Monday, May 18, 2009

Hoots, Howls, and Hollers 05/18/2009

Even in an urban setting you just never know what is lurking in your backyard….isn’t that a cool notion?  Because people in my neighborhood know what I do, I get regular reports on what lives in our “hood”—wildlife-wise, that is.  One day it was a wild turkey cruising through the neighborhood.  It could be javelina, a coyote, or a fox.  I have seen most of the local reptiles…alive, or unluckily unable to cross the road in time (so sad).  We have been visited by raccoons, skunks, and most of the native-to-the-area squirrels and rodents. 

The bird list is extensive so it didn’t surprise me to get a call from a good friend in the neighborhood who reported that they had a baby owl in the sumac tree in their backyard.  Armed with binoculars, flashlights and a bird book, they set about identifying the little guy who made a bark-like noise. 

I arrived the next day intent to identify what I already suspected was a fledgling or adult Western screech owl.  I was thrilled when we spotted the small owl tucked next to a branch giving its best “I’m really just a tree limb; don’t look at my eyes; don’t recognize me as an owl; maybe you’ll just go away “act.

It was a great opportunity for me (possibly a rueful time for them) to launch into my “let me tell you everything I know about screech owls” routine.  They listened politely and really did seem interested. 

Whatever its thought process, the little owl must have been ok with things as a phone call today revealed that there were now four screech owls pretending to be nothing more than the limbs in the sumac tree. 

The best part for me was to see the excitement, the investment, the engagement with the natural world…..despite my launch into my teacher persona.  I do believe that a person never looks at things the same if they have a personal experience with a wild creature ….particularly if it is your own yard.  I always expect that I’ll see a tortoise on the road where I saw it before.  I still expect to see the king snake under the same bush in the back yard.  And, I expect that I’ll once more see the roadrunner on the wall……even though they aren’t ever there again…..I look very closely for them, and I always see other things.  Isn’t that cool?

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