Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bird Sigthings...and Disappearings(?)

This morning, my eldest monkey, who is in charge of keeping care of our flock of ducks and quail, asked me if I would mind taking care of her ducks for her this morning, which is a rather unusual request. Our conversation:

Kid: "Mom, can you let my ducks out of their house later?"

Me: "Of course. Why don't you just let them out now though?"

Kid: "I want to wait because I saw and heard a spotted owl come out of the woods and fly over the bog. It was so cool, Mom!"

Indeed, that does sound cool. We often hear, if not actually see, barred owls calling back and forth in our woods, but a spotted owl is rare.

If you grew up in the Pacific Northwest, then you are probably very familiar with the spotted owl as an enormous thorn in the side of the local logging industry. The owls were driven to near endangered status as a result of habitat loss from massive clear-cuts and harvesting of old-growth forests. When the US Fish and Wildlife Service put extreme restrictions on logging in order to help restore the spotted owl population, the logging industry was hit hard. Displaced, laid-off loggers were infuriated, countering with a macabre campaign to kill the owls and have done with it.

These and other catchy slogans were the logging industry's reply to the USFWS's 1991 court order to prohibit logging in national forests.

I digress, but the point I'm trying to underscore here is how extremely rare and magnificent a sight that a spotted owl, swooping low over our mist-covered bog, must have been for my kiddo to have beheld.

The reason that I suspect that the owl chose our farm for his morning fly-by is slightly less magical - breakfast.

The night preceding, we had a quail jailbreak of epic proportions. Someone didn't latch the door on the hutch and our quail decided to go on a walkabout. By the time the breach was noted, approximately three quarters of our flock were out and about, well distributed throughout our acreage. We literally beat the bushes and climbed through thickets and brambles to try to recapture as many as we could before dusk fell. Upon final head count, we were still 15-20 birds short. Somewhere in the hay field and bog, the little rogues bedded down for the night.

Enter the owl.

The Boggy Hollow breakfast buffet was just too tasty for him to pass up.

At least our loss was a gain for a critter that really needed the help. Not to mention, my kid got what is very possibly a once-in-a-lifetime bird sighting, in her own backyard no less.

So thanks, Mr. Owl, for choosing us for your dining needs. May I recommend a hearty dessert of Norway rat and field mouse?

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