Maggie Holcomb’s participation in the Carolina Raptor Center’s Happy Owlidays winter camp came as part of the time she spent with her grandparents at their Birkdale home over the holiday break.
At the Raptor Center, as she mashed a sticky glob of bird seed, flour and gelatin into Christmas cookie cutters, the 8-year-old South Charlotte resident announced she had just the right plan for the edible tree ornaments.
“I’m going to give them to my grandparents because they have a lot of trees at their house,” Maggie said.
Held on Dec. 22, Happy Owlidays is one of several raptor or bird-themed single day camps the Raptor Center will offer through February on days that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are closed.
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The camp features hands-on interactions with some of the Raptor Center’s 100 flying residents, arts and crafts activities in its indoor classroom, and sometimes behind-the-scenes insight on the center’s veterinary and rehabilitation care. The winter camps easily appeal to the nature-minded. However, Raptor Center staff also hope to enlighten fledgling naturists.
Additional camps will be held Jan. 18, Jan. 25 and Feb. 18.
“(The winter camps) go along with our formal science education mission,” said Michele Miller, associate executive director. “There’s been a lot of attention to STEM. … We are all about educating kids about natural history.”
Winter camps are a new endeavor aimed to complement the Raptor Center’s summer camps, which are weeklong sessions. Both the winter and summer camps are open to 7- to 14-year-olds and max out at 24 participants.
Additional summer camp topics include Raptors of the Silver Screen in which instructors cover the importance of raptors in movies, such as the Harry Potter films, and Birds and Beasties, which studies raptors’ relationships with other animals they encounter like snakes and frogs.
A highlight of the Happy Owlidays session was walking the Raptor Center’s Owl Forest, a section of the property’s 3/4 -mile trail with opportunities to observe the center’s seven owl species in their enclosures and to take notes on what makes those birds of prey special.
Leading the group of five campers was Jayna Saltrick, a Christ the King High senior, who works as a winter/summer camp intern. A Raptor Center camper for eight years, Saltrick implements the plans set up by Curator of Birds and Programs Natalie Childers.
With a bald eagle cawing in the background from the nearby Eagle Aviary, Saltrick and the children stopped at each Owl Forest enclosure to share facts. As they observed a barn owl, Saltrick noted the raptor’s reputation as a scary sight to farmers because of its broad wing span.
One of the attentive students scribbling notes on a clipboard was 10-year-old Sadie Casper, a four-year veteran of Raptor Center summer camps. A South Charlotte resident, Sadie says she aspires to be an animal rescuer when she grows up.
“I like the birds,” said Sadie, who credits her bird-watching grandparents in New Jersey as her inspiration for having an interest in birds and raptors. “I love how they work. I like that they can fly on their own, unlike people who need airplanes to fly.”
Maggie Holcomb was a first-time camper at the Raptor Center but she had visited it with her family in years past. The center draws 35,000-40,000 visitors per year and an additional 25,000-30,000 students through school field trips.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about the Carolina Raptor Center and its winter camps, visit www.carolinaraptorcenter.com.