Visit an event this weekend

Published 9:54 pm Monday, May 16, 2011

Maybe I had one of my rare absences on this particular day in elementary school, but I don’t remember ever learning about owl pellets.

Last week, I did a preview story for this past weekend’s birding festival at the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. As part of this story, I mentioned that one of the activities that would be held at the swamp’s maintenance headquarters on Desert Road would be owl pellet dissection.

I assumed owl pellets meant owl feces, and owl pellet dissection meant picking through the specimens for evidence of what the owl had eaten.

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I was half right. While the purpose of dissecting an owl pellet is to figure out what the owl consumed, an owl pellet is actually the indigestible, regurgitated remains — mostly bones, fur and feathers — of animals that the owl swallowed whole.

Gross. Clearly I was at home suffering from some sort of childhood virus on the day the rest of my lucky classmates learned about owl pellets.

I finally learned about owl pellets on Saturday when I went to take photos at the birding festival. I also got to hold two snakes, learn about the hydrology of the swamp and listen to a cool band called Bobby Plough and Friends.

Had I been so inclined, I also could have painted my own birdhouse, gotten my face painted, created my own wood-chip necklace or colored my own reusable shopping bag. And I didn’t even manage to make it to any of the birding tours or educational workshops.

As I watched young children eagerly tear apart owl pellets and learn about how they form, I thought about the many activities that are available in Suffolk every weekend. Events sponsored by churches, private organizations, city departments and other government entities like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (which controls the Great Dismal Swamp) are always in great abundance.

These events always offer great entertainment or unique educational opportunities — or, more often, a mix of both. Even better, they’re almost always free.

But it seems that many of these events frequently don’t have as many in attendance as they could have. And the ones who aren’t there most likely are the ones complaining that there’s never anything for their children to do.

Accept this as a challenge to visit one of the many events going on this Saturday, including the car show in downtown from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the Northern Shores Community Day from noon to 3 p.m.; or the Holland Founders Day from 9:30 a.m. through the afternoon. You’re guaranteed to have a good time.