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Seniors encounter owls, other wildlife on Beaver Creek outing

Posted 8/13/2015

Avis Polenz used to watch owls from her own perch right outside her cabin.

But the 91-year-old resident of Grace Willowbrook assisted living residence truly fell in love with owls when her children gave her a handmade gift of two owls made of pine cones sitting on a branch. 

On Wednesday, the woman who decorates her room with stuffed snowy owls and owl salt and pepper shakers — according to her friend and fellow Willowbrook resident Shirley Zingler — was treated to an owl presentation that in part featured stuffed barred and horned owls at Beaver Creek Reserve, four miles north of Fall Creek on Highway K. 

The hourlong lesson, which reviewed attributes of  the successful hunter, was part of an exploration day that included about 30 residents of Grace Lutheran Foundation facilities. The residents spent the late morning and early afternoon hours meeting with educators, visiting the butterfly house, making their own crafts, and exploring the reserve. 

“Beaver Creek is such a beautiful place, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for the adults,” activity director Karen Park said of the program that has been running for about five years. “It feels like camp.”

A major hit with the residents was the introduction of Luna, a half-blind barred owl that sheepishly tried to ignore members of the crowd by keeping her back toward them for the better part of her visit. She was rehabilitated in Wausau after being hit by a car, and has resided with her handler, Beaver Creek naturalist Ruth Forsgren, for about two years. 

“It was a real interesting (presentation),” said Robert Anderson, a retired firefighter who recalled crossing the paths of owls most frequently in barns. He was jolted a bit when Luna flapped her wings in an attempt to fly away. She came back to her resting place on Forsgren’s arm after she yelled, “Up, up, up.”

“It took me by surprise when she fluttered,” he said. 

Anderson attended the event last year with his wife, who recently died. He visit brought back happy memories for him. 

Zingler pointed to a part of the lesson that explained the placement of an owl’s ears — one is near the eye, and the other is lower, closer to the beak — which helps them hear sounds from both sides and up and down. 

“I don’t remember learning about the levels (of the ears),” Zingler said.

After lunch, residents took part in a craft session called sharpie tile art, during which they draw on tiles and then use rubbing alcohol to distort the lines, creating interesting pieces of art. 

“This is great, where we all can come together,” activity leader Jori Meyer said of the elderly and disabled residents of Grace Lutheran homes gathering for the event. “This is perfect.”

Grace Lutheran Communities has been helping our friends and neighbors in communities all over the Chippewa Valley since 1960. The non-profit organization specializes in rehabilitation, assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care, child care, independent living, and adult day services.


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