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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Poison Water guzzlers -- Western screech owl

Unless you are approaching the golden years of codgerdom, you may not remember comedian Jackie Vernon's appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and his solemn pronouncement --  "A wet bird never flies at night".

Actually Vernon credited philosopher Sig Sakowitz for that gem of wisdom, but he believed it.

And so did I. 

I believed the heavy hand of natural selection had weeded out wet birds that dared to fly at night.

Now I am starting to have doubts.  

You see, it was night -- 9:40PM to be exact -- when this Western screech owl mirrored itself before the still waters of Poison Water Spring. 

Five minutes later it waded into the murky shallows.


Okay, it was only a sitz bath, but the camera took two more pictures at intervals of 8 and 16 minutes. 

Which makes me think it was a case of bathus interruptus -- in and outalways on the lookout, and all nervous like girls skinny dipping in the 60s. 

This little joker, a recent fledgling showed up the next night . . . .

. . . . sipped bath water . . . 

and definitely got his or her pantalones wet. 

I can't prove that the birds flew wet into the night, but I doubt they left Poison Water in a state of popcorn dryness. 

Sometimes you have to give up cherished beliefs.

Nowadays I'm inclined to believe that wet birds do fly at night. 


brdpics said...

Nice! I was really hoping you'd post owl shots after mentioning them in your last bird round-up post...

randomtruth said...

Excellent! And I can corroborate your evidence - I got some really lousy cam trap pics last year of our local great horned owl splashing in the creek by my bro's Mariposa place at 8:30pm.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Any owl picture is a treat for me -- no matter how bad.

RT, she'll be back, and you can set up your cam for an up close and personal shot.

suek said...

I was sitting in the car waiting for my husband in the driveway in a rural area at about 8:30 at night when an owl landed about 20 feet in front of the car. It looked like your screech owl, but I only had the headlights of the car, and I'm not familiar with owl identification. I'd estimate its size as about 12". It appeared to be banded. Maybe. It flew up after a few minutes and disappeared. My husband returned and we continued up the driveway. As we did, an owl flew from one side to the other - the wing span appeared much larger than I'd have guessed from the one I saw on the ground. As we continued, another one - or the same one? flew across the driveway again. Also large wing span. Did I see two parent owls and a young one? One owl? I wish I knew! but it was dark out (duh!) and I have no idea.

randomtruth said...

I've been looking for good spots to set up for her. She did give us an even better gift than just good pics of her though - she let us enjoy her kid, little horny for a few days as he learned to fly. Either that, or it was a new Sesame Street character... :)

Camera Trap Codger said...

Lil Horny is about as cute as they get. Mom definitely gave you a better gift than their usual gift -- an owl pellet.

Suek, you need a good field guide to birds. 12" is a bit large for a Screech owl, unless we're talking Texas screech owls (just kidding).

Owlman said...

Outstanding Codger! I think maybe I should setup my camera trap in my Zen garden where I see birds bathing during the day.
While living in the Sierra Nevada Foothills near Foresthill in the early 90's I observed with a spot light a screech owl bathing after dark in our man made stream.
Got one poor photo of it.
Your photos are very good.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Your nocturnal bathers may be a surprise.

Anonymous said...

Such a *cute* little owl! Awww! Excellent pictures.


suek said...

>>12" is a bit large for a Screech owl, unless we're talking Texas screech owls (just kidding).>>

Well...he _could_ be out here (califonia) on vacation...!

But I don't think so...they are regulars for that area. There was one again last evening, as the sun was setting. Sitting at the very top of a tree surveying the area.

I could be off on the size - I was looking down at an angle, and had only the headlights and nothing in the immediate area for size reference.

Checked the field guide - but I didn't see its face. No "ear" tufts - but if it was young, would it have those?

Tami Weingartner said...

I'm an Owl fanatic.....these pictures are great!