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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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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.

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