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A rousing sendoff


Crowd cheers as birds float away to nearby tree

The owls are coming, hooray, hooray! by: VERN UYETAKE - Stephanie Bartlett, a 2011 graduate of West Linn High School, has a big smile as she releases a barn owl at Lake Oswego's Luscher Farm Friday.

A surprisingly large crowd showed up at Luscher Farm for a special event on Friday — the release of four young barn owls trying to find their very own home in nature.

The only mention of this happening was an announcement in the online bulletin of the Audubon Society of Portland, but a big crowd showed up, excited and eager to see what the owls would do once they are on their own for the first time. There was suspense in the air.

“We never know what an owl will do when it is released,” said Deb Schaeffer, veterinarian for the Audubon Society, who was emcee for the event. “This will be the first time they’ve flown free. They’ve only flown in cages before. Sometimes they flop on the ground.”

by: VERN UYETAKE - Twins Alex and Annie Davis release an owl, with some help from Lacy Campbell of the Audubon Society of Portland. Alex and Annie are the grandchildren of Karen Davis, garden program coordinator at Luscher Farm.But the four owls released at Luscher Farm did not flop. As soon as their handlers let go of them, they circled the cheering crowd majestically in the sky before finding a distant tree on which to begin their new lives. As owl releases go, it was pretty perfect.

Their auspicious exit did not match their entrance onto the world scene. The owls were just four little puff balls in May when they were spotted in some hay bales on a truck. The word of this went to the Audubon Society of Portland, which goes to extraordinary lengths to reunite baby birds with their mothers. If Audubon volunteers know where a lost baby owl comes from, they can often put an owl family back together, even if a volunteer has to use a long, long ladder to get up into an owl’s nest.

However, if they unexpectedly show up in hay bales, baby owls are adopted by the Audubon Society, which helps 3,000 animals every year.

The young owls made a big splash on Friday, and it is hoped that at least one of them will choose to locate in the Luscher Farm area, because Luscher Farm has a problem: voles, little creatures with huge appetites.by: VERN UYETAKE - An owl flies away to freedom after being released. It is hoped it will stick around to help with the severe rodent problem at Luscher Farm.

Karen Davis, community garden coordinator at Luscher, raves about the appealing appearance of voles.

“They’re the cutest things you’ve ever seen!” she said. “They have short little faces and short little tails and they’re just darling!”

Voles do have one huge fault.

“They eat everything,” Davis said. “They jump out of their tiny holes then sneak back in. We’ve had wet springs the last two years, and there are lots of places in Oregon where voles moved in. Because of them it’s getting hard to grow vegetables commercially.

“We used to have barn owls. They used to stay in the bathroom of the barn. But they were disrupted by the building of the new barn and the new roof. We need some rodent control.”

Not even Schaeffer knows what the four owls will do, but she is optimistic they will stay around.

“This is the perfect habitat for them,” Schaeffer said.