I had never been to an owl release, or the release of any animal into the wild before December. When I’ve seen releases in other media, it’s done with some fanfare and an appreciative group looking on. The release of this barred owl, which was given a clean bill of health after being struck by a vehicle, was actually very intimate — just me, wildlife rehabilitator Jodi Swenson and the owl. The owl refused to come out of the carrier at first, which amused us both, as if it realized that it had it pretty good staying with Swenson at her home overnight. She got her heavy gloves on, lifted the owl out and tried to release it; the owl didn’t seem to want to go, it landed just a foot or so away, indignantly glaring up at Swenson. Swenson gathered the raptor up, tried again and this time, the owl took flight. I have never been so close to an owl flying and as I took video and still footage, I realized I had tears in my eyes, and so did Swenson, as we looked at each other, smiling and blinking them back in the semi-darkness, as we watched the owl first land up in a nearby tree and then fly farther out to other trees in the wetlands. Back in my car, I actually did start crying with happiness.
Watching students doing unusual hands-on learning activities at school in their classrooms is one of my favorite things to photograph for the newspaper. I am constantly in search of these opportunities; and when I heard that children in one class at Veterans Memorial Elementary School in Gloucester were learning how to make pickles together, I made it my business to be there. Knowing that some kids have picky taste buds, I was curious about their reactions to the taste of their freshly made pickles.