Visitors get up close view of new critter housing at The Horse Park

by Linda Hubbard on February 5, 2012

The equine housing at The Horse Park at Woodside is visible from both Sand Hill and Whisky Hill Roads. But, that’s not the case with the Park’s other housing, which was on display Saturday (2/4) during “A Critter Housing Walk.”  Visitors got a close-up look at a variety of nesting sites for flying creatures.

Nancy Benson at The Horse ParkExplains Nancy Benson (pictured), a longtime Ladera resident who’s also Volunteer Chairman at the Park: “We were long aware that birds came to the Park. Thanks to a a successful fundraising effort and the work of staff, we were able to install nine owl nesting boxes, fourteen bluebird houses, seven rafter perches, and four bat houses. They’re located all over the Park — around the cross country course and on the oaks near the barns. It took me over two hours to check them all out a couple of weeks ago.”

Nancy gives a shout out to Bonnie Regalia, owner of Birders Garden, who supplied the boxes/houses and who was on hand to lead the walk. (The raptor perches were built on site). She also credits the nearby Creekside Center for Earth Observation. “Creekside has worked closely with The Horse Park to do land management,” she says. “They’ve spearheaded the effort to introduce more native plants on the cross country course and remove non-natives all over the 272-acre property.”

Both barn owls and great horned owls have been sighted on the premises. The former eats an incredible amount of gophers (although not squirrels), while the latter’s diet consist of small to medium sized mammals, including skunks.

Raptors eat squirrels and rodents. Red-tail hawks, Cooper’s hawks, Golden eagles, Red Shouldered hawks, Sharp Shinned hawks, and Peregrine Falcons have all been spotted at the Park.

Bluebird populations are declining, so providing them with nesting sites will improve their chances of survival, as well as the opportunity to view them.

Owl house in oak at Horse Park

Bats eat an incredible amount of insects, including mosquitoes, “a fact that should certainly please the neighbors,” says Nancy.

Saturday’s open house served a dual purpose. It was also a Volunteer Day with participants learning the value of habitat restoration work.

“I’ve been coordinating these volunteer days for the Park since joining the Board,” says Nancy, whose equestrian pursuits today include three-day eventing . “We’ve had good support from local schools — the kids get credit for community service. Our goal is to showcase what we’re doing at the Park to the wider community.”

Photos by Frances Freyberg

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