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Friday, April 5, 2013

The Owl and the Bat

Doesn't that sound like a good children's book?  Of course the Big Brown Bat reminded me of a Dr. Seuss book, so why not write a children's book about these two animals that we discussed at our WHEP meeting this afternoon!?  Well...maybe one day I will, but for today...I was just fortunate enough to have time to teach a class about these two wildlife species!

Big brown bat
General information
Big brown bats are one of 46 bat species in North America. They inhabit nearly all of the U.S., except for south Florida and south-central Tex­as, and use a variety of vegetation types, from farmland to mature deciduous forest. Big brown bats are insectivores. Lactating females will eat their weight in insects daily. Males and females may roost individually or in small numbers, but males and females usually roost separately. Females may roost together in a maternal col­ony when pups are born and nursing. Females usually give birth to one or two pups, often in a hollow tree or attic. Big brown bats, as with all other bat species, are nocturnal and are the only mammals capable of flying. Big brown bats will drink “on-the-wing” by dipping their lower jaw into a water source. Big brown bats hibernate in the winter in northern latitudes, therefore, do not actively feed during winter months, but instead rely on stored fat reserves.

Habitat requirements
Diet: night-flying insects, especially beetles
Water: free-standing water is required daily when they are active
Cover: buildings and hollow trees are often used for daytime roosts; bat houses may also be used for daytime roosting; caves, mines and buildings are used for hibernation

We first learned about the big brown bat.  Here is the information we covered:
Although learning about these animals is interesting and I have a respect for their benefits to our habitats, I must admit that I did not spend a lot of time with this species.

We then learned about one of my favorite animals...the Great Horned Owl.  I grouped these two together for their nocturnal features.  However, the owl is much easier to appreciate.  Even if it does regurgitate its waste, it is an amazing bird!  This is what we learned:

Great horned owl
General information
The great horned owl is found throughout North America in a wide variety of vegetation types including open Stage 6, interspersed with areas of Stages 2, 3 and 4, including orchards, farm woodlots and city parks. They also are oc­casionally found in rocky canyons away from forest cover. The great horned owl is nocturnal and roosts during the day in trees or on shel­tered rocky ledges.

Habitat requirements
Diet: great horned owls forage at night; the diet is extremely varied but commonly includes small- to medium-sized mammals including rabbits, skunks, squirrels and others, as well as reptiles, amphibians, large insects and fish
Water: water obtained from diet
Cover: nest in abandoned nests of hawks, crows or herons, and in large tree cavities, crotch­es, stumps, caves and ledges 

Then I surprised the group with their own owl pellets to dissect   They were suppose to determine the meal of the owl by the contents of the pellet.  After a few minutes, the first group asked if  I had made their pellet.  I laughed and said no...but they insisted that it was home-made.  Sure enough it was FAKE!!!  They got a ball of lint with a plastic skeleton!  The other group had to dig through hair that had been recycled into a nice pod of bones, hair, oil and waste!

I told the second group that I wanted them to pretend they were owls and reassemble the pellet.  They immediately started talking about the lint being pressed around the bone...carried out to the edge of the tree cavity and set out until the nice scientists came by to pick up their specimen in a nice neat bag!

It made me think of a children's book!  Maybe I will write about the little owl who did not want to puke up its guts!  LOL!

Another fun day with the WHEP crew!  I am so glad we are able to enjoy this project!  Many more adventures to go before the end of the 4H year!

Also a BIG THANK YOU to Ms Brenda who gave everyone a bag of wild bird seed to pique our interest in bird watching!  I hope we can buy a nice bird feeder to put in one of our trees in the front yard soon!

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