This from a high school student who really didn’t want to be on the field trip three hours earlier.

We were at Sycamore Island looking at owl pellets. The sun was blazing overhead. The air was dry and hot. And each of the fourteen teenagers in the group was handed a fur ball the size of the golf ball.

The docent explained that owls eat all sorts of things. Their stomachs digest as much as they can, and then they throw up the rest – mostly fur and bones. Your job will be to pull the fur ball apart and look at the tiny bones to see what the owls had for dinner, the docent explained to the students.

“Right,” thought Lacy. “I’m not touching that thing.”

And then she did. Call it peer pressure. Probably combined with a measure of morbid curiosity (there’s really bones in there?). And then she found the tiny skull. It got interesting. She looked through a magnifying glass at the tiny teeth. And she compared what she saw with the identification key.

Lacy’s owl pellet contained the skull of a California vole.

Suddenly, another little piece of the world made sense to Lacy – maybe for the first time. Things can be known. They can be named. And we can learn how to identify them.

In the words of Aldo Leopold, Lacy began to “see the land, to understand what she sees, and enjoy what she understands.”

Thank you for helping connect local youth with the wild world of the San Joaquin River.