My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

ABC Wednesday: Whoo-whooo?

Whoo has worked their way into this week's ABC Wednesday post? A family of Western Screech Owls, that's whoo! :-)

One beautiful evening near sunset last week we rode our bikes to the cemetery, where we saw and heard crows, robins and other birds raising a ruckus and crying out loud warnings (a defensive activity known as mobbing). Wondering what was worrying them so, we waited and watched a while until we spied a small group of owls (called a parliament or a wisdom of owls) perched high in a couple of big spruce trees. The branches, lighting and their distance from the ground made getting good photos difficult work. I didn't always succeed, but hope you'll enjoy my attempts (click on any photo to see larger versions)...

Watchfully waiting

Owls hoot, screech, purr, snort, scream, chitter, hiss and whistle,
but due to a unique feather design on the leading edge of their wings, 
most owl species, including this one, are lethally silent in flight.
(As the poor, lifeless bird in this owl's talons witnessed too late). :-(

 Some people will always blink when you're trying to get their photo!

I love how the shaft of setting sunlight illuminated this owl's eye.

I think this one is a juvenile; s/he was very whiny. :-)

We went back to the cemetery at dusk Sunday evening when the owls (and other wildlife) were even more active, though the waning light made it challenging once again to photograph them. I did manage to wangle a picture and videos, though...

Our wise nocturnal friend waits for night to fall

Owls have binocular vision and see objects in three dimensions (like we do). In order to triangulate something's (or somebody's!) 3D position more precisely by getting multiple viewpoints of it, an owl will bob and weave its head, like this...

This video just cried out for musical accompaniment,
so this Bob & Weave performance is set to the opening bars 
of Dave James' appropriately titled "Nowhere to Hide." 

Here's an example of mobbing in action...

Although the owl appears unfazed by the crow's strafing, 
BW was impressed! (You can hear his "Wow!" in the background!)

More wonders are waiting at ABC Wednesday...


  1. The juvenile has the sweetest face. "A wisdom of owls" - what a great phrase!

  2. Great post. I love owls. Carver ABC-Wed. Team

  3. Beautiful captures!

    Wacky Wheel, come and see.

    Rose, ABC Wednesday.

  4. I'd heard of a parliament of owls, but not a WISDOM. Cool!
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  5. TW! Man, I'm going to have to try to refer your blog to Kavi, since he loves owls so much. What great pics & videos!! You guys are so lucky to be close to the natural world. The cemetery seems to be a great place to do a lot of things ;-).
    We haven't seen an owl in I don't know how long...years!..although I did see the most beautiful Snow Owl, of at all places, nad-grabbers about ten years ago. But the other day, the flock of crows that seem to hang around our yard a lot of the time, were chasing a Cooper's Hawk all over the place and making the biggest racket you ever was fun to watch. All we needed was a snow-covered mountain backdrop ;-). xoxo

  6. Great post - owls are fascinating. I saw a programme once that featured the chap who trained the owls for the Harry Potter films and he was saying how they are, well, a bit dim really (contrary to their 'wise' image!). I love that shot of the owl blinking, reminds me of so many people...

    And talking of owls... David was driving to work one night recently and one flew alongside the car for a while!

  7. Whhooo Hoo indeed.. I have always liked owls both as a symbol of wisdom and their association with horror ;)

    PhenoMenon, ABCW Team

  8. Wow! wonderful shots of wild things!

  9. The music you put to the head bobbing was perfect! I was lol'ing. ha!

    There was a screech owl in back of our house for the first two years we lived here, but this year we haven't heard him. I wish we would!

    We'll see red winged blackbirds do the mobbing thing to crows quite often. They're relentless!

    I know how hard it is to get good captures like this and you really got some great ones. Especially the one of the juvenile. Love them all!

  10. Annie ~ I thought so too! Kind of wide-eyed and innocent (yet slightly mischievous at the same time, lol) I love the phrase "a wisdom of owls" too, and toyed with changing my post title to it. Whooo knows why I didn't?! :-)

    Carver ~ Thanks, so do I!

    Jane ~ It certainly is! (Everyone needs to go see Jane's amazing bear-outside-her-window video!)

    Chubskulit ~ Thanks!

    Roger ~ I hadn't heard of either term until I did my research for this post. I giggled a bit at "parliament" (imagining owls in powdered wigs "yielding to the distinguished Lord Hooty-Hoot from Whooten Manor!"), but loved "a wisdom of owls." Very cool indeed!

  11. Spud ~ I didn't know Kavi loves owls! So does Robyn's daughter Ashley - always has, since she was about Kavi's age. I hope your attempt to send him this post is successful and that he enjoys it!

    The cemetery truly is a great place to do lots of things! Walking, biking, reading, exploring - and, of course, photographing! Wait till you see today's post. :-) People are going to think I have a morbid obsession with the cemetery, but I can't think of another place in town that's as quiet and peaceful and filled with wildlife and history, and it's awfully darned photogenic! :-)

    A snow owl, that had to be exciting! We had a hooty owl that would perch in a big cottonwood outside our second-story bedroom window on summer nights when we lived in Buffalo. We never saw him so we don't know what species he was, but he would hoot and our dog Tater, at the base of the tree below, would mimic him with a hooty-sounding howl in response! BW and I would lay there and listen to the two of them having their hooty-howly conversation and try to stifle our giggles so they wouldn't hear us through the open window and get all self-conscious! :-)

    Other than that, we had a little Western Screech Owl perch on our deck railing in the middle of a snowstorm one winter night a few years ago - I turned on the outside light to check the accumulation and there he was, blinking at me! And our former vet showed me some Great Horned Owls that were living in the giant cottonwood trees by their barn many years ago. That's been it for close encounters with owls till I discovered this bunch.

    The crows and magpies were always amazing at mobbing the birds of prey at our house in Big Horn. I can just imagine them terrorizing the Cooper's Hawk! Did you know that a group of crows is called "a murder of crows?" And a flock of ravens is called "an unkindess of ravens." Such odd terms - makes me want to dig deeper and learn their origins!

  12. Barbara ~ I agree that they're fascinating, they have such an aura of mystery. Frankly, I think the guy who trained the owls for the HP films was mistaken. The owls weren't dim, they just thought that what they were being asked to do was stupid and pointless and didn't pay enough. ;-) I'd like to think that they were wise enough to hire a new agent!

    That is so cool about the owl flying alongside David's car! Got himself a dose of Owl Medicine ("Owl brings with it the message of truth and awareness. When owl hoots at you or swoops into your life make sure to stop and become aware of your surroundings, seek truth in every aspect of your life and interactions.") :-)

    PhenoMenon ~ Sounds like you especially enjoyed seeing them in that twilit cemetery setting too, then! :-)

    lotusleaf ~ Thank you! I love photographing wild critters. It often forces me to have patience I don't normally possess, and I find it exciting and rewarding. I'm glad you enjoyed these pictures!

    Molly ~ LOL - I'm really glad you liked that! I'd never attached music to a video before, and though I'd wanted to use Michael Jackson's "Bad" (the rhythm went perfectly with the head bobbing) or something by The Who or Hootie and the Blowfish (lol), I couldn't figure out how to do that without getting my pants sued off. :-) So I went through the approved tracks on YouTube and couldn't believe my luck when I found this! It did go perfectly with the owl's bob and weave, and the title was perfect too!

    I hope your screech owl (or a new one) shows up again (though your song birds probably prefer an owl-free yard to hang out in!) I didn't know red winged blackbirds mob crows - we'll have lots of them at the new house. There's a wetland area full of cattails and red winged blackbirds behind our place.

    You've been getting some amazing bird photos lately yourself! It is hard, thanks for appreciating my efforts and results! :-)

  13. Again, great photos Laurie! The owls are absolutely beautiful! Their faces have enormous character. I don't think I've ever seen one in real life so close up.

    Fair play to the crows. I'm always impressed at the bravery of birds defending their own. Especially crows, even small birds around here "mob" at neighborhood cats. The crows take the cake though...I've seen them going after a bald eagle down by the lake.

    Have a great weekend, and good luck at the garage sale. Your chipotle hummus sounds pretty yummy.

  14. Rose ~ And again, I thank you! :-) I thought you'd really enjoy the owl photos. You're right that their faces have enormous character. It's tempting to read a lot into their expressions!

    The crows really are amazing, they are quite fearless. We used to see them and the magpies take on hawks and eagles all the time at our old place. The robins were impressive the other night, they were not taking any sh*t off any owls either! One robin harried an owl all by herself for a while and then sat on the ground beneath the tree the owl was perched in and seemed to taunt him! The owl was watching the robin closely and doing that bob & weave thing, and I told the robin she better quit talking smack to a raptor because I really didn't want to have to intercede on her behalf if that owl launched himself at her! :-)

    The chipotle hummus turned out great (I've made it before but I still had to do a taste test - or two - dontcha know) - here's the recipe!

  15. LOL ref the owls getting a new agent... I can just imagine them when being asked to deliver a letter in the HP films saying, 'Yes but what's my motivation darling' in an owlish luvvy voice.

    Not sure it would have been wise for D to stop on the A5 at night to take note of his surroundings... he'd either have been rear-ended or arrested!

  16. Hello.
    Owls are such beautiful and mysterious creatures. These are great! Enjoyed the video too, but video #1 was a real hoot! LOL
    Thanks for sharing.

    The Warm Fingers Of Love

  17. what great pictures. i love owls. i feel so fortunate when i get to see them.

    when time races like a bullet

  18. Barbara ~ LOL in return at your imagined "Yes but what's my motivation darling" luvvy voiced owl response! :-D

    AND at the idea of David stopping on the A5 to take note of his surroundings. You do crack me up!

    Andy ~ They sure are, and were worth every effort to photograph. I'm really glad you enjoyed the photos - especially the bob & weave video! :-) Sharing them was my pleasure - thank you for visiting and leaving your fun comment!

    zongrik ~ Thank you, I sure felt the same seeing these guys! :-)

  19. Being only two posts above the bottom is not great but at least they haven't fallen off!

    These owl photos were amazing. My favorite wast the third one. I could really see the features of his/her face and I loved your caption about the blinking because I am forever doing that and ruining photos.

    I really liked the bob and weave video because I didn't know they did that and I especially didn't know that they did it in order to see better. I'm just glad we don't have to do that to see in 3-D. We'd all look pretty stupid if we did!!! Or we'd all look like we were on some kind of drug!!

    Thanks also for the words associated with owls. Whooo knew there were so many sounds they made and I love that they congregate in a parliament!!! That is just perfect for wise owls!!

  20. Jo ~ I know, I thought for sure my big Karz Rod Rally post would knock almost everything off the first page!

    I was amused at your liking the photo and caption of the blinking owl because you're a photo-blinker yourself! Now when someone complains that your ruined the shot by blinking, you can just tell them it just demonstrates your owl-like wisdom. :-)

    I'm glad we don't have to bob and weave to see things well either, I have enough neck problems as it is! But the owls look good doing it, don't they?

    I'm glad you enjoyed this post! It's the one I thought Missy would like also. Hope you're having a great 4th at the lake!


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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