation.
Haring said Semroc and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History have been "wonderful community partners."
"Judy and her team have extensive knowledge of the precious natural resources in our city and (the series) is sure to have something that will interest absolutely everyone," Haring said.