Local Park Hosts ASNV Conservation Event

Local Park Hosts ASNV Conservation Event

Tina Dudley, organizer of the ASNV event at Potomac Overlook Regional Park (left) and volunteer Hanna Tudor

Tina Dudley, organizer of the ASNV event at Potomac Overlook Regional Park (left) and volunteer Hanna Tudor

A tiny screech owl stares intently at NOVA Parks Roving Naturalist Matt Felperin as Felperin stands in front of a crowd at Potomac Overlook Regional Park on Saturday. “I know he recognizes my face. I wish I could say we have an attachment, but how do you really know?”

The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia (ASNV) has sponsored a free Spring Social event. Stations are set up all over the park featuring native plant garden talks, children’s birdathon bingo, birds of prey and screech owl talks and plenty of snacks.

Red-shouldered hawk, local buteo, a forest bird with a wingspan of 37-50 inches. 


Dr. Thomas Wood who teaches several courses at George Mason including “Mystery of Migration” and is a member of the ASNV Board, gives a brief explanation about the local buteo, the red shouldered hawk located in the Birds of Prey House. The bird is smaller than the red-tailed hawk but has a wingspan of 37-50 inches. “Have any of you heard the hawk? They are hot and heavy in breeding now, selecting mates.”

Wood explains when a cold front comes, the migrating birds fly behind it. “Look up. Thunderstorms are full of accipiters.” He says the birds lay down and then get up and soar, taking advantage of the thermals in front. “If you haven’t been, you should go to Hawk Mountain for the migration in the fall.”

Tina Dudley is in charge of organizing today’s event. She walks through the park checking the stations and stops at a table with a large book of song birds complete with a link to their sounds and pictures of local birds. “Here is a stack of habitat bingo sheets for the kids.” Inside the building nearby is a bingo game for adults. “First one successful wins a hat.”

It’s 2:30 pm, and a group leaves the Birds of Prey house to head back to the stage area at the front of the park for the screech owl talk. The crowd of about 60 watches as Felperin explains this ambassador screech owl was the victim of an auto strike and can’t fly functionally. He says screech owls love tree cavities and can eat even small fish or frogs in water but eat rodents primarily. 

“People ask me if he gets bored alone in his cage. But his cage is just the right size for him, and he has all he needs. Screech owls want to be solitary; they don’t want a friend.’

Felperin gently strokes the owl’s head. “I can’t let anyone else touch him. It does relax him; I can’t tell if he likes it but he does close his eyes.

“He is about 12 years old. Screech owls generally live to about 10 in the wild but can live up to 20 years in captivity. I hope he breaks a record. I’m very attached to him.”

Chocolate Chuck is accompanying his owner as a hearing and mobility dog. “He is 10-years old, a real gentle presence.”