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Travelling, Travelling…

Off to the Great White North, hopefully to spot a snowy owl (or at least not get snowed in.) It’s a whirlwind business/birding trip, so I’m getting minimal socializing in, but we’ll almost certainly be back later this year, and hopefully can do more hanging out.

In the meantime, I am now Ready For Spring. I was mulching in Hello Kitty pajamas yesterday. (Yes, that will be the title of my memoir.) My brain would like to get into Serious Gardening Mode now. I am being forced to read gardening books to stay sane. They aren’t helping.

Spring, damn you!

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.

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snowy owls are awesome, but they're hard to see due to looking like piles of snow. I remember the one trip I took to see them, passing my binoculars across the landscape thinking "pile of snow, little tree, some dirt, pile of snow, owl, some rocks... wait a second..."

If you're patient enough, you can easily distinguish between an owl and a pile of snow.

Piles of snow may sometimes have eyes, but they never fly.

-- Graydon

A friend got me the Landreth Seed Catalogue for Yule, and I find myself drooling over pictures of vegetables I don't in fact like to eat, and dreaming of Cioggia beets, Scarlet Runner beans, Mr. Stripey tomatoes and Cosmic carrots.

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That is because Seattle, much like the South, seems to think that 6 inches of snow signals The End Times.

Do they have enough equipment to handle that much snow, or are they really just panicked chickens? *is Coloradoan- six inches at DIA isn't a big deal usually*

It's also because we usually get an ice sandwich, not plain snow. I used to live (and drive in the snow in) Colorado and the Midwest with impunity, but it's not just all the "omigosh, snow!" drivers that make me dubious about driving in it here.

Last "big" snow we had, the freeway did look like the Rapture had happened. And God does get called on in plaintive voices by anyone driving on a slope.

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Wait, are you in Oly too? *waves*

I'm technically in Tumwater, up on the hill, and we woke up to over a foot. It's over 18 inches, now.

As well as lacking both the equipment and driving skills to deal with it, we also tend to get that lovely snow->half thaw->freeze cycle, which is always so very much fun.

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Ah, we're your coal canaries, awesome. :P

It looks fantastic for sledding, but I don't deal well with cold anymore, so I'm staying in and admiring it through the window. In a moment of cruel boredom I did go out and put a cat in it, but when I realized it was over his ears I scooped him out again.

You know there's a snowy owl irruption going on right now, right? My folks saw NINE on the coast in Washington state this weekend, and the cornell ornithology tracker is marking sightings all over. One was seen in Honolulu.

Not sure if that means it was lost, or the smartest snowy owl ever. "Screw this tundra shit. I'mma go to Hawaii!"

It may be the only smart owl out there, then - the rest are a bit dumb. ("No, you idiot bird, you're supposed to land on my wrist. Not my head") (There are advantages to wearing a leather hat.)

And being the only smart one for thousands of miles means it's not going to be passing those genes on.

In my late teens I hung out with a remarkable group of women who were raptor rehabilitators, and learned from one who specialized in owls that snowy owl fledglings are among the slowest to learn to tuck up their legs in flight, letting them dangle instead. The reason speculated is that out on the tundra there's not much tall vegetation for them to crack their toes on. A few good sharp smacks on the toes tends to make you pick up your feet.

Deb in Kamas

Have you started getting seed catalogs yet? LOL

Ooh, big owls and snow. If you ever get the opportunity to handle a large owl, do so: they're wonderful. Dumb as a box of rocks, because their eyes take up almost all their skull space, and much much lighter than you expect, because they're mostly feather, but quite friendly all the same.

(Harris Hawks, on the other hand, are bright. And inquisitive. And great fun to go walking with, as they wander up and down hedgerows just like labradors will, every now and then coming back to make sure you've not got lost.)

I had the chance to visit a fair bit with an Eagle Owl named Archimides last year; he was only 5 years old and had been hand-raised from hatching (yes, the owner had him legally) and was the most gorgeous, friendly raptor I'd ever seen. He seemed to think that he could fit his humongous body inside his owner's leather jacket and kept attempting to snuggle; apparently he'd done this a lot as a fledgling and the idea had stuck. His owner also mentioned that Archimides had a habit of sneaking onto his and his wife's bed during the night and nibbling his hair.

Don't mess with Great Horned Owls. They're about the most ferocious raptor in the Americas. [I would think the same goes for Eagle Owls, but maybe not if they're hand reared.]

Great Gray Owls are the ultimate bunch of fluff. Although Great Horned Owls are smaller, they weigh more.

Snowy Owls often hang out on the tops of phone poles in flat county. I've inspected more varieties of insulators and things than I like to remember, looking for owls. Also, if they're on contrasting ground, the thing you're most likely to confuse them with is large cats, particularly if they're older males, who are more nearly pure white.

The only owl I ever held was a Barred Owl. I had him on his back, along my arm, and he just lay there with his beautiful dark eyes. I'm a sucker for dark eyes in owls. [Owls and hawks are passive on their backs.]

It was a Great Grey (named Taiga) that sat on my head. And I got to handle a juvenile Spectacled Owl too.

Yes, I was over simplifying things - not all owls are the same, just as not all hawks and not all eagles. The Harris hawks we went out with were very well socialised, but Andy the falconer was fairly blunt about the goshawk: the reputation of Cully in The Once and Future King (the book, not that Disneyfied abortion of a film) as being a psycho is apparently not undeserved.

Here is a page showing some of the exotic owls they have, including Taiga. They do have a Great Horned Owl, but we didn't get to fly him.

What really got me was how light they are.

Meanwhile, in California, I am cursing the blue sky and howling for it to "Winter, damn you!" We have not had a single big winter storm, and I am starting to have visions of an apocalyptic fire season come summer.

Hey, a couple years ago us in Québec city would have been GLAD to export a few tons of snow out to you poor deprived southern people. 2008 was a record year for snow here. We had over 12 feet of the stuff just lying about.

I'm ready for spring, too- I've had quite enough snow for the year, thank you! But given that my state has only two seasons, I'm SOL until June.

I would totally be ready for Spring already; unfortunately our seasons have decided in the past few years to shift enough that Winter doesn't really get started until late December and sticks around forever. We're expecting the first huge winter storms tonight and the rest of the week. :/

I may have relayed this story before, so sorry if it's a repeat...

The coolest owl incident I've ever been a witness too happened 8 years ago (maybe 9). I was driving my big rig along the highway, with another truck ahead of me, and we were talking on the radio to pass the time. The guy in the front truck commented "Hey, there's an owl on that fencepost over there". Just as he was passing said owl, the owl then took off, and flew right into the side of his trailer. It bounced off, turned around and flew right back to the fencepost, and proceeded to smooth it's feathers. No doubt it was telling itself, "yeah, I meant to do that." As far as I know, the owl was fine, lost a few feathers, and had a story to tell.

We snowy owls here in Kansas City. Apparently the lemming population is in crash and the poor things are desperate for food. The naturalist they interviewed said they likely would not survive to get back home, they're not adapted to eat much of what we have down here.


>I was mulching in Hello Kitty pajamas yesterday. (Yes, that will be the title of my memoir.)

"It Sucked and Then I Cried", by Heather "Dooce" Armstrong

PS: I don't think Sanrio would let you include the "Hello Kitty" bit. Apparently it's valuable or something.

If you call your memoir I Was Mulching In Hello Kitty Pajamas Yesterday, then 1) I will definitely read it, because that's hilarious, and 2) your transformation into Erma Bombeck will be complete. :P

I think I may have been overcompensating on the spring thing. I have set up one new 15 gallon tank (technically it belongs to my daughter, but well...), bought a new tank, and ordered new seeds for the Aerogarden. Somehow fish tanks and gardening are more or less the same thing in my mind. Oh, and that does not even count knocking over a plant and going into a frenzy of repotting and transplanting.

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