Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

What the...?

There may, or may not, be an owl in our Leland Cyprus trees. It's been there a while - at first I thought it was some trash that had blown up there (it's a really windy day, today), but when I got the (old, old, really, really old, and as it turns out not very useful) binoculars to take a look, I sort of thought I saw feathers. Hmm. I got the other binoculars (not old at all but rather cheaply made and also not really useful) and looked again. Hmm. The other birds of the neighborhood were upset with that portion of tree, which made me think that something was up there, so why not an owl?

Where's Owl-o? Hint - two-thirds up, dead center, give or take. That reddish-creamish blot. Yep.

I went outside to shoot pictures, but alas...I haven't really got any sort of telephoto lens. When I walked closer to the trees, my owlish friend got cheesed off and ducked through the branches towards the trunk, the disobliging sod. He came back to the sunlight when I came back inside. Dang it. I shot some other pictures through the window, using my camera's mega-zoom feature which is terrific for taking pictures of alien spacecraft and bigfoot.

See? Nice and blurry!

I looked for our poor, abused bird book, but it has gotten put away somewhere I may never again find it, so I was pondering what to do. Ah-hah!! I looked online. No help there, none of the owly things I found looked like my critter. Hmm. Perhaps I have something new?
Yeah, not bloody likely!
So I did the next best thing - I called my dad. He and my stepmum are ornithologically excitable people. She's written a book about the birds of Martha's Vineyard, with pictures in and the approval of the Audubon society, and also a second book with additions to the first. Cool, huh? They travel all over the freakin' world looking at birds. Look, there's a bird. It's in Africa. Hey, there's another one. It's in Spain. There are birds to be seen on Madagascar, Japan, Antarctica, Alaska, Russia, and Paris (I didn't know there were any birds in Paris, besides pigeons). Also in Guyana, but they were a touch distracted by the bugs there, and possibly not as excited by the birds because of it. A few hundred mysterious insect bites will put a damper on birding, I suppose (although if they were real enthusiasts...wait, I'd better not go there, they might read this some day, get cheesed off, and never again help me figure out what kind of flapping things I have emptying the feeder). I described my feathered lodger to them, and they narrowed it down to two likely suspects:
It could be a Great Horned Owl

Or a Barred Owl

I also thought, based on nothing but a randomly pointed finger and a few squinty glances, that perhaps it could be one of these:

A Boreal Owl
Of course, it could also very well be a giant one of these:

A Red Squirrel

The markings are the same, after all, and you saw the picture - how do I know a giant red squirrel isn't equally upsetting to the Blue Jays, Cardinals, and even Mourning Doves as an owl is?

What do you think? None of the pictures that I blatantly stole borrowed from http://www.owlpages.com/index.php look like my blurry blob-in-a-tree, do they? The squirrel picture, also stolen borrowed from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_squirrel (please don't come hunt me down or send the law-doggies after me for theft borrowing these...please??) looks more like what's in my tree, except for the size. It is maybe a foot or two high, and I really don't want to think about a squirrel that size...oh, dear...what sort of nuts would I feed it???

I sent my really bad pictures of the owly critter to my dad and stepmum vie e-mail in hopes they can garner more information from them and help me identify our new friend. I'm not much of a birder, myself, but I do like to know who's (hah!) in the neighborhood. I think they were tickled that I called them to ask, truth be told...we don't talk often because they're not usually on this planet in the country - they're off leading ornithological (try typing that word in a hurry!) and natural history tours through Central America, or birding on other continents or communing with the mother ship participating in bird counts. So it was neat to not only find them at home, but to have a chance to talk to them about something that interests them. It was worth the long distance fees for making a call from Georgia to Martha's Vineyard at peak time. We don't really need to eat next month, do we?

Meanwhile, our hooty pal is still hanging onto that branch. Dad said it would probably take off around dusk, and maybe I'll get a better look at it. It's in the shade now, sun setting and all, and it's still so windy that he goes for quite a ride every few minutes. Umm...do owls get motion sickness? Hey, maybe it'll cough up an owl pellet, and I can get Mike Rowe to come clean it up! Bonus!!


OwlPages.com said...

That, my friend, is an Eastern Screech Owl.
Regards, Deane.

foolery said...

I haven't read all of your posts after this one yet (I'm behind), but seriously, do go look under the tree for owl pellets. If he feels safe there he may stay, or make it one of his places, and then you'll find owl pellets. We used to have college kids come collect them from our barns to study.

I think owls are smarter than people. To date not ONE owl has come to our bathroom collecting people pellets to study.