True facts about the owl

26 April 2014 by GrrlScientist, posted in Birding, Birds, Video

SUMMARY: Just in time for caturday! A lovely and humourous video about owls and of course, a story about one of my favourite owl species.

Yep, it's caturday once again so you know what that means: it's time for an animal video!

Today's video is about owls. It combines parody and humour with accurate information, which makes it especially fun to watch. Besides the fact that owls are really fascinating creatures in their own right, of course.

Reading on a mobile device? Here's the video link. (The videographer can be found on twitter @zefrank.)

I was a little bit bummed that my one of my favourite owls -- the long-eared owl, Asio otus -- was not mentioned in this video. Why do I like this owl species so much? Besides the obvious reasons (they're beautifully marked and rely on crypsis to hide them from prying eyes during the day), I admire this species because it is the "wild wahine" of owls -- when captured in the field, this is the only species of owl that cannot be safely restrained with one hand because they use both their feet and their beaks very effectively to fight their captors.

This reminds me of a particularly faboo day of owling that I experienced in British Columbia, Canada. Thanks to an active birders' grapevine, I heard that a group of "possibly seven" long-eared owls had been spotted the previous day at one of my most beloved birding places in western North America, the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, located on the Fraser River estuary. The next day, I awoke early, and drove through the darkness like a bat out of hell from Seattle to the refuge to see these birds.

Shortly after I arrived on that cold and gloomy morning, a small group of keen birders assembled and together, we set out before the first sparrow's fart to find these elusive owls. It had been reported that they were located on a part of the property that was fenced off and usually inaccessible to the public, but the refuge manager kindly opened the gates for us -- no bribery involved. Just one hour later, when the sun was finally trying to burn through the fog, we were enraptured by a group of eleven long-eared owls. Obviously, a few more arrived in the night.

The birds, blinking slowly in the weak sunlight, were sitting motionless and nearly invisible on the ground in a small clearing in the underbrush or perched low in the trees. We all were so excited and wonderstruck that we even forgot to shiver because of the cold and damp.

I felt so fortunate: whilst most people slept late that particular Saturday morning, I was making a special memory that I will carry until the end of my days.

Here's a captive long-eared owl, photographed at Battlefield Falconry Centre, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England.


A long-eared owl, Asio otus, at Battlefield Falconry Centre, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England.
Image: angusleonard (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.)

What are your favourite owl species?

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NOTE: this piece was originally published on The Guardian.

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When she's not out birding, Grrlscientist can also be found on on her eponymous Guardian blog, and she sometimes lurks on social media; facebook, G+, LinkedIn, Expatacular!, Pinterest. She's quite active on twitter: @GrrlScientist

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