Raptors help teach Everett class about environment

EVERETT — People call her “Bat Lady” for her unusual passion for bats, but Wednesday’s class on raptors proves that Bothell naturalist Barbara Ogaard gets along with birds just as well as she does with bats.

Adults and children alike gasped as Ogaard, 68, held up a red-tailed hawk with enormously strong talons. The bird’s name means Beautiful Woman in the Sioux language.

Ogaard explained that male and female red-tailed hawks look very similar, but the people caring for the bird knew for sure it was a female.

“I guess they know it because she laid an egg,” Ogaard joked, drawing laughter from the audience.

The one-time class was organized as part of the education program by the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation, an organization whose goal is to educate people about watersheds.

More than 40 people attended, including a large group of children.

Previous classes have focused on bats, bald eagles and owls. Some have featured live animals. All classes take place at the ­foundation’s Northwest Stream Center at McCollum Park in south Everett. The foundation leases about 15 acres of land there — a parking lot turned into a wetland in 1995.

During the class, three more raptors emerged from their cages under Ogaard’s supervision: a saw-whet owl, a kestrel and a great-horned owl. All of the birds were rescued after being found with injuries. Ogaard said their injuries prevent their release, but they’ve found a comfortable home at the center.

“Knowledge is everything about protecting these birds. I’ve always had a passion for wildlife and liked things nobody else does, like bats, spiders and snakes,” said Ogaard, who is an educator at the Sarvey Wildlife Center.

The center is a nonprofit organization in Arlington and designed to provide rehabilitation to injured and orphaned wildlife of the Northwest. Almost 30 years old, the center takes in as many as 3,000 animals every year, Ogaard said

“Barbara has a wonderful ability to engage little kids and old geezers at the same time,” said Tom Murdoch, naturalist and executive director for the foundation.

The foundation has classes geared toward families, professionals and those who want to learn how to teach children about the environment, with typical class size of about 40 people, Murdoch said.

Silver Lake resident Lori Powlas, 53, said she became interested in the environment after coming to work for the foundation as an accountant five years ago. She now volunteers and teaches insect classes for fun.

“We are trying to teach people to be sensitive to their part of the environment, from where you wash your car to the big scientific things. The best way to learn about the environment is to be in it,” Powlas said.

Foundation members Karla Anderson and Karen Riston, both sisters and seniors living in Seattle, said they have been involved with environmental issues for as long as they can remember.

“We had thoughts about overpopulation and recycling a long time ago, many years before it became fashionable,” Anderson said.

Reporter Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452 or kyefimova@heraldnet.com.

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