May 24, 2016
This morning, four classes of first graders from Parkview Elementary in Dillon, Mont. took part in a field trip to the University of Montana Western to learn about interesting insects from professor of biology, Jack Kirkley.
An impromptu sighting of a Great Horned Owl on campus led Kirkley to slightly detour the field trip so the eager insect enthusiasts could view the bird of prey. Kirkley is an ornithologist by training, specializing in raptor ecology.
The first graders had studied owls last fall and were very excited to see one up close, Valach said.
Valachs class was in luck, as they were treated to a front row view of a fledgling Great Horned Owl spending the morning in a low hanging branch of a Colorado spruce.
Kirkley explained that a fledgling is a young owl that has left the nest, but is too young to fly.
This particular fledgling likely hatched about five weeks ago and is probably capable of very limited flight, if any, at this time, Kirkley said. Were lucky to live in an area where sightings are fairly common. We have an abundance of small mammals, birds, snakes and other species that the owls dine on.
Valach, a 1977 graduate of then Western Montana College (now Montana Western) is in her 33rd year of teaching and enjoys field trips to her alma mater to expand on the education of her students.