Ocean Unger of Clearwater and her best friend Averi Miller of Largo share a love of nature.
Their interest even spurred them to create an Owl Club at Largo's Country Day School, where they attend second grade.
Ocean has been intrigued with owls for the past several years. Her interest grew during a trip to Ireland this summer where she handled a Harris hawk and saw other birds of prey, including two large owls, at the Ireland School of Falconry.
Averi has always been an animal lover and has a menagerie of pets including a dog, cat, ball python and leopard gecko. Over the years, she's made frequent family outings and field trips to McGough Nature Park, which always included a visit to the owls.
For their eighth birthdays this year, the girls made a very unusual request. Instead of bikes, toys or games, the two young ladies asked party guests to donate money to the Clearwater Audubon Society, with special attention to the Birds of Prey exhibit at McGough Nature Park, located at 11901 146th St. N, Largo.
Their guests rallied to the cause and a donation in the amount of $250 was made toward the care and upkeep of several varieties of owls as well as a hawk, all part of McGough Nature Park's Birds of Prey exhibit. The birds are there because of former injuries that prevent them from being able to survive in the wild.
According to Pat Edmond, president of the Friends of the Largo Nature Parks, "the money will be used to pay for food, by far and away our biggest expense. Some of the donations we receive are also used to purchase equipment and supplies for the birds." The park's traveling nature programs also benefit from contributions.
Ocean and Averi have been invited to McGough Nature Park the first week of January, where they will learn about the daily care and feeding of the birds of prey and will help with duties volunteers perform every day.
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