Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

If you love owls, visit Houston November 13, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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The International Owl Center, located in downtown Houston, Minnesota, is open from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Friday - Monday.

The International Owl Center, located in downtown Houston, Minnesota, is open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Friday – Monday.

I DID NOT HAVE nearly enough time to explore the International Owl Center in Houston. That would be Houston, Minnesota, not Texas. My husband and I were on a tight schedule to reach La Crosse after lunching with friends Doreen and Tom atop the ridge near this southeastern Minnesota community.

A banner on the side of the International Owl Center helps visitors find the building in downtown Houston.

A banner guides visitors to the International Owl Center in downtown Houston.

Still, we squeezed in a quick visit to this small town center featuring all things owl. I’d forgotten the center existed, although I’d written about it years ago for a magazine.

Owl Center visitors compete in a quiz show that teaches them all about owls.

Owl Center visitors compete in a quiz show that teaches them all about owls.

We popped in during a quiz show about owls and I was promptly recruited to a team. I contributed zero. I was more interested in shooting photos than in competing.

Owls

Two of the center’s live owls include Uhu, a Eurasian Eagle-Owl, left, and Alice, a Great Horned Owl, right.

This display shows Alice's wingspan.

This display shows Alice’s wingspan.

The International Owl Center serves as a great resource for area schools.

The International Owl Center serves as a great resource for area schools.

I multi-tasked—shooting photos, reading educational information, viewing displays, listening to the game show host and eyeing three tethered and perched owls. If only we could have stayed long enough to learn more about that trio of owls.

Owl art, from all over the worlds, decorates the center's walls.

Owl art, from all over the world, decorates the center’s walls.

Owls are popular these days. In décor, clothing, art…

It's all about the eyes in owls, including these in a Great Horned Owl on display.

It’s all about the eyes in owls, including these in a taxidermied Great Horned Owl on display.

My personal interest in owls stretches back to my childhood and visits to my great grandma’s house in rural Wabasso. There, in a bachelor great uncle’s bedroom at the top of a staircase as steep as a ladder, an owl perched atop a chest of drawers, wings spread wide, eyes piercing fear into my soul. Fear, though, didn’t stop me from viewing that owl shrine every single time I visited. I don’t know the story behind the owl’s demise. Perhaps that is best. Truth sometimes destroys memories.

One of the center's live owls. I don't know its identity.

One of the center’s live owls. I don’t know its identity.

I also hold vague recollections of dressing as an owl for Halloween, heavy paper seed corn bag turned inside out, feathers and face colored upon paper, and holes scissored for eyes.

Taxidermied owls line a wall.

Taxidermied owls line a wall.

Today my nearest connection to owls comes with the repetitive hoot of a barred owl working the night shift. I have not heard the haunting hoot for some time now. Either the owl is no more or I have slept right through the nocturnal call.

A Snow Owl, the dreamiest of owls, in my opinion.

A taxidermied Snowy Owl, the dreamiest of owls, in my opinion.

Sometimes it is better to allow memories to linger, like pleasant dreams.

BONUS PHOTOS:

You can't miss this eye-catching window front. The International Owl Center is hoping to construct a new building to further its mission of advancing the survival of wild owls through education and research.

You can’t miss this eye-catching window front. The International Owl Center plans to construct a new building to further its mission of advancing the survival of wild owls through education and research.

Lovable mascot, Hooston, presides over the gift shop.

Lovable mascot, Hooston, presides over the gift shop.

A beautiful taxidermied Short-eared Owl.

A beautiful taxidermied Short-eared Owl.

Time your visit for the live owl programs.

Time your visit for the live owl programs.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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38 Responses to “If you love owls, visit Houston”

  1. Dan Traun Says:

    I concur with your opinion on the Snowy Owl. There is a good chance you’ll have an opportunity to see one in the wild; perhaps even in your area. http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2015/11/05/minnesotas-snowy-owl-influx-may-not-be-a-good-sign/

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    I will definitely be passing this post around!!!! The Snowy Owl is almost mystical in appearance and one of my faves, too, along with the Great Horned. The “International Festival of Owls” (http://www.festivalofowls.com/) gets underway in Houston each Spring and has a global draw. Walking our local streets during that event, you would wonder what country you had fallen into!!!!!! Awesome post (of course, I’m not a bit biased!!!!)!

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    Reblogged this on Treadlemusic and commented:
    Continuing my Houston (MN) “PR”……………….

  4. How cool! I’d love to visit!

  5. Lover of Owls and Prey Birds – you know I love photographing birds in general though – What a Great Place to Visit and Learn about Owls – thanks so much for sharing 🙂 Happy Weekend – Happy Exploring – Enjoy 🙂

  6. Beth Ann Says:

    I love owls! My brother, Mark, used to work in Oregon with saving the spotted owl so they have a soft spot in my heart. This looks like an amazing center to visit and unlikely to find in a place like Houston but how wonderful? I love Hooston.

  7. Marneymae Says:

    Squeeee!
    I love owls!
    Houston is becoming more inviting with each new post!

  8. Owls are such beautiful creatures. I will never forget spending the night at my parents house the night my Sister passed away. We were sitting on 5 gallon buckets in the driveway at 4 AM talking because we couldn’t sleep. There was an owl chattering away near by.

  9. My husband adores owls. I don’t think he’s aware of this place, so thanks for sharing. I’ll have to tell him!

  10. Don Says:

    Interesting, I knew nothing about Houston and the International Owl Center but now it is on my must see list. I have been to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha Minnesota and that is extremely interesting too.

    It never ceases to amaze me on how your find the most interesting places during your traveling adventures!

  11. hotlyspiced Says:

    Years ago we had an owl that used to visit us and sit in one of our trees. It was a high-density area so this was a very rare thing. We told people we knew and they all wanted to come over and see the owl – they are so rare in the suburbs. I too, wouldn’t want to know the story behind the owl you saw in your great grandmother’s house! xx

  12. Sweet Posy Dreams Says:

    Owls are so cool. We have some that live near us. I occasionally hear them but never see them. I think I’ve only seen an owl in the wild once, so they are kind of like mythical creatures to me. I really like the owl art at the center, too.

  13. Jackie Says:

    My Brother lives back in the woods near Mantorville. He has some kind of audio media that sends our Owl calls, so then the owls come a flying. One night when we were there visiting, we sat by the fire and had a flying owl show 🙂

  14. Littlesundog Says:

    Oh I LOVE owls!! FD and I have transported a few to WildCare, since we are not equipped to care for injured raptors. We have Barred owls in our woodlands and most all year long we hear their calls. We also have barn owls and great-horned owls in the area. This past summer our neighbor had a barn owl living near one of his out buildings. That thing liked to scare me with its raspy call every morning as I headed to the front gate to unlock it! Sometimes it liked to fly right over my head. Scared me half to death! I loved the photos you posted. The art was exceptional!!

  15. Sue Ready Says:

    What interesting places right here in Minnesota you find to share with readers. Looks like a lot of educational resources. I’ve never heard of Houston and lived in MN all my life. Great photos!


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