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Master Naturalist Program Kicks Off at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
Northeast Region, February 18, 2012
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Masschusetts Audubon's Norm Smith releases a snowy owl at Parker River NWR on Saturday, February 18th.
Masschusetts Audubon's Norm Smith releases a snowy owl at Parker River NWR on Saturday, February 18th. - Photo Credit: FWS/Matt Poole
Dr. Norm Smith, while holding a snowy owl, talks to a engaged crowd about owls and their conservation.
Dr. Norm Smith, while holding a snowy owl, talks to a engaged crowd about owls and their conservation. - Photo Credit: FWS/Matt Poole
Dr. Norm Smith also released a peregrine falcon at Parker River NWR on Saturday, February 18th.
Dr. Norm Smith also released a peregrine falcon at Parker River NWR on Saturday, February 18th. - Photo Credit: FWS/Matt Poole

"If you build they will come!" This is the mantra that undergirds the new Master Naturalist Program at Parker River Naitonal Wildlife Refuge (NWR). One of the most visited refuges in Region 5, the visitor services staff at Parker River is hoping to grow its capacity to develop and deliver public programming by spending the next year building a core of well trained volunteer docents. That's the purpose of the Master Naturalist program. Twenty one men and women have committed themselves to spending one Saturday a month for the next year, learning about the natural and cultural history of the refuge, Plum Island, and the Great Marsh. In return for all the great, free training, the refuge's newly minted "Master Naturalists" will spend the next year developing and leading a variety of environmental education and/or interpretive programs.

 

Each Saturday session will focus on a specific topic and will involve both time in the classroom and time on the refuge. Instructors, selected for their highly regarded expertise in a particular topical area, have been drawn from refuge staff and partner organizations (like Massachusetts Audubon).

The first session, conducted on February 18th, focussed on the "big picture" - how the refuge fits in with and supports the missions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Wildlife Refuge System.

While the afternoon had been dedicated to providing program participants with a behind-the-scenes tour of the refuge, those plans were soon thwarted when it was learned that a Massachusetts Audubon biologist would be releasing a snowy owl on the refuge. (The owl had earlier been trapped at Logan Airport.) Biologist Norm Smith, from Audubon's Blue Hill Sanctuary, and a widely recognized authority of snowy owls, did a wonderful, if impromptu, presentation for a large crowd that had gathered by the salt pannes observation area on the refuge. The owl release went off without a hitch. Dr. Smith also released a peregrine falcon - an unexpected bonus!

Needless to say, the raptor release created a memorable learning opportunity for the Master Naturalist Program participants. Their behind-the-scenes tour will wait for another day!


Contact Info: Matt Poole, (978) 465-5753 ext 210, matt_poole@fws.gov
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