Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Remembering the Legacy of the Original Owl Ladies

Photos by Jean Hall
| Original Owl Ladies (l-r) Carol Patterson, Lori Fredericks, Eva Schliesser and Nancy Richie.


In a statement from Lori Beall of the Audubon of the Western Everglades (AWE), “it’s with great sadness that one of the original ‘Owl Ladies’, Carol Patterson, passed away last weekend. Carol was one of the four original Owl Prowl volunteers. We lost Eva Schliesser last year and the Owl Ladies are the primary reasons that burrowing owls thrive on Marco Island.”

Photos by Jean Hall
| Nancy Richie, Lori Fredericks, and Eva Schliesser – September 2011- all ready to trim around the burrows.

The legacy group of Carol Patterson, Eva Schliesser, Lori Fredericks, and Nancy Richie, fondly called the Owl Ladies, started the Owl Prowl in 1999. Nancy Richie, then the Island’s Environmental Specialist, performed the very first survey of the burrowing owls with four to five owls on Marco. Every Friday, on her own time, Nancy, with her Owl Prowl volunteers Carol, Eva, and Lori, posted, and also weeded and whacked the burrows. 

Starting at 7:00 AM, the Owl Ladies worked for about three to four hours and during the nesting season, they counted the chicks and made sure the burrows were protected. Once the chicks have fledged, they took over the task of cutting back the weeds and replacing signs, postings, and stakes. They were the pioneers in conservation and for over 15 years protected the burrowing owls on Marco Island. They passed on their passion to the Owl Watch volunteers.

It would make our Owl Ladies, Eva, and Carol, proud to learn that Owl Watch had another successful 2020 season. They had over 80 active volunteers for 404 sites and 225 pairs of burrowing owls nesting on Marco Island and six pairs in Naples. Owl Watch volunteers also started using NestStory software to track burrows and owls.


Photos by Jean Hall
| 2019 Group Photo of Owl Watch Marco with Carol Patterson in red shirt with her big smile. Carol, Owl Watch is going to miss you.


The 2021 Burrowing Owl Nesting Season will officially start March 1, with over 50 volunteers monitoring 390 burrow sites in Marco Island. Sadly, we’ve lost some burrows due to development. The sites are broken down into 21 neighborhoods with 15 sites each. Each monitor/volunteer is assigned one of these neighborhoods to check throughout the nesting season from March 1 through July. In addition to counting owls and their chicks, monitors will also be contributing to research by checking for owls with leg bands.

Photos by Jean Hall
| Carol Patterson and Eva Schliesser – in 2015.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) listed Burrowing Owls as state threatened in 2016. They are also federally protected in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and under Marco Island’s Protected Species Ordinance.

For additional information on Burrowing Owls or how to volunteer, please email:

Please report malicious destruction or harassment of burrowing owls or their burrows to: 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).

Eva’s deep roots on Marco: In addition to the Burrowing Owls, Eva had another passion. In 1979, as a new transplant to Marco Island, she placed an ad in the local paper to see if anyone was interested in forming a garden club. To her surprise, a group of both men and women responded, and thus the beginning of the Calusa Garden Club.

In 1984 Eva, with a group of volunteers from the Calusa Garden Club (CGC) and working with the Collier Country Parks and Recreation Department, assumed the task of developing Leigh Plummer Memorial Park into a bird sanctuary and educational area. The theme was to use plants and trees native to this sub-tropical area. They started planting, pruning, and weeding at the Leigh Plummer Memorial Park. 

Eva said her goal in life was “to educate our community about our beautiful native plants and to help get rid of the exotics.”

On January 15, to remember Eva’s legacy and in honor of Arbor Day, the Calusa Garden Club planted two native plants at the Leigh Plummer Memorial Park.


Photo by Maria Lamb | Calusa Garden Club Plaque Ceremony at Leigh Plummer Memorial Park with Eva Schliesser (with vest and dark glasses) in 2017.

Photos by Jean Hall
| 2021 Burrowing Owl Season will officially start March 1st with over 50 volunteers monitoring 390 sites in Marco Island.


One response to “Remembering the Legacy of the Original Owl Ladies”

  1. Thank you for this great article on the Owl Prowl and the women who started it. It shows that individuals can make a difference— in protecting our environment, in this case. Nancy Jean Richie is to be commended for her career in environmental protection, both in government and in the private sector. These women were pioneers!

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