Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Martin Waddell's board book Owl Babies was a hit in our house, back in the day. When my son outgrew it, we moved on to Arnold Lobel's Owl at Home. Like everything Lobel wrote for young readers, it's deceptively simple, amazingly deep, and repays endless reading. We had the audiotape of Lobel reading Frog and Toad in the car for almost two solid years, and even when we finally moved on, I wasn't really tired of it, and we still quote from it. ("Hello, Lunch!")
When I was very small, I would stare and stare at the color plates of owls in my mother's vintage bird guide--I found them hypnotic, especially the image of the Barred Owl. So last year I was thrilled to actually have a saw-whet owl perch on my shoulder at a live raptor show. It was such a little personage. As William Service said of his pet owl, "size of a beer can, personality of a bank president." That just about sums it up. Owl is a great read in the "we had an exotic pet" genre of which I never tire. I am sorry to report that owls don't, like cats, smell like freshly laundered towels. Beaks must not be as good a clothes brush as a raspy tongue. But having the owl on my shoulder was an amazing experience.
So I was delighted to be sent by a birding friend this link to a live webcam of the nest box of a mother barn owl named Mollie. At last count there were three chicks and one egg yet unhatched. Molly (her mate is McGee) spends a lot of time preening, adjusting the chicks under her brood patch, tidying the nest box, etc. She is really cutting in to my productivity, I have to say. And as my mother said when I sent her the link, "How am I supposed to get anything done when I have to watch the owl?"
But in fact I think that watching the owl is rather good for me. Some things on the internet are time-wasters, but I don't think spending a few moments living vicariously at the pace of a brooding owl is bad for me.
Anyway, I think there are a few more days before the chicks in Molly's nest become quite as fluffy and filled out as these fine fellows on the cover of Waddell's book. If you're lucky, you might get to watch their sire, McGee, deliver a mouse to the nest box.