Peace in the Middle East may be just an illusion, but they still have their symbols! The dove has been joined by the barn owl. From This Week magazine we learn that barn owls have helped save Israel’s crops by eating the rats that feast on them, but then many fly off to Jordan to nest. There they’ve been dying off in record numbers by eating rodents contaminated by pesticides used by Jordanian farmers. So Israeli farmers and scientists are working with Jordanian farmers to curtail the use of pesticides. It seems to be working so far, the magazine reports, and the results look promising. Maybe they should talk to each other about curtailing the use of military gear as well. Then they might have more than an illusion of peace.
Which gives me a great opening, if I stretch really really hard, for a little nature reporting of my own here. I’ve been wanting to share these pictures for a long time.
This little fellow (above), is not a barn owl. By the time I grabbed my camera, this is how the he looked after crashing into the French doors of our bedroom very early one morning last fall. Since the many-window-paned doors are directly across from a large picture window looking out and downward into our neighbor’s back yard, we think he may have been swooping down to collect his breakfast when our door got in the way!When I first saw him, his face was not visible and it looked like a fat feathered thing with no head! So far we haven’t been able to definitely identify him, but we think he’s either a sahwet owl (or sowet) or a northern pygmy owl, both of which are apparently extremely rare.
He’s definitely alive, but . . . Ouch! I think he has one collossal sized headache. The boards on the backyard deck are about five inches wide, which may give some idea of the small size of this beautiful little creature.
“Hey, I think I can open one eye now! Yes! There it is.”
He’s now recovered enough to glare at me. “Back off Bugger!” he seems to be saying. “If it weren’t for this damn headache and seeing double . . . !” By the time we’d come back from classes at the U that day (around noon) he had apparently recovered enough to go about the rest of his day. No sign of him remained except one tiny feather. No blood or other signs of foul play (by a cat maybe?) so I like to think he went back home to wait for winter, or maybe to see if Mama Owl had some owl aspirin.
Fall and Winter is when these mule deer come out to play and forage for grass under the snow just outside our backyard gates.
Mother looks up warily to see what’s coming up. “Oh yes,” she seems to say, “it’s just that man (my Hubby) with the camera again.”
Now winter, our first real one since moving from Las Vegas, has set in for good. After one of the first snowfalls, this little bit of a thing, a snow weasel , surprises us one morning probably just as much as it surprised him to see us!
“Maybe I could get a better look if I burrow up to the big double wide glass doors. Hummm, d’ye think they might have something to eat in there?” In a few short weeks, Mother Nature showed her ugly but necessary side (ecological balance and all that stuff y’know). It’s something you just have to get used to living this close to the wild wild outdoors. Another owl (not the cute one above), a big beautiful white one, showed up one day to roost in the cherry tree in our yard. After that we never saw this beauty again.
But Spring came along, and then we were able to stop crying and focus on these little creatures. Several of these little Gambel’s Quail couples raise batches of little ones in our backyard and surrounds every spring and summer. You should see how well they handle their sometimes huge batches of chicks. If only they could write a parenting manual! And of course the little ground squirrel (is that what they are? I haven’t been able to find a for sure answer) near them is darting around here most of the year. I haven’t been able to get a photograph from my own camera, so “Birdman of Hell Paso” (at Flickr.com) graciously allowed me to use this one that he took. You can see more of his fabulous bird pictures by clicking here.
This little retreat of ours along the Wasatch mountains offers a peaceful setting in spite of everything bad going on in the world. May you find your own peace wherever you happen to be.