This past Saturday at the National Aviary marked Pumpkin the Owl's First Birthday, and Bill and I were in attendance for the celebration!
Me and a baby owl! She's trying to figure out if she can swallow me whole or not.
You might remember our visit to the Aviary's Owl-o-ween last October. It was one of my favorite events from the whole 60 Days of 2013. Saturday commemorated last year's baby owl no longer being quite such a youngster anymore. There was even cake!
Cupcakes anyhow, which is probably better
Saturday's Owl of the Hour, Pumpkin, made an appearance at last Owl-o-ween, but he stayed on his handler's glove the entire show. This time around, however, included Pumpkin's first public flight! We arrived early for the morning festivities because even though there was a second flight in the afternoon, we wanted to see the darling owl's debut in the air! But it was touch and go when Pumpkin decided that hanging out on his box was far superior to showing off for a room full of strangers.
He yelled at us all a few times. So cool to say I was scolded by an owl
The Aviary is a great place that doesn't force their birds to perform "tricks". Handlers encourage them with positive reinforcement, but if Pumpkin had chosen to hold his position, then he would have been fully allowed to do so. And after close to ten minutes on his perch, it looked like Bill and I would have to stay for the afternoon flight, which was sure to be even more packed than the morning one, since everyone would want a second chance to see Pumpkin perform. Just when it was looking unfortunately doubtful, the Eurasian Eagle owl preened, a gust of wind actually moved my hair, and Pumpkin arrived on his handler's arm. The experience seriously left me breathless. Amazing.
At the craft table!
Although I loved Owl-o-ween, I think there was even more to do at the Aviary on Saturday. For one thing, there was a new craft that will get to join my refrigerator owl from last year!
Quiet on the set! I'm creating a true work of art.
All done. What a masterpiece!
Another favorite moment for me was meeting Pumpkin's baby sister, Tootsie. Much to my delight, she also yelled at me.
Look at that little carnivore all covered in down!
Ironically, Pumpkin was almost named Tootsie, and I completely objected to the moniker. But when I met the recently-christened Tootsie (she's only six weeks old), it seemed to suit her perfectly. All things in time, I guess.
In unfortunate news, the Burrowing Owls were not on display until toward the end of the event, and Bill and I left early, so we didn't get to see their skinny pants-appropriate gams on our visit. This was probably my only disappointment for the day since hanging out with them was a real highlight last time.
At first, I thought they just needed some coaxing, so I tried to use my craft owl to lure them out. I sadly failed.
And last but in absolutely no way possible least, we once again saw my beloved Barkley. For you regular readers, you remember him as the one-eyed owl that graced us with his awesomeness in October. Prior to the event, I read on the schedule that there would be a storytime with an Eastern Screech Owl. That was how Barkley was billed at Owl-o-ween, so I waited with anticipation through the story of Little Hoot to see the identity of the screech owl.
This event is so obviously geared toward kids, but I don't care.
I'll be a thirty-year-old child. Most of my family call me that anyways.
The story ended, the handler went back stage, and out came Barkley! Another high point of the day to say the least.
Who's the best little screech owl in the world? Barkley!
On a bittersweet note, we learned that Barkley is fifteen, a full five years past the age that screech owls live in the wild. This means that despite his so-called handicap, this cutie has beaten the odds and then some. But the thought that Barkley might not be on the schedule in October (or next October or the one after) because he's gone to the big nest in the sky sort of breaks my heart. Yup, seriously, I'm tearing up just typing this, so going to move on...
He's so chill, basking in the love of the audience
In the meantime, Barkley is doing just fine and looking as darling as ever. Just take a gander at that little face!
There's my boy!
So the take home message of the day is that owls rock, the Aviary is awesome, and if you're ever in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, you need to make it a major priority to visit. Pumpkin thanks you, Tootsie thanks you, Barkley thanks you, and I thank you for the support!