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Monday, May 30, 2016

Growing up owl

It is not easy being a juvenile owl. It is much like a teenager who has outgrown his pants overnight and now has to go on a field trip with high waters.  Their wings are huge as are their talons but learning how to fly is challenging.  That's why Edgehhill park is perfect for Nellie and her new mate (who needs a name by the way). There is a vast canopy of branches where they can take short flights then move on to longer distances.  One of the things that these babies have been slow to learn is that thicker branches hold more weight. Often they will fly onto a branch which sways under the weight so they end up upside down and mortified.   These are two siblings that like to show off for each other.  They have the flying part down pretty good by now. At this point it is time to learn how to hunt.

Imagine the acute timing it takes to spot prey, focus, realize it can be had, lift off, stare at prey hoping it doesn't move, time the landing so that your wings back up, talons raise to snare the prey, then you have to upright yourself and lift off. And that is if they prey doesn't move. Remember that owls fly silently so what's on the ground never hears them coming although a large shadow might be an indication.  Below is a one minute slow motion video of an eagle owl (the largest in the world) landing and note he is just landing, not hunting. Clearly, a work of art and awe.

So our little owlets, need to learn how to pounce on prey in anticipation of grabbing them from the air. Above is a grey owl very diligently practicing his pounce maneuver.

Last night was remarkable. The entire family was out.  First we watched the babies fly around the branches acting real cool. "I got this down." Then they went to the ground and were aimlessly pouncing hoping they might accidentally catch something.  Then Mom called from a distance so they fly up to a tree and started begging. She came in a few seconds but only fed one (as is typically the custom). The other one had a hissy fit and flew right above my head and stayed there and stared. "Hey, Owl Lady. Can you bag a chipmunk for me?" The other one finished and also flew above my head.

Just a little photoshop...The last thing that happened was that Dad called from the other end of Edgehill. They immediately started flying. They met in the middle and Dad had a big enough meal that they both could eat. It looked to be a snake. We watched for about 5 minutes in amazement that this was happening before our eyes.

There is a thing in Japan called Shinrin yoku which means "forest bathing."  It is essentially the practice of submerging yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of the woods. You might try it tonight and for the next several nights at Edgehill. You'll find that the catbird is the last and loudest to go to bed. The cardinal is most likely to sound the alert mode that a predator is near. A mockingbird will have the guts to go after an owl while the crows gather courage among a crowd (actually a murder of crows). Hopefully, the show will start at 8:00 again. Go take a bath.

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