Saugerties owl legend becomes local art

Rocky, a tiny saw-whet owl found in a Norway Spruce tree to be set up as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 2020, has become something of a folk legend in the years after his discovery. Books have been written about his adventure, including one by Ellen Kalish, the Executive Director of Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties, where Rocky recovered from his trip and was then set free. The owl’s recovery in Saugerties made him special to the people there, and this year miniature owls – though one observer commented that the model is much larger that the living owl it is based on — are the theme for this year’s street art display. 

The 35 model owls were displayed at the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory [SPAF] on Sunday, May 22 and are being moved to the streets around the commercial center of the Village of Saugerties and nearby spots in the Town.

The fiberglass owl statues, produced by Icon Poly of Nebraska and painted by local artists, will grace the streets of the Town and Village until September 18, when they will be auctioned off at the Dutch Barn at Kiersted House, said Saugerties Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mark Smith. However, there will be an online auction through the summer, Smith said. The annual street art display and auction is a Chamber of Commerce event.

Ravensbeard Center is currently seeking Saugerties Planning Board approval for a new location on a 14-acre parcel to house its rehabilitation center and office space. The initial presentation was made at the Planning Board meeting on May 17. 

According to the document submitted at the planners’ meeting, Ravensbeard “proposes to use an existing detached one-family dwelling located on an existing 14-acre parcel in the low-density/sensitive area overlay and waterfront overlay for wildlife rehabilitation and office space. Eight outdoor bird enclosures with a total footprint of 2,112 square feet and an educational area are also proposed. No new foundations or land clearing is proposed.”

The Planning Board has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed sanctuary for its next meeting. 

Prior to the installation, Kalish said, she met with Chamber of Commerce officials and discussed the decision to use the owl theme. “It is very exciting,” she said. 

Kalish said she has received feedback from the public since the first owl statues were installed, and people are really interested. The larger property will offer more room for the birds’ accommodations, but the number of birds will probably not be larger than at the present location. However, the birds will have more space and be more comfortable in the new property. “I’m looking forward to moving,” she said.

Ravensbeard’s website offers models of Rocky and information about the tiny owl, as well as information aboutther birds and the sanctuary in general.


Story originally published by: David Gordon for Hudson Valley One

(May 31, 2022)

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