Friday, January 1, 2010

an evening with shakespeare

shakespeare is my pet owl. (he's a barred owl, hence the name — a play on words.) the problem is that he doesn't seem too enthusiastic about that idea. i guess i can't blame him. i have 1000 sq. ft. of living space; he has millions. i have an old 1990 honda civic wagon; he has wings. i have a computer with high-speed internet, image/audio/video editing software, and my iTunes is packed with 4.4 days worth of music; i have a couple of synths, an acoustic guitar, a drum set, and microphones…he has wings. i have a nice camera; he has…well, let's just say he could care less about taking pictures of me. oh…and he has wings.

i would kill to have wings.

yeah…i guess i'm a little envious of my feathered friend. i often entertain a daydream/fantasy of being able to fly. the way birds zip through the heavily wooded landscape, deftly navigating around trees and thier branches at high speeds, then swooping up and out of the woods to soar gracefully through the vast expanse of open sky — twisting, turning, diving, they ride currents of air, effortlessly covering great distances in very small amounts of time, then accelerate suddenly and glide back to earth, where they pop open their wings, adjust the angle of their tailfeathers slightly, and alight effortlessly on a branch, window ledge, belltower, rooftop…or pretty much anywhere they feel like landing.

what freedom.

however, i would not want to give up a thick juicy, grilled bacon-onion-and-pepperjack cheese hamburger on a toasted, buttered bun, with seasoned curly fries, and a thick, chocolate malt (or an ice cold corona) for an uncooked, fur-covered rodent. no envy there.

but, to be able to fly like that…

anyway, to get back on track, i saw the strapping fellow above on one of my walks along the greenway. he was perched on a bent tree branch about five or six feet off the path. because i am constantly looking in every direction but the one in which i'm traveling, i noticed him right away. (seriously, i arrive home from some of my walks with my neck aching like nobody's business from all of the constant craning to the left and right, and from the obsessive scanning of the treetops.) i would hear the owls from time to time and wonder where they are, where do they hang out, and will i ever see one? judging from the amount of everyday common people whose flickr accounts boast nice pictures of owls of all kinds, it would seem that the odds are very much in favor of bearing witness to these solemn creatures. but walk after walk, i was beginning to lose hope. i would hear one, up ahead — sounds really close — so i would pick up the pace, only to hear him again…farther away.

sigh. maybe someday…

then, without warning — or sound of any kind — there he was. i'm not sure how long he'd been sitting there, but he seemed very content, and very confident of his anonymity. people skated by on their roller blades, zipped by on their bikes, got pulled along by their happy-go-lucky, panting dogs, briskly trotted down the path yapping loudly on their cell phones — all oblivious to the feathered wonder that was perched less than ten feet from them. anyone who did happen to notice, noticed it only because they saw me standing there with a large-lensed camera, staring into the woods with a dumb look on my face.

them: "what are you looking at?"

me: [drool, drool] "owl." [drool]

them: "an owl?!? what...? oh. wow!"

me: [drool]

it was dusk, so lighting was at a bare minimum. i was hesitant to use flash, because i didn't know what kind of damage it might cause to the structure of their eyes. but i broke down in a moment of selfishness and fired off a few anyway, praying everything would be fine. to my delight, though irresponsibly after the fact, i found out that their eyes can adapt to sudden bright flashes of light. at worst, the owl's night vision capabilities would be impaired for about an hour; at best, owls' retinas can withstand direct exposure to the sun, which, of course, is much brighter than a flash. (read more "for/against" information here: effects of flash photography on owls, just one of the many sites i visted for information on this topic.)

i need to do more research on owls, especially the barred owl, because i'd like to know more about their behavior, particularly their nest-to-hunting-area proximity: do they typically hunt away from their nests? close to their nests? etc. i'd love to be able to find a nest and observe (through my lens, of course) the behavior of these owls as they raise their young.

for now, however, i'll just be content and grateful for the unique and unexpected glimpses i'm allowed until that day.


Richard said...

Absolutely great owl pictures.

dugfresh said...

thanks. i had to do some work on the eye, as the effects of the flash weren't very appealing.

i think another interesting thing (that i left out of the post) is the blood on his beak; looks like he just finished a meal. at least, i believe that's blood. in looking online at various morphs of this owl, i never noticed a stage in which the beak color turned reddish-orange...

Mary said...

I'm green - with envy. Thanks a lot. (stomping my feet) That's one of the best owl shots I've seen Doug! Wow. Wow. Wow.

And, you know? I dream of flying also. I also dream of seeing an owl.

I just talked about people's busyness and what they all miss... Have you ever had your eye on a bird or something incredibly good - camera ready to fire away - and some idiot with a big smile inquires, "hey, what are ya doin'" My secret reply, "shut up and leave me alone, OK?"


Great post. Awesome photos.


Post a Comment

let me know what you think. unlike most people, i care.