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Birds of prey, geocaching highlight first Spring Fling

Melody Garland lifted the great horned owl in her heavily gloved hand to face level.

"You're just mean, aren't you?" the assistant naturalist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said to the bird.

"This guy is the king of the forest," she told people gathered Saturday for Mistletoe State Park's Inaugural Spring Fling, noting that the great horned owl has been known to raid eagles' nests.

Garland's one-hour presentation on birds of prey also included a red-tailed hawk and a barred owl. The birds have been injured and cannot be returned to the wild. The hawk and the barred owl were hit by cars, Garland said, and the great horned owl got caught in a badminton net and suffered neurological damage.

She asked those in the crowd, about half of them children, to make as tight a fist as they could. She said the human grip is about 100 pounds of pressure per square inch. The barred owl, she said, has a grip of about 400 pounds per square inch, and the great horned owl about 600.

Even with the thick glove on her hand, she said, "he's really hurting my thumb."

The hawk, she said, can hear the rustle of a mouse from two football fields away.

Saturday's event, held under blue skies and with mild temperatures, also included geocaching, a presentation on wildlife rehabilitation, a mobile natural history exhibit by Wildlife Action Inc., interpretive hayrides, a workshop on birdhouse building and a demonstration on "creative camp cooking."

Chip Thomas of Evans, who was manning the geocaching tent, said about 50 enthusiasts showed up for the high-tech scavenger hunt that combines global positioning technology and outdoor fun.

Robert Yonchak said he and his family have been saving injured wildlife for 20 years. He warned against picking up an injured animal because it could have rabies or another disease. He said it's best to cover the bird or animal and call the Department of Natural Resources.

Those who attended the cooking demonstration saw biscuits baked in a cardboard box, an omelet made in a bag and hamburgers fried on a rock, among other things.

Park manager Dan Shea said about 280 people participated in the daylong activities, which he considered pretty good for a first-time event.

Web posted on Thursday, May 05, 2011

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