On an icy Friday morning, Darin Day left his home in Wyoming’s Star Valley and made the three hour drive back to Northern Utah, where he grew up.
Along for the ride were not only Day’s family, but also four cat carriers filled with squawking and hissing baby barn owls.
This was just the most recent of the countless volunteer projects Day has done with the large, white, moon-faced birds. On this particular road trip, Day relocated eight orphan chicks into active nests in Northern Utah as a volunteer with the Teton Raptor Center.
However, his history with the birds goes back four decades. As young teenager, Day says he struggled in school until a teacher at Roy Middle School talked him into entering the school science fair. His project, which looked at the diets of barn owls, took first place and started a lifelong interest in the raptors.
Since that first project, Day has built more than 100 nesting boxes around the country, taught classes about the birds and led conservation projects.
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Darin Day moves a barn owl chick into an animal carrier so he can place the bird in a nest in western Weber County on Friday, April 13, 2018. Day spent the morning finding nests around the Northern Wasatch area for eight orphan barn owl chicks that he brought down from Wyoming. Day became interested in barn owls as a teenager and has been involved with owl conservation programs for four decades.
Darin Day climbs a vacant silo in Perry to reach a barn owl nest on Friday, April 13, 2018. Day says he's built more than 100 barn owl nests around the country with most of them in Northern Utah. "This is one I've always managed to keep close," said Day while discussing the Perry nest that he first installed around 25 years ago.
Barn owl chicks look out from a nesting box in western Weber County on Friday, April 13, 2018. Darin Day brought eight chicks from the Teton Raptor Center in Wyoming. The birds were divided between existing nests where the adult owls will adopt the new chicks.
Darin Day holds a rodent skull that he picked out of an owl pellet beneath an owl nest in Perry on Friday, April 13, 2018. "It started out as a science fair project," said Day while discussing his interest in owls. Day said he had a difficult childhood and struggled in school until a teacher at Roy Middle School encouraged him to work on a science project titled "Diet of the Barn Owl."
Darin Day places a barn owl chick into a nesting box in the rafters of a barn in western Weber County on Friday, April 13, 2018. Day lives in Wyoming but grew up in Utah and returned to the nests that he knew after hearing about the orphan owls form the Teton Raptor Center.
Darin Day climbs down from a vacant silo in Perry after repairing a barn owl nesting box on Friday, April 13, 2018. "The West is changing rapidly," Day said. "Eventually the number of these birds will be minimal in this state."
Darin Day, right, chats with Dick Giordano about building a new barn owl nest box on Giordano's Weber County ranch on Friday, April 13, 2018. As a teenager, Day would ride his bike from Roy to check on owl nests he had installed near Giordano's land near Little Mountain.