Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 28, 2018
Naturalist recounts experiences with owls
by Monique Labbe
Growing up in the metropolis of Milwaukee, Wis., Lynn Havsall said she was “oblivious” to birds. A few decades, and hundreds of encounters with birds and other wildlife later, the now 64-year-old spends her time traveling around the state and discussing the work and experiences she has done as a naturalist and wildlife biologist.
Such was the topic of a talk, titled Adventures With Owls, Havsall gave at Chase Emerson Memorial Library in May. During the talk, Havsall not only discussed scientific facts about various types of owls, but also recalled first hand experiences with her favorite type of birds during her work in Washington state, Wisconsin, Alaska and Maine.
Havsall said she first discovered a passion for owls while spending time in Humbolt Park in Milwaukee. It was also the first time she heard a screech owl, which has since become her favorite type of owl.
“I heard this noise, and I didn’t know what it was, so I went to investigate and all of a sudden in this tree I see this animal. It was beautiful, I fell in love,” she said.
The encounter eventually led to Havsall attending the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, where she received her degree in wildlife biology. Over the next several decades, Havsall has used that degree in professional and personal studies.
Most of the personal experiences Havsall has had with owls happened by chance, including one time when a screech owl came through the window of her home and proceeded to fly around the kitchen in a panicked state. The owl eventually calmed down long enough for a friend of Havsall’s to get the bird on a flat mop and slowly release it back out of the window. Havsall had the good sense to record the encounter, and showed the video during her talk.
Professionally, Havsall has studied gray horned owls in Washington State, nesting patterns of owls on Mount Desert Island and mating patterns in Alaska. The commonality between all those studies is that most of them are done at night, given that owls are nocturnal animals. That time of day is in direct conflict with one of Havsall’s worst fears.
“I love nocturnal animals, but I’m afraid of the dark,” said Havsall with a chuckle. “That clearly hasn’t stopped me from my studies.”