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Times of Wayne County

Nature detectives solve “Murder” Mystery at Audubon Center CSI event

Montezuma Audubon Center hosted their first program in the Hot Cocoa and Snow Series entitled CSI: Montezuma on January 8, 2011.

A bright and beautiful day welcomed 23 people to the Montezuma Audubon Center (MAC) for the first program in the 2011 Hot Cocoa and Snow series. The enthusiastic participants assisted MAC Education Manager Chris Lajewski solve a CSI: Montezuma “nature crime”. With snowshoes on their feet and a deep desire to figure out whoooo whoooo whoooo whoooo killed the short-tailed shrew that the group found in the grassland, a good time was had by all. “Everyone was very enthusiastic while we tried to piece together the clues out on the trail,” said Lajewski. “It was great to see the adults enjoying it, and occasionally hamming it up, with the children,” Lajewski said with a smile.

In the end, the group collectively agreed that the short-eared owl, and endangered species in New York State, was the creature that killed the shrew. This is, of course, part of the web of life and the story that Lajewski told today is real. Short-eared owls can be found occasionally in the Montezuma Wetland Complex during the winter but rarely do they breed here. The medium-sized owls can be seen hunting low over grasslands and agricultural areas around sunset and sunrise. Participants also heard about several citizen science projects that they and the general public can get involved in to help restore endangered species populations like the short-eared owl.

“We are all citizens of this planet and therefore we all can be citizen scientists,” Lajewski noted at the end of the program. He highlighted the winter-long Project Feederwatch, the Great Backyard Bird Count which takes place from February 18-21, the Montezuma Wetland Complex bald eagle survey and short-eared owl survey. For more information about these projects and how you can help maintain a healthy diversity of life on earth, contact the MAC at 315-365-3588 or montezuma@audubon.org.

After snowshoeing for nearly an hour and a half, everyone was ready to return to the warm and friendly confines of the MAC for some hot cocoa; the donuts were a special treat from two kind-hearted participants! Bird stories were shared. Questions were asked and pondered. Laughter rang out in the auditorium but a small voice came through loud and clear when she said “snowshoeing is a lot of fun, Daddy”.

Now in its second century, Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in conservation. www.audubon.org.

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