Parker senior living center welcomes owls

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Excitement has surrounded the arrival of two temporary residents at a Parker senior living center.

A few weeks ago, the occupants of the Victorian House noticed that two Great Horned Owls had chosen a neighboring tree for their nest. Blending in among the gray-bark branches, the female sits sleepy-eyed but constantly on guard. A bird of prey expert from a nonprofit wildlife education organization who stopped by the retirement home April 11 said she believes the female is keeping eggs warm, and that they will hatch any day.

Devin Paszek, founder of Aurora-based Nature’s Educators, gave a presentation to the Victorian House seniors, as well as a group of kindergartners from the Parker Montessori School up the street who were invited to attend. Paszek engaged the audience with fun facts about birds of prey, and even elicited a few incredibly smart answers from the kindergarteners, who recently finished a lesson on owls.

“I’m glad the kids came today,” a woman in the audience said with a laugh.

Then, Nature’s Educators volunteer Karen Mammen brought out a tiny owl that gave a series of steady, spirited chirps. Arktos, weighing in at a mere five ounces, is a screech owl that is unable to return to the wild, like the other birds that the 501c3 looks after. Athena, a Great Horned Owl with a tenuous temperament, was the next guest. She was taken in after losing a wing when she landed on an exposed power transformer.

All of the animals, from hawks and falcons to tortoises and bull snakes, have gotten a second chance from Nature’s Educators. As part of the presentation, Paszek said that the ecosystems of many birds of prey are fragile, and must be cared for if a healthy balance is to be achieved.

Owls, in particular, can take up residence in various places, as demonstrated by the owls now calling the downtown Parker area home. They don’t even seem to mind the construction noise from an expansion project at Victorian House.

A few residents whose windows face the nest have been gracious in allowing observers to enter their homes to get a glimpse of the owls, who have been dubbed “Victor” and “Victoria.”

“They have invigorated the residents, who love observing and learning about them,” said Kayleigh Karutis, a spokeswoman for Castle Country Assisted Living, the Castle Rock company that runs the Victorian House.

Nature’s Educators was invited to teach young and old about the Great Horned Owls in the hopes that it would help “forge bonds between these generations as the children learn respect for our seniors, and seniors recapture their youth,” she said.