Alex Godbe, who began the rescue-and-educational Hungry Owl Project in 2002, will receive a Green Award from the Quality of Life Commission.
It will be presented at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22 at the San Anselmo Town Council meeting.
Since its inception, the project “has rescued, fostered and cared for up to 800 owls,” Godbe reports, and has taught countless people “about the dangers to wildlife from using rodenticides and pesticides.”
In August, because she needed more room, she moved her living space (which doubles as HOP headquarters) to Novato from San Anselmo, where they’d been for seven years.
But she’s still working with owls at Town Hall.
An owl box is being designed to fit on the outside of the building, on the ledge outside the tower. Cameras then will be placed inside and outside, so a live feed can be sent to the HOP website — hungryowl.org — “so everyone can see what’s happening.”
San Anselmo, Godbe says, has formed “a special attachment to the owls. They’ve become almost mascots.”
She’s kept track of the tower owls’ progress each year. “One of my favorite things to do was to watch them leave the tower just after dark and almost float above the town, so white against the night sky.”
But wherever owls exist, she observes, “people are so enamored with them they tell enthusiastic stories about ‘their’ owls in the neighborhood.”
Among Godbe’s favorite memories is “when I rescued an owl family, taking them to safety after the mother died. The father didn’t know what to do, didn’t feed the babies or keep them warm. One egg hatched on my way, and all six chicks were put into foster boxes.”
One main thing to remember, she says, “is the issue of rodenticides, which are counter-productive because they kill off predators — raptors [birds of prey] such as owls, eagles, falcons and kites — who would kill rodents naturally.”
A single family of barn owls can consume more than 3,000 rats in a three-month breeding cycle, which runs from January through March. Rodenticides often lead to second-hand poisoning of deer, squirrels, foxes, mountain lions and other animals that eat the rodents that ingest the chemicals.
The Hungry Owl Project depends on 30 core volunteers who “provide more than 3,000 volunteer hours each year,” says Godbe, who counts herself among them (though she also is a part-time employee reimbursed for expenses).
Godbe is a British native who first became interested in owls as a child when her mother gave her a book on birds as a Christmas present. “I was immediately drawn to the owls,” she remembers, ”because they’re mysterious, magical and stunningly beautiful.”
Godbe’s volunteer efforts began 17 years ago at WildCare, a Marin rehabilitation center with which HOP is associated.
With HOP, she did numerous presentations with Wookie, a male barn owl that became the project’s wildlife ambassador for 10 years. He died at age 13 a couple of months ago. Now Godbe is trying to acquire a successor, a Great Horned Owl with an injured wing that’s in an Oregon rehab center.
One of the project’s major goals, she says, is to install owl boxes, which simulate natural cavities, in trees. Owls normally don’t build their own nests, often relying on abandoned nests of hawks, ravens and other birds.
More than 1,100 of the boxes, which are constructed by individual volunteers, various organizations and even Sonoma County Jail inmates, already have been sold. They go for $125 each, with the revenue helping support the project, which depends on individual donations and fundraising efforts.
No owls come with the boxes.
A major HOP fundraiser, “Moonlighting with Owls,” is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Poggio trattoria in Sausalito. Cost is $300 per person. Reservations are required.
“You’ll be able to look into the eyes of an owl,” says Godbe, who isn’t only into owls. She nurtures four dogs, three cats and a python.
Quality of Life Commission awards are given volunteers who benefit San Anselmo and environs without expectation of reward. Godbe will become the 30th winner of the Green Award.\
It was previously given Dick Glanville, Lisa Hamilton, Jo Ann Richards, Rene Voss, Linda Hoch, Rich Torresan, Jo Julin, Jake Luria, Anna Frost, Brian Crawford, the team of David Fox and Sheila Mutter, Jeff Hvid, Dick Miner, Conn Rusche, Charles Kennard, the team of Steve Reinertsen and Scott Weeks, Sita Khufu, Rohana McLaughlin, Joyce Brown, Larry Nilsen, Matt Eakle, Ted Bakkila, Christine Dietrich Cragg, Bob Mellin, H.G. Von Dallwitz, Denali Gillaspie, Jonathan Braun, Dan Goltz and the husband-wife team of Janet Byrum and Bob Fleming.
Nominations for the environmentally oriented Green Awards, or the broader Silver Awards, can be hand-delivered or mailed to: Quality of Life Commission, c/o Town of San Anselmo, 525 San Anselmo Ave., or e-mailed to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.