Thursday, April 8, 2010

Response to comments and questions:

Hi all!

You can definitely use the comment section to ask your questions - I think that's a great method. And remember, there is NO such thing as a stupid question! If we don't ask questions, we never find out the answers, and curiosity is probably the most important attribute for a scientist or naturalist to have - or for anyone to have, for that matter.

Thank you all for your very kind words! Suzie2 - that was very sweet and profound. When I was trying to edit those last 2 chapters, no one could get through it to edit it! I couldn't read it to my writers' group w/o crying, but when we passed it along to have someone else read it, no one could read it w/o crying!

My agent and editor really couldn't do much with it without crying, and I couldn't face it to edit it. As a consequence, it hardly got edited and is pretty much exactly the way I wrote it in my rough draft.. Haha.

I used to think it was terrible that we outlive our animals because of the pain we go through. But with Wesley I changed my mind. I realized that by outliving him I was able to be with him through his hardest time and make sure he was comforted and loved and treated with great gentleness. To make sure he was never handled by strangers and never afraid. The fact that he died cuddling in my arms is such a blessing!

What if he had outlived me? I would not be able to guarantee that he wouldn't end up being manhandled by people who would never understand the depth of Wesley and his innate gentleness. They would interpret his fear as aggression and might be aggressive back to him. He'd be handled by strangers and his final days might be full of terror. So much better for me to be there for him to comfort him. And for that, I'll take the grief of outliving him.

I did have a will and instructions for who would take him if he did outlive me, but it was better the way it was. Now I realize it's not a curse at all to outlive our animals. Painful, yes. But not a bad thing.

On another subject, a lot of people have asked me about how do they sleep standing up and are they really sleeping?

The truth is that owls almost never lie down in their entire lives. Wesley never did unless I was holding him in my arms and he was laid across them w/ his little "landing gear" up. But in the wild he would never have had occasion to lie down.

They are totally comfortable sleeping on one foot. I couldn't figure out how they managed to balance until Wesley came along. Wes allowed me to explore him all over and stick my face into his feathers while he groomed, and because of that I was able to feel under all the feathers when he was sleeping on one leg and i discovered a surprise. Here's how he made a solid platform for sleeping w/ his legs:

His "knees" point backwards, right? So let's say he lifts up his right foot and pulls it up to his stomach. Well, he doesn't have to hold it up there and balance, what he does is cross the right leg at an angle so that the backwards "knee" of his right leg crosses over the bent back left knee and kind of locks into place. Now the two legs are locked together making a sort of platform that he sinks his body into. Between his body holding the legs in that crossed position and the fact that they're sort of locked, he can relax his body and doesn't have to use his muscles to constantly correct for balance. It's a very solid system.

He might sleep casually, sort of dozing, with one foot closed in a fist but touching the ground. That means he's dozing but not committed to really having a long sleep - the way we might doze in front of the TV. The more serious he gets about committing to a real sleep, the more likely it is that he'll raise that leg up into his tummy feathers. So the leg bends and he pulls it up. If he's going to get serious about a good sleep, he fuffs his feathers, crosses his knees in back and tightens the legs, pulling his leg up until the little fist disappears into his tummy feathers and he's sunk his body down onto the leg platform. Now he really closes his eyes and sleeps hard. He dreams.

Sometimes he would screech in his dreams and wake up completely insulted and outraged that whoever had just screeched in his ear had had the gall to wake him up so rudely! He'd look around indignantly for the guilty party, starting at me for a long time to try to assess if I had been the screamer then slowly fall back to sleep.

He slept all day like this with grooming sessions in between. You can bet that McGee is getting some serious shut-eye in a palm tree somewhere.

Barn Owls especially like to nest in palm trees that have not been trimmed. Deep in those leaves are some pretty solid hollow areas. In S. California a lot of Barn owl nests are found in these trees.

They do look for a solid place, which is why they are so often found in abandoned buildings or barns. They also must nest where there are plenty of rodents.

Imagine how overrun we'd be by rodents if there were no owls or hawks or falcons! It would be really bad!

Thanks for the questions and please keep them coming! This is great fun for me to share my passion with you!



Margo said...

Stacy, you are an amazing woman! I just love your outlook on the animal kingdom...I just know I'm going to bawl my eyes out reading your book but how sweetly tender your thoughts are on how Wesley passed. It IS so very hard, but what a wonderful way to look at it...the peace the animals must feel being able to go in our arms. My last cat I had to put down I did it in my garden where she loved to sit with me, very calmly, in my lap. SO hard, but I know she was peaceful. The sun came out and shined on her face just as she went. Ugh. Teary now. I bet you get that way talking about Wesley.

It was SO funny, when I asked the question about sleeping, I went to the site and Molly was laying down! I see that it's because of the babies and that she wouldn't do that in the wild. How completely fascinating about there legs and how they are built to make a platform!!! Amazing stuff every single day I'm seeing!

I've noticed that Max is the one sticking right by Molly's side all day, all the time, not the younger ones which baffles me. I would think it was the other way around. The looks between Molly and Max are priceless. He/she is adorable to watch.

Two more questions and I promise I'll give you a break!:

1) Do the owlets know that it's bonding between Molly and McGee? Are they ever confused or afraid because they don't understand yet or are they born with that understanding?

2) How do you know if it's a male or female owlet? Only when they have feathers or are YOU able to tell now by certain behaviors?

Thank you SO very much once again. I'm hoping to get to Julian with my mom so you can sign our book! :)

whippy said...

Stacey, thank you again for your wonderful blog. The information about sleeping on one leg is great. So funny to watch people become upset when Molly is sleeping, standing on one foot. I feel it is a great relief to her to NOT have to sit on the owlets so often anymore.

Last night Molly came back after a 76 minute flyabout and everyone was in a panic. She was soaking wet and everyone thought she had hurt her foot. My opinion was that she found a nice sprinkler and took a bath. My parrot loved baths but hated wet feet and would act funny after a bath by favoring a foot or whatever. (He preferred spray bottle showers to baths. lol)

My thoughts are that Molly was doing the same...just didn't like her feet wet!

She is fine and not favoring the foot any more. People in chat are still asking about her 'hurt foot'.

Do you have any thoughts on this?

gimpy said...

once again, that was a great post. Regarding the locked legs: this kind of thing that you probably can't learn just from observation in the wild. Yet another reason why rehabbers and people who do the kind of research you did are doing such important work.

Charlotte said...

We are SO BLESSED to have all of your feedback, Stacey. I look forward to each entry ..both the questions and your beautifully articulated responses!

So glad "whippy" mentioned Molly's 72 minute absence last night and her appearance (wet) upon her return. I think it's true that owls are not typically bathers. (I imagine your Wesley stunned the entire scientific community at cal tech with his water and bathtub antics)If they lack water repellency in their feathers, what happens to the hunting process for owls if it rains hard for long stretches of their usual hunting time? Do they have built in barometers and know to "stock the pantry" ahead of time? How wet do they need to get to inhibit their ability to fly? Would a downpour of rain do that? Of course this extends the question further.. If it's raining hard do the animals that owls typically hunt become scarce until the rains pass?

Maggie said...

I was interested to see your comment that owls hardly ever lie down.

I took lots of photos of a little owl in the summer. Initially he was standing on the top of a gate - then spent some time getting into a comfortable lying position ..

I Googled and it seems that little owls (and possibly some others) actually sleep in a lying position ..

Here's a link - not my photos though

Here's a link to my photos ..