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Art&Seek Jr: On the Prowl for Owls
by Therese Powell 10 Apr 2012

The Trinity River Aububon Center has a whole day (and night) worth of exploring. Don’t forget your flashlight!

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Art&Seek Jr. is one mom‘s quest to find activities to end the seemingly endless chorus of the “I’m Bored Blues” while having fun herself.  Impossible you say? Check back on Tuesdays for kid-friendly events that are fun for adults, too

I have to admit, I’m not as outdoorsy as I’d like to be.  My siblings will tell you that my idea of camping is an air-conditioned cabin with wi-fi no more than 10 minutes from a major city. This wasn’t always the case though. When I was a kid growing up in Bellevue, Neb., I was outside all the time – as were all the other children in the neighborhood.  It wasn’t because we necessarily wanted to be outside; given a choice we probably would have parked ourselves in front of the television for hours at a time watching Gilligan’s Island reruns. The truth was our mothers were far too busy to tolerate a pack of children inside the house. Besides the obvious of the messes we created, there was always the threat of “waking the baby” (there seem to be at least one in every house in my neighborhood). It could be 30 degrees outside with snow falling, and still our moms would say, “It’s a beautiful day. Go outside and play!” As it turned out, this was the best thing in the world for us. The woods behind my house became our playground. We climbed trees, made forts, explored and we took in and appreciated the nature around us without really trying. Nothing was forced; it was all very, well … natural.

Rose and her Uncle Bill listen to the frogs along one of the many trails at the Trinity River Audubon Center

Director of Education, Benjamin Jones shows Rose how to listen for owls

I know I sound like one of those crotchety old people who insists their childhood was superior or more virtuous than the previous generation, but sometimes I wish that Rose could experience that post-baby boom world with 30 neighborhood kids to play with in the woods right behind the house like I did.  There’s not much I can do about the neighborhood playmates (people don’t have kids like they did in the 70s) but we are lucky enough to have some pretty cool woods nearby to explore. For those of you who don’t know, the Great Trinity Forest is right down the road, and The Trinity River Audubon Center is just the place to start the exploration. The land that TRAC sits on used to be an illegal dumpsite but was reclaimed by the City of Dallas. It features trails in the Great Trinity Forest as well as restored wetlands and prairies. The center has many hands-on exhibits, four miles of nature viewing trails, the Children’s Discovery Garden as well as some excellent exploring activities. One you don’t want to miss is the Free Third Thursday event. There’s free admission all day (hence the name), giving you plenty of time to do the guided hikes and some bird watching. Later in the evening, there’s live music, food tastings and a monthly guest speaker. Probably the coolest  part of the event is the monthly Owl Prowl led by director of education Ben Jones. The prowl starts at about sunset in the lobby, where Ben talks briefly about owls (did you know that if you had owl eyes they’d be as big as oranges) and owl etiquette (never play owl calls more than once a month, because it can agitate owls on the nest). After that, everyone heads out on the trail armed with flashlights. It’s about a 45 minute hike, during which  you don’t actually see the owls — it’s too dark on the trails. Instead, a recording of owl calls is played, and hopefully the owls call back. We were lucky enough to hear two call to us just as the hike was ending. I don’t know if it was the excitement of hearing the owls answer our call or the fact that Rose got to be a helper with her princess flashlight, but she really enjoyed herself. I liked it because she got to experience a little of the same outdoors I did as a child.

Therese Powell is an Art&Seek calendar coordinator and KERA-TV producer.  She spends most of her free time seeking out adventures for her 6-year-old daughter, Rose.  Tell us about your time at the Trinity River Audubon Center  or clue us in to your ideas for quirky kid adventures by leaving a comment. Or email Therese at [email protected]

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