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Spot owls with the whole family at these night walks on Long Island

The Eastern screech owl is a pint-sized owl

The Eastern screech owl is a pint-sized owl that can be found up in the trees. Credit: istock

Hoot, hoot, hoot. Those might be some of the sounds you’ll hear on an upcoming Owl Prowl on Long Island.

The owl prowls are an opportunity to learn about the nighttime creatures that live among us on Long island, says Eric Powers, a biologist and ranger at the Center for Environmental Education and Discovery (CEED) in Brookhaven.

"It’s not just about seeing owls," says Powers, who’s led prowls around the area for the past 20 years. "We can see or hear flying squirrels, deer, foxes and other creatures of the night."

Flying squirrels, incidentally, don’t actually fly, but glide, he notes.

Eyes and Ears Only

On the prowls, Powers teaches participants how to use their night vision.

"I don’t let anybody bring any artificial light source: no flashlights, no blinky shoes," he says. "We let our eyes adjust to the darkness and I teach them some skills I learned when I was a park ranger and we used to have to patrol in the dark, and we incorporate that into our nature hike as well."

At the Sands Point Preserve, there are two separate prowls: one for families and another just for adults.

"We find that children are kind of antsy and squirmy and they’re making noises," says Powers, adding that adult-only sessions typically result in a higher likelihood of owl spotting.

The prowl begins with a presentation highlighting the owl population in the area.

"We’re very blessed on Long Island that we have so many species of owls," says Powers. "We could see barn owls, great horned owls and screech owls."

The different owls have different coloring, calls and even habits: the screech owl is crepuscular (it ventures out at dusk); the other two are nocturnal.

In a recent prowl at the preserve, the group experienced a pair of screech owls flying overhead.

"They get very curious about what we are, who we are, and they want to fly down and fly right over our heads, to the point where some people duck," Powers says.

Speaking "Owlish"

To attract the owls, Powers does his own owl calls, rather than playing recordings which could lead to their believing other owls are in their territory and cause them to leave.

"I’m not an owl, so I’m just going to have a simulated call and I’m trying to pique their interest to come closer and check us out," Powers says.

This is the first year Sands Point will include a family prowl, notes Tracy Strianese, director of education for the Port Washington preserve.

The prowls start with a 45 to 60-minute outdoor presentation under the lights of Castle Gould, followed by the walk, both led by Powers.

"It’s just fun because it’s kind of a special opportunity to be on the grounds of the preserve at night," says Strianese. "We’re not usually doing programs at night, and if we are, it’s in the mansion. So, it’s nice to be able to walk the preserve at night."

Having attended a few of the previous prowls at the preserve, Hildur Palsdottir is looking forward to attending another.

"The first time I attended it was just spectacular," says Palsdottir, 48, an environmental educator who lives in Port Washington. "I was really impressed with how ranger Eric Powers speaks ‘owlish."

Palsdottir says she’s very impressed with Powers’ respect for the owls and that he won’t interfere with their territorial by playing recorded owl calls.

"They come close, but at a distance, because they’re curious about who’s trying to speak owlish. But when they come close enough, they realize he’s not an owl and they leave. I love the integrity of his work."

OWL PROWL FOR ADULTS

WHEN | WHERE: Friday, Nov. 5, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Sands Point Preserve, 127 Middle Neck Road, Port Washington; 516-570-2185, sandspointpreserveconservancy.org

INFO: Admission, $20

WHEN | WHERE: Nov. 20, 7 to 8:30 p.m.; Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport; 631-854-5579, vanderbiltmuseum.org

INFO: Admission, $12

OWL PROWLS FOR FAMILIES

WHEN | WHERE: Friday, Oct. 29 and Nov. 19, 7 to 8 p.m.; CEED, 287 S. Country Road, Brookhaven; 631-803-6780, ceedli.org

INFO: Admission, $10

WHEN | WHERE: Saturday, Nov. 6, 7 to 8:30 p.m.; Sands Point Preserve

INFO: Adults, $20, children 8 and older, $10

WHEN | WHERE: Saturday, Nov. 13, 7 to 8:30 p.m.; Vanderbilt Museum

INFO: Adults and children 4 and older, $12

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