Fur and Feathers

Spotted Owl

owl        Those furry Rodents have been a plague to mankind throughout recorded history. In my part of that history, there have been many bad experiences with rodents because we like living in out-of-the-way places raising horses, dogs, and chickens. Having feed eaten and spilled by all these animals means that mice and rats can be a major problem. Rodents live in the night, out of sight, active, and unseen. Lucky for us, Owls are a great predator to have around, because they hunt in the night, out of sight, and unseen.  The skies that are hunted at night by Owls are hunted again in daylight by Hawks, Falcons, and Eagles.

        Owls live in most environments, but are rarely heard or seen. When we lived near Zion National Park and went for evening walks we could hear the Owls waking up to start on their evening hunting sweeps. We heard the owls call, but were never able to spot them in the dark until one moonlit night we heard a ruckus out back. To our surprise an Owl was attempting to break through our chicken pen and we got to see this action.

        One Owl that has had major publicity is the Spotted Owl. Its habitat is old growth forests and deep wooded canyons (like those in Zion National Park). When old growth forests are destroyed, Spotted Owl numbers plummet. Spotted Owls are indicators of a healthy forest, for this Owl keeps the rodents in check, that feed on the fungus, which is intermixed with the roots of the trees. Fungal growth on the roots of the trees are vital for a healthy forest. Man is able to grow tree plantations, but unable to produce healthy old growth type forests.   The more we learn about each animal, the more friends we find to humans.

        This master predator is one of the few Owls that has large dark eyes and seems not to be frightened of people. They are known to sit still as people walk and talk underneath their perches. Most Owl species will take flight and flee when man approaches.  When the diminishing Spotted Owls are spotted, the word goes out over the wires, because this is a great find for birders. 

        Judy Warren is this week's artist. As I write, there is a Great Horned Owl within a stone's throw of her home spending a sleepy day in a large tree. Thank you Judy for your contribution this week and for keeping an eye out for Owls.

        Mark your calendar for January 29, 30, 31, and February 1, 2009. It's the sixth annual St. George Winter Bird Festival. Free field trips, lectures, presentations, workshops, and live birds on display. We cater to kids and adults. For more information go on line to, or call Marilyn Davis 435 673-0996.

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