Placing a five-gallon pail on a drop cloth in the woods, bird bander and resident Larry Fischer reached in for the first of five baby screech owls.
Crouched around the pail were Diane and Stephen Costallos’s children Morgan, 7, Cooper, 3, and Aspen, 2. Young Slade Carlin, 3, joined them. They watched as Mr Fischer cradled one bird against him, its talons out, and wrapped and crimped a metal band around its leg. With the bands soon in place on all five babies, he would potentially be able to learn where the birds go, how long they live, and whether they maintain a nest site and mate fidelity.
He has been monitoring a nesting box on Howard Lasher’s property on Route 302 just a few yards from the Bethel border. On Tuesday evening, May 21, as the children and parents arrived, Mr Fischer, joined by Mr Lasher and Dave Cadra who works with birds of prey in Westport, and several others, made the short walk to the owls’ nest to band the babies, just shy of a month old.
Placing one bird after another onto the drop cloth where they settled — untroubled by the crowd around them — Mr Fischer soon placed four back in his bucket that he would carry back up a ladder to a nesting box. The fifth baby owl took turns perched on children’s fingers and especially cast a spell on Ms Costallos, who gazed beak to nose into the tiny, fluffy creature’s pale yellow eyes. “I have never had an experience quite this cool,” she said.
As guests watched the baby birds, Mr Fischer added a continual narrative into the screech owls living habits, history, and tendencies.
He hopes the young survive their first winter, which can be especially difficult. He expects they can live five to seven years in the wild.