ORRINGTON, Maine — Shiloh the owl clearly had had enough.
Most of the audience had left the Curran Homestead’s main barn Saturday afternoon by the time the great horned owl flew from its perch and took up a spot on the second story of the building, just as Grayson Richmond of the Birdsacre Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary in Ellsworth was finishing his presentation on owls Saturday at the turn-of-the-century living history farm and museum.
Shiloh’s escape was brief as Richmond quickly wrangled the wayward owl, but provided a thrill for the remaining audience members as Shiloh flew off the perch.
Richmond’s owl presentation was one of several Halloween-themed events Saturday at the Curran Homestead and nearby Fields Pond Audubon Center, which offered a program in which children could learn about bats, including their lore and biology.
The Curran center’s activities also included a maze, blacksmith demonstrations at the site’s new smithy, and demonstrations of an old apple cider press.
Owls and bats have always held interest and an element of mystery for several reasons, including their nighttime hunting habits and ability to move and hunt swiftly and silently.
Nearly 100 people crammed into the barn to get an up-close peek at Shiloh and two other owls from Birdsacre.
“There have always been superstitions, but really, they’re such gentle creatures and they want to get away from you,” Richmond said after capturing Shiloh.
Richmond brought with him a tiny adult saw-whet owl and a barred owl. The audience oohed and aahed when Richmond brought out each owl from its carrying box.
Other than the familiar left-right movement of their heads, all three owls stood still on their perches behind Richmond as he spoke to nearly 100 adults and children about such owl subjects as plumage, hunting methods, digestion and their legendary hearing. Some of the visitors were already decked out in their Halloween cos-tumes.
Owls are nothing to be afraid of, Richmond said, and like most animals in the wild are just interested in staying out of the way of humans.
“If you’re this close to the owls right now, you don’t want to get any closer,” he told the children sitting in the front row. “They’re very scared. They’re wild creatures. The smallest owl is our oldest and most mature owl so he’s well-behaved.” The two larger owls were the younger of the three, so they were more nervous, he said.
Owls also are unlikely to go after large meals of household pets, Richmond added, because the owls themselves are so light — Shiloh, the largest owl in the barn Saturday, weighs only around 4 pounds — and don’t want to fill up on a big meal before flying.
The three owls seemed to enjoy the stiff breeze that blew in through the open barn door.
“On a blustery day, they’re really enjoying this because it reminds them of flying,” Richmond said.
Robert Schmick, the museum director, said Saturday’s event was a draw for children because of the rare opportunity to be near an elusive animal.
“Owls aren’t accessible to kids on a daily basis,” he said. “When I was growing up we’d get an owl in the barn and we’d make a trip to look at it, but we’d never be that close in proximity to it.”
That was one of the reasons Trina and Mike Millett of Hermon brought their 7-year-old daughter, Haylie, who is in a home-schooling program.
“We wanted Haylie to be exposed to the animals and the living history and the farm life,” Trina Millett said. “She’s been studying the owl [regurgitations] so this is a great follow-up to that. You don’t usually get a chance to be so close to nature.”