Inspired by the experience, she currently is preparing for Pettit Environmental Preserve's Owls & Spiders & Bats, Oh My! -- A Fall Hike on Oct. 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. During the free event, Lori Watterson, a naturalist with Chattahoochee Nature Center, will conduct a program featuring a live owl at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 and 1:30 p.m.
"[The Chattahoochee Nature Center has] a very engaging program about the importance of owls, a lot of owl physiology," Robertson said. "They can do some amazing things. They're a little different from some other birds, and of course they are at the top of the food chain as a raptor. So there'll just be a lot of interesting and amazing facts about the owl. ... I love owls ever since I went to the Chattahoochee Nature Center and spoke with one of their educators.
"I must have talked with them for 45 minutes about an owl that she had perched on her arm the whole time. It was just fascinating and that was really where the idea for this program came from was that experience that I had at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. It was so exciting to see and learn all these things about owls and learn specifics about them rather than [the general] idea that owls just make hooting sounds and they are just out at night so they can't see very well -- all these kind of things, which are really just myths. And all of owls' physiology and their place in the environment is so much bigger than that."
Along with Watterson's presentation, attendees can learn more about owls through a pellet dissection activity supervised by Preserve Education Coordinator Lori Jewell at 2:30, 3:30 and 4:30 p.m.
"For me, it's fascinating because when owls eat they actually eat all of their food whole," Jewell said. "They eat the entire animal. They eat rats and mice and they eat small mammals and some amphibians. ... Once they've accumulated a certain amount of that debris, they [regurgitate] a pellet that has those bones and things that they can't digest in that pellet.
"So when you dissect a pellet, you're able to tell what the animal has been eating just by the types of bones that are in the pellet. And there are charts and different tools that you can use to separate all of those out and piece together -- it's almost like a puzzle, piece together what the owl has been eating."
Along with the owl-related offerings, the event also will feature self-led hikes and programs on bats and how to identify and avoid poisonous spiders.
Situated off Highway 61 in southwest Bartow County, the 70-acre forest and lake ecosystem consists of trails developed by Cartersville's Switchbacks Trail Design & Construction, a swinging bridge, a 9-acre lake, two aquatic stations, three amphitheaters and a Learning Shed. The Preserve was formed as a private, nonprofit corporation -- The Margaret & Luke Pettit Environmental Preserve Inc. -- in 1999 when the late Gay Pettit Dellinger and her children initially donated 60 acres of property to this endeavor.
The Preserve generally is open by appointment only, tailoring educational programs, such as tree identification and water testing, to youth groups throughout the year. During the 2010 to 2011 school year, more than 1,800 students visited the venue, which was more than double the previous year.
"A lot of people have not grown up exposed to the outdoors," Robertson said. "A lot of people have had a very suburban or even urban lifestyle and to get out in nature and begin to make some of the connections between things that they might see or hear in their backyard and the natural environment is a really important step. The first step to preserving nature is appreciating it and being aware of it. So that is part of our mission, especially through our community outreach programs of which the Fall Hike is one of the favorite ones."
For more information about the Preserve and its upcoming event, visit www.pettitpreserve.org or contact Robertson at 678-848-4179.