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For the Birds

Self-taught hobbyist gives a hoot about owls

If you frequent the Dexter neighborhood on the East Side, chances are you’ve seen Evansville native Susan Tromley peeking into yards and strolling through alleyways. But she isn’t a nosy neighbor— Susan Tromley is tracking owls.

The unofficial owl-whisperer has tracked three different families of owls across Evansville. An employee in accounts payable at her husband’s practice, Evansville Main Street Family Dental, Tromley saw her first baby owl in Vann Park and has been obsessed ever since.

“When people hunt for seashells, they train their eyes and can easily find the best ones and that’s what I’ve done — I’ve trained my eyes to find the owls,” she says.

After tracking a family of five in 2014, Tromley didn’t meet another mating pair until 2018. This second family’s story inspired Tromley to document her hobby, but it wasn’t until March 2020, when she met Mama, Papa (who recently passed away due to human-related causes), and baby Flint, that her posts went viral. A post about Flint on Indiana Nature Lover’s page gained more than 1,500 likes and 350 comments.

With the public invested and the owl’s nested, Tromley’s turned her personal pastime into a campaign for awareness and education.

Your hobby has brought widespread attention to local owls. What do you hope the public gets out of this exposure and education?

I would hope this would give people more of an awareness of how fragile wildlife is and how deeply our actions can affect it. For example, people want to get rid of their rats but depending on what they use it can affect wildlife and pets.

I would encourage people to find alternative methods that will not affect wildlife. The more owls there are, the less of a rodent problem we will have. I am hoping the more people who know about the owls, the more they will make a connection and learn to love them as much as I do.

What do you love about owl watching?

I never know what I’m going to see. That’s what keeps me energized. I mean people say I’m obsessed. My husband teases me and says he’s widowed during the spring and summer because I am out with the owls every evening.

But they bring me happiness. It doesn’t matter how often I see them, even daily, I get excited every time. They just fascinate me and with Flint especially I felt like I had a very good relationship. I think he knew me.

You’ve impacted the owls by sharing their stories and rescuing several owlets, but how have they impacted your life?

I am more of an introvert. I don’t really talk to a lot of people. This has really forced me to become more outgoing and to meet people. It’s more than just the owls. I’ve made so many great relationships because of them.

I have never taken seeing the owls for granted and have always felt fortunate to see them. But I do feel there is a hole now. I was blessed to be able to see Papa whenever I wanted — now he is gone. He was such a calming presence.

How can others get involved in local owl watching?

If someone knows they have an owl in their neighborhood that’s the first step. If you don’t know, the big thing is to listen. That’s the best advice I could give to finding them. Opening your senses to nature is an important start to birding or any animal watching. You just have to be patient and watch and listen.

This story is an exclusive digital extension of the article that appeared in print in the March/April 2021 issue of Evansville Living.
 

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