The biggest surprise this summer down-the-shore was not the weather, shark sightings or electrifying new amusement rides. Rather, it was a winged reinforcement team successfully ridding a growing and aggressive problem.

The aid of trained raptor birds -- a falcon, owl and hawk -- was enlisted by Ocean City NJ to clear out those numerous, annoying and hungry seagull thiefs who steal privacy and food on the boardwalk. An opportunity to learn about the species and be in their company comes Oct. 5 in Green Lane, Montgomery County. The event is free and open to all ages.

“There will be as many as eight birds here,” said Kevin Crilley, environmental educator, Montgomery County Parks Department. “Only one or two of them will be free flying while the others are perched and tethered.”

The “Flight of the Falcon -- Live Birds of Prey” event is scheduled for 1 p.m. with a second show at 3 p.m. at Green Lane Park Amphitheater, 2298 Green Lane Rd., Green Lane. Phone is 215-234-4528.

Baywing Falconry -- it’s not the company hired in Jersey -- is running the Montgomery County show as it has several times before looking at the life history and ecology of falcons, owls and hawks.

Said Crilley: “They’ll talk about birds of prey, their role in the environment and their importance as indicators of environmental health.”

The 50-minute program is fun as it focuses on the highly adapted aerial hunters, said Crilley.

“It’s really an upbeat kind of program,” he said. “It’s reality with a positive message. And there’s lots of photo opportunities with the birds right there.”

The birds of prey used in Ocean City this summer are tracked by GPS and trained to scare away the seagulls without attacking them, and then return to their handlers. Baywing, based in central Pennsylvania, specializes in all aspects of birds of prey management.

Should you attend the Oct. 5 show, do me a favor. Ask an owl to investigate items (small plastic toys mistaken for food) stolen by aggressive seagulls from my kids when they were very young on the beach.

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