GAMBIER — Wildlife presentations up close and personal, an attempt at a “Zero Waste” event, vendors galore and tables where you could make your own animal shelters — bee hotels, bluebird boxes and bat houses — were just some of the Earth Day offerings Saturday at the Brown Family Environmental Center.
Weekend rain that poured Friday held off on Saturday, making for a large turnout that Maddie Morgan, BFEC post-baccalaureate fellow, said could contend with last year’s Earth Day celebration of about 800 people.
Nothing starts out an Earth Day event like a wildlife presentation, so one of the first was an Ohio Bird Sanctuary show in the BFEC building offered by Gail Laux, sanctuary executive director. She brought out three birds that have been rehabilitated in the sanctuary their entire lives, as, due to injuries, they would not have survived in the wild: A tiny, 6-ounce Screech owl named Winnie; a much larger Great Horned Owl, appropriately named Seymour for his keen vision; and a majestic, friendly turkey vulture named Ichabod who liked to spread his wings. The Ohio Bird Sanctuary is a 90-acre preserve in Mansfield and likes to welcome visitors.
As she held the small Screech owl on her forearm, covered by a leather gauntlet, Laux said Winnie, named for the sound young screech owls make, had fallen out of a tree as a baby. Two siblings were unharmed and rehabilitated into the wild but she had to be permanently cared for due to a head injury that left the dilations in the pupils of her eyes at different sizes.
Laux noticed that Winnie was nervously going up and down her forearm, as she appeared to see two stuffed hawks on one of the BFEC walls. “They’re not moving,” Laux told Winnie. “You’re all good.”
One who can also make Winnie a bit nervous given her small size is Seymour, also a female owl, who is much larger, being a Great Horned Owl. She had also fallen from a tree as a youth and has now been with the Ohio Bird Sanctuary about 10 years. Most birds — with the exception of vultures and some others — cannot smell, so they rely on sights and sounds to hunt effectively, Laux said, including owls like Seymour. Many children noticed how large owls’ eyes are, to which Laux replied, “to have eyes as big as an owl’s, they (humans) would have to be as big as grapefruits.”
The Ohio Bird Sanctuary was not the only wildlife organization on hand at the BFEC for Earth Day. The Ohio Wildlife Center and Our Zoo to You, a privately run organization, were there, with Our Zoo to You offering chances to pet a Coatimundi — South America’s friendly version of a raccoon and its close relative. There were also shows titled Ohio Nature Education and Yellow Flower, Storyteller, featuring Native American animal stories.
Outside, on BFEC’s front lawn, there were ample opportunities for children and adults to build animals shelters including bee hotels made of hollow bamboo sticks where every stick is a “room” for a bee. They were tied together with twine. Jonathan and Kassandra Miller of Gambier looked on as their four children, Madalynne, 4, Maddox, 6, Kaylynne, 8, and Dallas, 10, gathered the bamboo sticks they wanted to make theirs. Onlookers commented that the bamboo sticks were an appropriate choice for Earth Day because they are biodegradable.
“We know Earth Day here at the Brown (Family Environmental) Center is fun so it’s why we come every year,” Kassandra Miller said. “In fact, just about every event held here is really well done and we enjoy doing other things here as well like nature walks to see birds.”
Not too far away but across the lawn was a large, four-sided grouping of tables giving Earth Day attendees a chance to make their own bluebird boxes and bat houses, making use of friendly volunteers on hand to help them, and cordless drill sets. One who enjoyed making a bluebird house was John Rogers of Mount Vernon, who moved to the area just under a year ago with his wife, Cindy. Originally from Lima, they did so because their grandchildren wanted them to be closer to other relatives in Marengo.
Rogers said it was fitting for him to build a bluebird box, with his wife getting set to build one as well. “We helped form a new birding group here, called Knox County Birders, and we’re on Facebook. We’re new but we already have 22 members.”
Randy Canterbury, director of Knox County Recycling and Litter Prevention, said his organization’s volunteers at recycling receptacles were having a good impact on the “Zero Waste” part of the event. Those with food were able to separate their food from other items that can be recycled or composted. He noted that plastic cups for juice drinks, brought in by the Green Vibes Juice Truck, were recyclable. Litter and Recycling Prevention was one of close to 20 Earth Day community sponsors. The event also had nearly a dozen sponsors.
“I think we’ll get to 80 to 90 percent (recyclable and compostable),” he said, noting all discarded items would be weighed. If a 90 percent mark is reached, it means a successful “Zero Waste” event just happened.