Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cute pic of a gerbil, plus I'm speaking in L.A., CA.

Cute Baby Animals - Cute Gerbil
see more Daily Squee

I couldn't resist putting up this pic of a gerbil. Hamsters are a little like gerbils and both are so cute!

Make sure you mark your calendar, or tell anyone you know in the Los Angeles area who might be interested, that I'm speaking in Los Angeles and signing books (they'll sell them there, too, if you don't have one to sign), on Dec 14. Here are the specifics:

Stacey at Audubon Center in Los Angeles
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 7:00pm
Audubon Center at Debs Park, Los Angeles, CA
The event is free and open to the public.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Speaking in LA + Legend of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole

Before I get started talking about that, let me remind any of you living near Los Angeles, CA. that I'll be speaking and signing books at the Audubon meeting on Dec 14, 2010. Keith Malone will be keeping everyone up to date. Details can be seen at the Wesley the Owl facebook, and here they are as well:

Wesley the Owl Stacey will appear at the Audubon Center at Debs Park in Los Angeles to talk about Wesley and her 19 years with him. She will be available to answer questions and sign books. Copies of "Wesley the Owl" will be available for purchase. The event is free and open to the public.

Stacey at Audubon Center in Los Angeles
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 7:00pm
Audubon Center at Debs Park, Los Angeles, CA

OK - About the Guardians of Ga'Hoole!
I JUST finished watching the Legend of the Guardians in my hotel room. WOW! I'm so impressed with how well they represented each species of owl! Of course, they had to take artistic license. For example, Tyto (barn owls) owls don't have a colored iris with a pupil that we can see. They have ebony black eyes with no "whites". If you see their eyes in the light, and from the side, you can tell that they do, of course, have a pupil and iris, but both are so dark that the look is one of pure black eyes. I can see why they needed to make the eyes more human, though, for the movie. Humans look to small changes in the eyes for emotion - even the slightest widening or narrowing of the pupil portrays a lot emotionally. So they took license on that. And the beaks are WAAAY smaller in the movie than they are in real life - in real life Wesley's beak reached almost all the way to his ears. The dainty part you see talking in the movie is just the pink tip that shows through the feathers. Again, that license doesn't bother me.

What thrilled me was that they really got some other details right. The feathering was just amazing, although they used different subspecies of Tyto for the characters. Hey that's ok. Tyto (barn owls) are found on every continent except Antarctica, and they look somewhat different from each other because they are different species or rather, subspecies. So the differences you see from one Tyto to another are based on the different types of Tyto. In the USA, we have Tyto Alba, which is what the main character, Soren, is. So is his younger sister, Eglantine, apparently. And she looks JUST like a baby barn owl should look at about 5 and 1/2 weeks old!

Another thing that thrilled me is the way they got the little body language aspects just right. The way they move, walk, shift their weight, all that was right on. And the way they move and use their talons was perfect. Even the fight scenes had it right - with them attacking each other w talons up, and sometimes falling while circling each other, talons locked. Birds of prey do that when fighting, sometimes falling all the way to the ground like that. People think they're mating when they do that but they're actually fighting. I've heard that some species of eagle or hawk may mate while spiraling like that, but I'm betting that's a misunderstanding. When owls are doing that, they're fighting.

Little things made a difference and they got them right. There's a moment when an owl is asked a question and his answer is "no". Instead of verbalizing it, they had the owl look to the side. That is how a barn owl says no! He looks away, off to the side. I have video of me asking Wesley a series of questions and getting yes and no answers. The "no" is him looking away to the side. These people really know their barn owls!

Another thing I loved is how they used real owl sounds throughout, even though they also had the owls speaking English w/ an Australian accent (well, hey, it's a fantasy, right?). But when an owl would fly off, he'd make a screech or sound that was accurate to his species.

They also caught the little differences between how each owl species moves and acts. Digger the burrowing owl is a perfect example in the way he flits around so fast, seeming hyper. That's how they are. I love burrowing owls and they are just like that in their body movements.

The movie starts out with the parents working with the two oldest owls on their BRANCHING LESSONS! THANK YOU!

SO many people in the US just don't seem to understand that OWLS DO NOT GO TO THE GROUND THEN LEARN TO FLY! If they end up on the ground they are totally out of their element and are easy pickin's for predators. And that is exactly portrayed correctly in the movie. I was beyond happy to see that they showed how owls REALLY learn to fly, and that is by fly-hopping from one branch to another, literally learning what works and what doesn't by trial and error! Why is that so difficult for Americans to understand and accept? THIS IS HOW THEY LEARN TO FLY!

The people who did this movie really did their research. They really knew owls. They had the mother barn owl be significantly larger than the father. That is accurate. She is browner. That is accurate.

I remember one time I started out as a new volunteer at a bird of prey rescue and rehab center. There was one large mew with about 25 barn owls in it. The supervisor took me in there and said she had questions about barn owls that maybe I could answer. She wanted to know how to tell the males from the females and I explained that there's a continuum -- Males are very light to white on the chest and tummy, and females are brown at the far end, fading to very light brown in the middle of the spectrum. It's when they're a little bit brown and mostly white that it becomes hard to know exactly which gender the owl is. She described it perfectly when she said, "You mean, the ones who look like they've been rolling in the dust are the females? I thought they were just dirty!" That's just what they look like! Males who've been rolling in the dust!

They even got the stippled look of the eyelids and skin around the eyes right. And the way the pink talons have little pads on them and tiny padlike patterns on their feet, and how they use their talons to hold onto things, either using both, or they'll stand on one foot and use the other talon to pick something up and hold it. They just really understood how an owl's body works and moves. I've never seen anyone get it that right before.

Animators and artists almost always miss it when they try to do barn owl faces. It's like, if you don't know one personally, it's difficult to portray them. Maybe that's because they are so expressive. They really can make a lot of facial expressions because they have a lot of tiny muscles under their facial feathers, which are used to adjust the feathers on their faces to funnel sound into their ears more accurately. Some of the facial expressions were not owlish and were distinctly human, but that's to be expected. This is, after all, a fantasy and we suspend reality for it. Owls don't speak English w/ an Australian accent, for example. And the head and claw armor would weigh them down too much and would impede their main sense, which is hearing. But hey, they got so much of it right that it's amazing. And the artistry! Each feather having a dot at the end - how perfect that is!

And the little sounds each owl made (outside of the human speech) were accurate to their species.

It's a movie about good vs. evil, and has a bit of the "Luke! Use the Force" thing going on, but the visual beauty of the owls themselves and the accuracy about their lives and what makes them tick was so informative and needed in this owl-uneducated world. Owls are so mysterious and wonderful and I'm glad to see some of their mysteries shown off to the world. They are super faithful, super-loyal, cuddly w/ their mate, loving, fierce, and beautiful. What an amazing movie for all of those reasons!

I'm so happy to see owls taking their rightful place in our culture as a celebrated animal in art, popular art and fiction, books, films...even fabric and decorative items like owl lamps and owl sheets! How un! I think people are starting to realize that these creatures are highly intelligent, deeply emotional, fascinating, and beautiful, and resourceful, loyal, fierce, and are to be admired greatly! YAY! GO OWLS!

(this is a completely unbiased opinion! haha)


PS: I just put this up w/o editing it yet so I'm sure there are grammar and spelling mistakes but I'll deal w/ that later. I'm tired and am going to bed....my apologies for any sloppiness....

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Colorado mountain dog with tiny kitten

(This pic was taken by Wendy Francisco so she has the copyright on it under crackonoon ragdolls...)

This is Caspian, Wendy's dog and my dog's father, with a kitten. The kitten is obviously trying to look as big as she can by sticking all her fur out, putting her tail straight up in the air, and slightly arching her back. Yet, she's holding her ground. But the one to look at here is Caspian. He has a motherly look on his face. Fiona gets this same look when my hamsters crawl across her paws, or go right up to her, nose to nose. Kissy, one of my sweetest and most confident hamsters, sat on her haunches as squirrels do (hamsters are Syrian ground squirrels) and put one hand up on Fiona's nose like a traffic cop, clearly saying, "Back up.". Fiona DID! So cute!

Fiona, and other mountain dogs, has an instinct to protect little helpless animals against big scary predators. These dogs are solving the problems ranchers are having with mountain lions and even wolves, in the case of sheep and goats (supposedly some ranchers of goats and sheep are saying that wolves are taking some of their animals. If it's wolves or wild dogs, either way, Colorado mountain dogs completely solve the problem). They are naturally protective of all the animals of the household and property and naturally aggressive toward predators, even barking at hawks and owls eyeing the chickens!

It's amazing to see such a huge dog be so very gentle with such tiny, vulnerable animals! The only indication Fiona gives that there's a hamster on or between her paws is her tail wags. Now the hamsters are so used to her that when she walks into the hamstery (which is my master bedroom, given over to the care of hamsters), they get out of their nests to greet her and touch noses through the cage bars. She even tries to eat their food, when miss Fiona turns her nose up at the very best of dog foods!

She's the most amazing dog I've ever known or had, and I've had wonderful, wonderful dogs! Fiona is just different - gently protective, super gentle in the house, keeping to her own toys and leaving mine alone.

Sheesh, I sound like a commercial!

Anyway, this picture of Caspian with a tiny ragdoll kitten is just too cute! Wendy is one of the top breeders of ragdoll cats, and they have the run of her house, so they're all indoor cats who are used to a lot of love. If I didn't have hamsters, I'd have one of these fluffy little cloudpuffs. But i digress.

Enjoy the picture!

Yes, I'm working on my next book, but I take a looonngggg time to write a book because there are soo soo many stories to tell and things I want to say, and I start by just writing all of it, which is a LOT of pages, like 1000 pages or so, then I start to whittle it down, almost like sculpting, but w/ words, to say what I think I must say or illustrate through the stories. It takes me a long time, too, possibly because I'm not super experienced as an author. I don't blaze through like some authors. But I am definitely writing the next book, which is one reason I'm no longer online so much.

At some point I will address the issue of the Barn Owl Alliance - I do have plans for it but not the same as I originally thought, because we need more research before we can recommend exactly what should ideally go into a box, and I'm talking w/ owl box makers, rehabbers, and biologists to try to figure it all out in terms of an ideal design.

I do love the branching system that Carlos put up for Molly's babies. Obviously that worked! Also, the one Tom put up for Owlivia's babies also worked quite well. Both of those can serve as very good examples of what is needed for barn owl babies to branch.

I love how the guardians of ga'hoole books emphasize branching and explain in great detail how owlets really learn to fly. That author did her research!

Happy Fall and Happy cooler weather everyone! I wish WE had cooler weather in S. California but no...it's in the 80s again. Believe me, that does get monotonous. It's nice to have a change of seasons and I want that. Hence the desire to move to Colorado. So enjoy your change of seasons!

Friday, October 29, 2010


I'm sorry to report that Maizie died of her cancer. Her surgery went well but during recovery she was in the middle of fixing up her nest and she just instantly died. She was not in pain, however, and was acting completely fine - eating, being curious, grooming, making her nests. The doc got all the cancer out because it was localized to her leg, but sometimes there is a delayed reaction to surgery in these very tiny animals, called DIC, I think. I was heartbroken and couldn't bring myself to write about it for awhile.

I have fallen in love with a species that only lives about 2 years. Some of my hamsters live up to 5 years because I take extremely careful care of them, giving them supplements, getting to the vet with any problems, trimming their teeth if they have overgrowth, all the upkeep that takes attention to detail. But still, they just don't live all that long.

I've considered not having hamsters because of the ongoing heartbreak, but I've decided it's worth the heartbreak just to know them. I'd rather deal regularly with the cycle of life and death, love and loss, than live without them at all. They are such amazing, complex, magical little beings. Who knew that the Syrian Ground Squirrel had so many charms?

Many of my hamsters come to me when called by name, and they get all excited when I walk into the room, coming to the door of their cages so I can easily pick them up and snuggle with them. They kiss me on the nose and snuggle under my chin to sleep, they bark at me when they want attention...

One way I've dealt with the constant loss is to breed a special hamster so that when he or she dies, I have her or his babies. In that way, hamsters from the past still live, generations later, through their offspring.

I don't breed a lot, but maybe one litter per generation.

It's the same way with us, isn't it? We achieve some kind of immortality through our children or through those we affect, love, mentor, teach, give to...

This time, though, I bred 4 very special sisters all at once, 2 years ago. I did that because I've found that if one hamster becomes a nervous mother and starts to be unable to care for her babies properly, I can quickly foster those babies into the other litters as long as they're all the same age. So I bred these 4 sisters all on the same night (they seem to go into heat all together at the same time). It worked out well, although for the last 2 years I've had a LOT of hamsters to take care of, or to pay someone to take care of when I travel.

But that's ok. I'm home in bed most of the time and am almost always cuddling with a hamster, so they all get plenty of attention.

But now it's going to be a very difficult season, since they're all getting very old at once. I knew, of course, that this would happen. But that doesn't make it any easier to be losing so many precious friends one right after the other.

Again, it's worth it. And as I've said before, the fact that we outlive our pets is a blessing in that we are able to shepherd them gently through their old age and illnesses and death, rather than us dying first and not knowing if they'll ever be loved or treated in the way we would love and treat them.

I have made arrangements for my animals should that happen, and I highly suggest doing this. Cat and I have mutually agreed to adopt each others' dogs if something happened to one of us, and I have someone who would take my hamsters. I had someone who would have taken care of Wesley, but still, I wouldn't have wanted to have to take any chances with his future, especially with him being so sensitive and so "one person" oriented.

I guess this isn't a real "pick me up" subject, but it's part of having and loving animals, and when we take on an animal and open our hearts, we take on this part of it too. That's ok. I'm so glad I was able to be with Maizie all along and to have spent so much wonderful, magical, joyful time with her. I feel honored to have known her and to have been so trusted by her - and her such a tiny little thing, too.

I'll always love my little Maizie Daisy and will never forget her. Each one of them is an individual and is so special and so full of their own personality. It's pure delight to have shared this beautiful green earth with them!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pic of me and Wesley kissing, news of Fiona

Wow! What lovely comments from old friends and new! Right now I'm holed up writing. I tend to hole up away from home in order to stay away from distractions. Some hotels are very doggy friendly and hamster friendly, too. Fiona, however, is with her brother and her "other mom", Cat. Yes a woman named Cat, which I imagine is short for Catherine, but I've never asked her. How odd that two of my close friends are Cat and Cait!

Anyway, Fiona is in heat, and it seems to be her first true heat, even though she's 2 years old almost. Fortunately, brother Drinian is "fixed". But still, he was thrown off by the "new" Fiona and was really upset by her being in heat at first. Now, he seems to think he is supposed to guard her, which is fine with me! Cat tells me that Fiona is starting to howl, though, so I may have to go get her for the sake of Cat and her neighbors. I don't know how bad it is or isn't.

She puts the dogs in at night, because, being instinctive guard dogs, they will run the property all night barking at every coyote or owl that comes near. They are supposed to do that kind of thing, and Colorado Mountain Dogs are working WONDERS in places like Colorado, Wyoming, Montana - places where the wolf and the mountain lion have come back. Ranchers who have Colorado mountain dogs are reporting that they now have zero losses of livestock. The Colorado Mountain Dog is part Great Pyrenees and part Anatolian Shepherd, and both of those breeds have been keeping flocks of sheep and goats safe in Europe for time immemorial. When I read about ranchers in the midwest being upset about wolves going after their goats, I think, "Well for Pete's sake, get yourself a couple of Colorado Mountain Dogs! Or if they're not available, a couple of Great Pyrenees!" The reason the Colorado Mountain Dog is a little better, is that the combination of the two breeds gives you a lithe, wolflike dog that moves like a cat on the big rocks, can turn on a dime, can leap like crazy, runs like the wind, yet has the umph of the heavy great pyrenees. A Perfect dog for those mountains.

Anyway, because Fiona and Drinian think that's what they're supposed to be doing, they are too boistrous outside at night, and Cat lives along a canyon that reaches to the sea (in fact, she can hear the horns of the big ships as they pass out at sea, echoing up the canyon right to her house).

So...they go into their own sleeping area in the garage at night. Cat says, "Go to bed" and they race to their respective beds. Fiona likes to sleep in a big airline crate for extra large dogs. There's no door on it, so she doesn't have to sleep in there but she likes it. Cat has already put a biscuit on each of their pillows. yes! So Fiona goes to her bed and eats her biscuit, and Drinian goes to his pile of blankets right outside the door of Fiona's case and eats his biscuit. Cat was curious about what their routine is when they go to bed so she started spying on them. She has a nightlight on in there for them, so she can see what they're doing.

They each eat their biscuit, then Fiona comes out to check to see what Drinian ate and look for crumbs. Drinian sticks his nose in her mouth to smell what she ate to make sure she got the same thing he did. They're so funny about food when it comes to each other. On her own, Fiona turns her nose up at food and pretends she couldn't care less about it. She doesn't like treats, for example. She will not take them. When I feed her, she doesn't run to her bowl but looks away as if bored. Eventually, she ambles past her bowl, swinging her head down and swiping a mouthful in one movement, so it is hard to tell she even took a bite. She walks away from the bowl, WELL away from it, then you hear the crunch crunch crunch and you know she's eating the bite. Then, a few minutes later, she ambles past the bowl again, swipe, amble...crunch crunch crunch. I have no idea why she is so "cool" about it, so cavalier.

BUT, when she's at Cat's house, Cat has to separate the two dogs into two different yards because they are suddenly fascinated with each other's food. Fiona is suddenly a food maven, a ravenous beast. As soon as they've both eaten, Cat opens the gate between them and they rush to finish any little bits left in each others' bowls. Sigh. silly dogs. She even gains weight when she's at Cat's because of her competition w/ Drinian over food. The grass is always greener on the other side, it's really true that people and animals think that way. It cracks me up.

have a lovely week, everyone!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

i'm really here, if you are...

Hi! If anyone is still watching for this blog, after my severe neglect of several months, THANK YOU! I've been on a LOONNNGGG retreat, away from the internet and all the emotion and noise it can generate. I never do very well in the summer with my health, and this summer was no exception. The heat just ruins me and it's one migraine after another, and when there's no migraine, I'm recovering from the exhaustion of having had so many migraines in a row. Not that I'm complaining. I know I'm lucky to live in the USA where there is so much opportunity and comfort. It's ridiculous to even think about complaining when you're lying on a comfortable bed with enough to eat and a roof over your head. So I'm not. I'm just explaining why I haven't been getting on the internet. I did go on a long retreat, also, and when I do that, I never say when I'm going to do it or where I'm going or for how long. I've always had that tendency. And while I can no longer trek off into the high sierras alone at a whim, I can still disappear like I used to do, and think and sleep and think some more.

I've been thinking about the Barn Owl Alliance and all the work that you guys have been doing. Charlotte has been keeping me updated through Keith Malone. I haven't given up on that at all, it's just that a person can only do so much, and can only do one thing at a time, at least this person can only do so many things at one time. When I was younger and healthier I could do everything all at once, or at least I thought I could. It's an illusion of the young, I think.

I'm still on a retreat, esconced in a random hotel for now, dealing with my hamster having major surgery. This hotel allows animals and has mondo air conditioning, which is the main reason I'm here. We had the hottest days ever in recorded history in the past couple of weeks and I just couldn't stand it, even with the air conditioning on at home. California homes, even nice ones, are not built with insulation in mind. The feeling is that things never really get all that bad - heatwise or coldwise, so there's no need to get all excited about details like insulation, so a lot of the heat or air conditioning goes right out the sides of the windows, under the doors, through the mail slots. No one really worries about "drafts" in winter either. Unless they're way up in the mountains where it counts for something.

Anyway, I do apologize for being rather impossible to reach via the internet. On the other hand, I think the internet can be very invasive, so I have mixed feelings about it. But I had established a lot of contacts and feel bad about just dropping off the face of the earth. I do tend to do that, as I said, though.

I'm writing another book, now, so a lot of the writing energy that I would have been using on the blog is now being used for the book. I'm deep in the rough draft right now.

I adhere to the Steven King method, as he explains in his book, "On Writing". I didn't KNOW I adhered to his method until I read the book and thought, "Wow, that's exactly how I do it, too." Not that it's rocket science - few things are.

There are only so many ways to go about it, right? The first thing I do is what I call "Making the fabric", where the finished quilt would be the book. Before you make a quilt, you have to go out and buy yards and yards of fabric, some of this, some of that...if you're not really sure how it's going to look yet, you end up buying a lot of fabric that will not make it into the quilt at the end, but you may take some pieces from each of the fabrics for the final quilt. But you can't put pieces together if there is no fabric to mess around with in the first place. Making the fabric - or the first draft - is done in private, almost in secrecy.

I just let my subconscious run in all kinds of directions, free-flowing. And I'm often surprised by what my subconscious is up to when I see it on the page. It'll take me a while to get all of that out. With the first book, I wrote 400 pages single spaced.. using a font sized 12, Times Roman.

When I went back to the raw fabric to pull the book together, I cut a ton of that, about half of that ended up in the book.

This time it's taking me longer to write the rough draft, since w/ Wesley the Owl, I wrote the first draft in a passionate whirlwind after he died. It's how I processed my grief. This book is being written under a lot less duress, although my passion for my subject is keen.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, please be patient. I may not be the blogger I used to be during this time of writing, because my writing energy will be channeled into the new book.

Today has been intense because my hamster, Maizie, had major surgery to remove a huge cancerous mass that was wrapped around her femur, and she had to have that taken out, plus reconstruction of her muscles around the femur they could save, and they had to amputate the rest of her leg. She was otherwise just fine and healthy, so it was worth it to take this out and let her go on living her life. She clearly has a very strong will to live and wasn't letting the cancer get in her way. But it was becoming very painful and slowing her down. Now she's in recovery and on very strong pain medications. The vet, my hero, Dr. Coward, is taking her home for the night so he can keep monitoring her. This guy is really amazing. He gets so involved with his patients - even a tiny gray hamster like my little Maizie, who I adore.

So I'm going to be worrying about her - I can't help it.

Well, I'll try to blog more often now, and again, sorry for the long absence! I hope you all had a great summer!


Monday, July 12, 2010

WHOOOOSH!! RE-Entry Shock!

Hi everyone! I apologize profusely for being absent for so long. Things have been crazy to say the least!

I have been with you in spirit, however.

I got back from Colorado the day before I did my event in Palos Verdes, which went amazingly well. Then I was re-united with my dog, Fiona, who, believe it or not, had grown visibly while I was gone. These dogs grow slowly over a 2 year period and it never fails to surprise me after I’ve been away for awhile. This was the longest I had ever been away from her. Two months!

The Colorado working “vacation” was not really a vacation, but it was a lovely change of pace. Being up in the forest where it’s so quiet that we would go to the window to see who was passing when we heard the footsteps of people walking on the road below, was so restful. I always do so much better, healthwise, when I’m at a high altitude (in this case, 9,000 ft), and when I’m surrounded by wildlife.

This was a writing vacation, and I got a lot done. Also, it was a series of meetings with my attorney, and we squared away the Barn Owl Alliance paperwork for the 501(c)3. There was a lot to do besides that but I won’t bore you with the details.

After I did the event in Palos Verdes (where I met a few of you blog readers and alliance members!), I returned home and immediately left again with my dog so I could fumigate the house. The hamsters are at a babysitter’s, so it was the first time in years that I had a chance to fumigate, which needed to be done because the hammsters’ food sometimes contains seed moths, which are very tiny moths that become real pests in time.

The key to avoiding seed moths is to freeze the food for at least 24 hours before opening it. I usually buy my hamster food at a place that does this for the customer in advance, but I made the mistake of buying hamster food at one of the big chains a couple of times and was suddenly inundated w/ little moths. Ugh. The situation was beyond the point where I could just catch and release them, which would have been my preference.

So, Fiona and I stayed away for a few days after that.

Finally, however, I returned home.

Every time I return from the mountains – any mountains – I get what I call “re-entry shock”. I crash. My body has to adjust again to the high air pressure of sea level (at high altitudes, I do so much better. There seems to be less pressure on my brain and I have a lot less symptoms, hence the migraines are much fewer and lower in intensity)> When I get back the migraines hit like they’ve been waiting for their revenge and I’m just laid out for weeks with one migraine after another.

The heat also doesn’t help. When it’s hot, ones’ blood vessels dialate, which also contributes to my migraines. I’m just not made for hot weather, and the Colorado mountains are nice and cool in the summer and even cooler in the winter. I literally have gotten out of the car in 40 degree weather, wearing a tank top and shorts, and rolled in a snow bank to cool off. It’s ridiculous!

Other people are wearing coats and hats and I’m still in summer clothes. So coming back to the heat of S. California is just a shock to the system.

Add to all this the smog, traffic, the crush of people, and the complete lack of anything even resembling nature, and the picture is complete.

Hence, I’ve been sick ever since I got back, mostly sleeping right under the direct flow of the air conditioning.

Also, getting online around here is also difficult – I definitely need to get wireless.

All this to say, I have not been online for a couple of weeks, and I do apologize for my absence!

This does NOT mean that I’ve become any less passionate about the Barn Owl Alliance or the blog or anything else, though!

I’ve got a few projects going on that are also going to take some of my time, but the barn owl alliance goes forward. I’m hoping that all the data that you lovely people have been amassing is complete enough for me to start acting on it.

I think the next step is to take that data and have a sit-down meeting with Nancy Conney and perhaps Tom Stephan and try to come up with the ideal parameters for an owl box with a branching system. Tom has experimented with a branching system that worked (the one on Owlivia and Owliver’s box), and a few other people have also devised systems. Perhaps there can be some flexibility if the regulations are written correctly.

I would like to not only come up with a list of parameters w/ Nancy and Tom but would also like to work with Nancy to contact the right regulators and begin discussions with them. The data that we’ve collected will help in making our case.

Please be patient with me on this! I have a lot going on and have to pace myself in all these other projects as well as this one, but I am persistent, if nothing else! Doggedly so!

I’ve hired an assistant who is really a publicist - Keith Malone. He is a long time dear friend. We’ve been friends since the 4th grade and have done many projects together from lab experiments to being on the school newspaper together to being in the International and the Spanish clubs in school to going to the same college even! We’ve even done some writing together.

You might notice that sometimes Keith will put updates on the Wesley the Owl facebook or twitter, or that he’ll occasionally speak for me. That’s fine. He’s on the board for the Barn Owl Alliance and I trust him implicitly!

Because of Keith, the Wesley the Owl facebook page is now active again and you can refer to it for updates about my schedule. The website is not up to date with schedules because Wendy still has charge of that and she’s so busy with her new book and the deadlines involved that Keith is going to be taking that over eventually. But all in good time.

I wanted to let you know that I’ll be speaking and signing books in San Diego on Thursday, July 15. It’s not my usual talk about my life w/ Wesley, however, because it’s for a group of editors. The talk will be more about the editing process, the assembling of a team,, the importance of good editing, and even some of the nuts and bolts techniques I used in editing my book.

I’ll be teaching a workshop on editing and also a workshop on book and chapter structure in September at the Southern California Writers’ Conference in Newport Beach. Obviously, this is tailored for writers who are serious about getting published and would not be of interest to most of my readers, but I thought I’d just mention it. I may also be doing an Audubon event in September in Los Angeles, but it’s not confirmed yet.

Anyway, that’s the update. I just wanted to let you know I haven’t disappeared from your lives or lost interest in the least! I’ve just been busy, overwhelmed w/ projects, and then sick for awhile as I adjusted to the hot, crowded, California environment. Sigh. I guess we can’t live in paradise all the time, right? California is pretty darn good, actually, so I’m not complaining!

Thanks for your concern and patience!

Stacey O’Brien

PS: The book was recently translated into Hungarian! Wow! I’m amazed at the exotic languages into which it’s been translated. So far we have
English – American
English – Great Britain (the British Isles, Australia, NZ. Canada)
Chinese mainland – both Mandarin and Cantonese
Portuguese (Brazil)
And now Hungarian!

It’s also available in large print and as a book on CD.

The German version was recently featured in the German Readers’ Digest and published as a Readers’ Digest Condensed book and was featured in their biggest womens’ magazine.

In Italy, there was a beautiful article in their national newpaper’s weekly magazine w/ gorgeous color pictures.

And in Brazil it was featured in the national newspaper, O Globo. O Globo is also my publisher in Brazil.

I happen to speak Brazilian Portuguese (although it’s very rusty) because the first child I ever sponsored through Compassion International was from Brazil. I wanted to be able to really communicate with her, so I learned Brazilian Portuguese and got permission to call the school and center to talk to her! I’d call and they’d run up the road to get her and we’d talk for hours sometimes. The first time we talked, they didn’t know to hang up the phone after the conversation and just dropped it where it was. The connection stayed alive for hours but thankfully I wasn’t charged for all that time! The ability to speak with her directly was so important as she grew into a young woman and had no one to advise her about certain things. It was a joy to know her through knowing her language!

One of the things that the book supports is sponsorship of kids caught in the deep cycle of poverty. Sponsorship pays for their schooling, medical care, nutrition, parenting programs for their parents, practical lessons on hygienic practices such as boiling the water before drinking it, also drilling wells for clean water, dental, vocational training, and for those who show promise, college education. There is also a psychological/spiritual component that has to do with overcoming the hopeless self image that’s propogated by the society in which the kids live, which tells them that they are worthless and just trash. This is not true, and they are told that each and every one of them is precious and worthy and full of potential and possibility. They aren’t used to hearing these things in the slums where they live.

Obviously I’m passionate about sponsoring kids! I’ve checked out this organization thoroughly and know that the money is going where it’s supposed to be going! I’ve seen so many kids transformed over the years that it keeps me going, keeps me humble, and keeps me from thinking I’ve got it so bad w/ the migraines and such. When a person is in the kind of wretched poverty that these kids have endured, there is no medical care for anyone in their community. I feel lucky that I have access to doctors, etc.

I know I’m rambling a bit, but for me, having the book contribute to these kids as well as to other groups such as Saint Jude Hospital and wildlife organizations gives me a much bigger vision for why I want to continue to keep the book going. It’s not just about me, it’s about what kind of legacy of hope I can contribute to through the book. THAT is something I can get excited about!

And now the Barn Owl Alliance, too! It’s all so inspiring!

Thank you all so much for being a part of this and, again, for your patience!

What I’m reading:

Born to Bark by Stanley Coren – it’s not out yet but will be soon. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

The Bear Went Over the Mountain by William Kotswinkle: A silly spoof, in the tradition of Being There, about the world of publishing.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hi! I'm fine! Just kinda swamped!

I do VERY MUCH apologize for being so unavailable in this last week or so! I'm fine. I've been overtired and sleeping a lot, plus working w/ Cait and I'm trying to work on the sequel to Wesley the Owl...I often come to Colorado to write, so I do get swept up. I sure didn't mean to worry you! And please know that I'm very serious about and committed to the BOA and hope my writing can help the cause, too.

I will be back in LA on the 27th, speaking at Border Books in Palos Verdes and signinig books! I'm really lookoing forward to that. I'll also be reunited w/ my dog, Fiona, on the same day. It will be a great day!

I hope some of you can make it! It should be announced on the Wesley the Owl facebook site. My new publicist, Keith, is helping me get the word out about some things, like this event on June 27 at 2:00 at the Borders in palos verdes.

I hope you're all doing well! Hang in there and don't lose faith!


Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Quote I Grew Up With Still Applies

I grew up with extraordinary parents. My mom was always singing, quoting shakespeare at opportune moments, and majored in music in College w/ a minor in English literature. She taught English in a High School in the San Fernando Valley until she had us kids, and was very education oriented. My parents moved to La Crescenta, where I grew up, BECAUSE OF the schools. And my mom didn't take anyone's word for it. She sat in on classes in both the private and public schools there to make sure.

My Dad was also a music major and psychology major, but he took so much biology he may as well also have been a bio major. He knew more about snakes than anyone I knew because he used to hang out in the herpetology section of the zoo and be mentored there. He had a full scholarship to USC in French Horn and was an alternate to the Gymnastic olympic team in I don't know what year. But he didn't take the french horn scholarship and instead went to the same school my mom went to and there you have it.

Anyway, they were both so bookish (but not nerdy) that almost every wall of our house was lined w/ books. When I went to people's houses where there were no books lining the walls, I assumed there was a room I didn't know about that served as "the library" in the house. haha!

All that to say, my mom used to hang up quotes all over the house. Still does. There was one big sign that was over her desk, on the refrigerator, over our desks, everywhere. It really sums up what her philosophy is, and although it's perhaps oversimplified, it certainly is true in most cases!

I want to share it with you:

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
-Calvin Coolidge

Here's another one of Calvin's famous quotes:
Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshipped.
Calvin Coolidge

And finally:
I have found it advisable not to give too much heed to what people say when I am trying to accomplish something of consequence. Invariably they proclaim it can't be done. I deem that the very best time to make the effort.
Calvin Coolidge (1872 - 1933)

All of these truths are worth meditating on, because there is more truth in them than many people care to admit. These principles were drummed through our heads and I passionately believe them to be true. Ok, "Press on" does not solve ALL the problems of the human race, but it does solve an awful lot of our problems in life, and it sure beats not pressing on!

And relying on things like "genius", "talent", "education" are not enough in life. They can be cop-outs, to be honest. How many blow-hards have you met in your life who prance around declaring their own genius, talent, or education? Are they helping anything? No. How many humble people have you met who are quietly changing things - ok I'll bring out my own hero's name - Jane Goodall. She was just pure persistence at the beginning. She only had a high school education when she made the majority of her biggest discoveries, did you know that? Then she went back and rushed through a PhD based on her discoveries. But it was her sheer persistence that got her where she was in the first place!

I hope that inspires you. It inspires me!


PS: It's never too late to follow your "bliss" in the sense of moving ahead on what you've always wanted to do. There are seasons of life where you can't do everything, In fact, you can never do "everything". But you can start to move forward on the thing that inspires and excites you the most. The thing you've always wanted to do. Even if you have to go so slow that only you can tell that there's ever any progress. You just need persistence, not all that other stuff. It's kind of a relief to realize that.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

PS: Here are some links about amazing animals and their intelligence, cuteness, etc.

Check out these links:

Blind dog has own seeing eye dog:


Ragdoll cats and kittens napping (they are all Wendy's!):


And a final cute picture of puppies:

My text is copyrighted, but otherwise the pictures are copyrighted by the websites they came from. The images are from Blurbia.com (which contains images that are not as innocent and sweet as these animal images, which is why I did not provide the link)

Owl Boxes and Branching

Here's a new owlbox to watch. I have not been aware of it. I'm sorry I'm not on top of everything...there's so much to do and I'm in Colorado writing w/ Cait and setting up the 501(c)3 for the Barn Owl Alliance, etc. I have not been spending a lot of time on the internet.

Here's the comment from one of the blog readers, and then I'll talk about the Hungry Owl Project:

brdlvr said...
Thanks for referring folks to the Owlivia web cam site, but for some reason it seems you aren't aware of an owl box of one of the BOA members, Lisabegood with Buddy and Fluffy. With the guidance of EagleEye, she has provided a wonderful branching system for the owlets, 5 in all, and there is much action going on there. All 5 come out and use the system, -all of it. Please tune in around 8:30 PT and see for yourself.

Lisa is attempting to get some video of the branching owlerts for the alliance, but has run into some technical difficulties. Besides attempting to get video, this owl family has been totally undisturbed by humans. What a refreshing thing to see. It is a testament to Lisa and an overpowering example of how important branching is for the successful fledging of owlets. As we have learned, many raptor species, if not all, do not just fledge out of the nest, but need a branching system to assist them during this process. Of course, I don't have to tell you this.

Big smile goes here.


Also in the comments was a letter from the Hungry Owl Project. When I said, "What is HOP", I had no idea it meant Hungry Owl Project. I know of it as hungryowl.org and didn't remember that the word "Project" was at the end. Plus, there are SO MANY acronyms on the internet that I just didn't know they referred to themselves or were referred to by others as HOP.


Now it seems I have managed to insult the very good people who I met last year in Marin County. I was very enthusiastic about what they were trying to do, and have even included them in my talks about Barn Owls and how they are the "farmers' best friend" and how Hungry Owl was trying to eliminate the use of rodent poisons, and was encouraging people in the SF area to install Barn Owl boxes instead, where there were already rodent infestations, and to not use rodent poisons.

Their goals are similar to ours in that we also want to eliminate the use of rodent poisons!

I'm surprised to find that people from the Alliance have gotten into a fuss with them. One of their members is ALSO A MEMBER OF THE BARN OWL ALLIANCE AND ASKED US FOR IDEAS ABOUT BOX DESIGN!

We need to be very careful before we criticize anyone because that puts them on the defense, when they are possibly quite well meaning and on the same side as we are. If they're not, we'll be much more effective with honey than with vinegar - I'm sure you've heard that expression - you'll attract more bees w/ honey than with vinegar.

The realization that owlets need branching systems was something that dawned on me slowly as I watched the Molly box and started thinking, "Hey wait a sec - what are they going to do when they branch?".

I don't expect everyone who does owlboxes to realize this. In fact, that's why we created the Barn Owl Alliance - to figure out how to educate people who've been doing this a long time about the need for branching. This is not going to be easy, because most of the people doing owlboxes have the very best intentions and really do think that the owls can "work it out themselves".

The problem is that the lack of branching is not normal for them so they did not evolve to live in places without branches or a bark covered place to climb back up if they fall. This is hard news to take if you've been doing owl boxes for years. When owlets disappear from a box, they do so rather quickly because of predation.

Add to that the fact that, occasionally, some barn owls do not branch but fly right out. It's rare, though. Also, some barn owls fall and do survive for a day on the ground, and then find a way back up. That, also, is not the norm.

Since only 1 out of 15 barn owls lives through the first year, and since there are so many forces already killing them - MANMADE forces, NOT NATURAL forces such as cars, electrical wires, pet dogs, gunshot wounds, environmental poisons, rodent poisons... we want to help the ones in owlboxes to survive.

Also of concern is the sheer number of owlboxes out there on farms and in suburbs that are luring barn owl pairs there to nest, then the babies do not survive the fledging because of the lack of branching systems.

There is no denying this. Wildlife rehabbers take in a lot of fallen owlets w/ resulting injuries.

Yes there are ignorant people who pick up fledging birds from the ground and take them to wildlife centers. Don't do that.

In fact, in my book, I explain exactly what to do if you find a supposedly abandoned bird of fledgling age or younger. You do not disturb the bird but hide and watch for more than an hour to see if any parents are about. IF the parents are around, they will feed the baby bird on the ground. If it's a helpless baby bird, look for the nest, if you find the nest, put it back in. Birds don't have a sense of smell so that's a myth that they will smell the human on the baby and reject it! Not so!

If the parents are around and the nest is destroyed and there are baby birds, you can put them in a box or basket and literally install the nest in the tree (nail it or whatever, into the tree, before replacing the babies). The parents will then continue to care for the babies in the box or new nest.

Only when there are no parents about do you call a wildlife rehab center.

Now, this advice applies to other birds besides owls. If you see an owl on the ground who can't get back up into its nest, either guard him against predators until he finds a way back up, or call someone w/ experience who can put him back up. If he's injured, take him to a wildlife center.

But it is NOT NORMAL for Barn Owls to be sitting on the ground, ever. They DO NOT FLEDGE TO THE GROUND like other kinds of birds and they are INCREDIBLY vulnerable there. They don't hide in the underbrush, they don't have the instincts of a fledging bird. They are BRANCHING BIRDS.

For the sake of the Hungry Owl Project, I'll explain.

Barn Owls leave the nest about 2 weeks before they're fully functional at flying. In fact, they cannot fly at all. They can hop-flap from one branch to another. They can't get back into the box, sometimes, unless there's a branch or perch directly in front of the entrance to the box. They need branches about 2 feet away from each other, in front of the entrance, to fly-hop to and from as they learn to use their wings. They also hold on to the perch and flap their wings hard to build up the wings and the chest muscles. Then they start a pouncing behavior that also helps them learn to coordinate their body and wings.

As they fly-hop, they learn what works and what doesn't for their wings. They even watch the way their siblings use their wings to see what works and what doesn't. They LEARN to use the wings in different ways to stop, to gain altitude, to go forward, to hover and land, to do a landing pounce vs. a hovering land.

Sometimes they slip off the branches and fall to the ground. Even though they are flapping their wings like mad, they haven't learned HOW to flap them so that they catch the air and give them altitude, so they fall to the ground.

Once there, they cannot fly back up. So there must be a nearby piece of wood covered in something nonslippery like astroturf (that doesn't slip) for them to climb back up to the branching system.

All a branching system is is an imitation of what an owlet encounters when he/she comes out of a hollow tree. There is rough bark to hook their talons into, and they can climb that tree trunk by hooking their talons in and flapping their wings and literallyl climbing up. This must be imitated in the case of owl boxes.

They also have sturdy branches available to them in a hollow tree, and they hop-flap from branch to branch for about 2 weeks, slowly learning to fly.

They are so unlike other kinds of birds in this way. Eagles, for example, are pushed out of the nest and voila' they can fly. Not so w/ owls.

I apologize if anyone from the Barn Owl Alliance was insulting to Hungry Owl. I really enjoyed meeting you folks when I was up there, and am appalled if you feel attacked by anyone in our group.

Our only aim is to educate barn owl box builders about the need for branching systems. If you already have branching systems installed, then GREAT!

Also, I think we're really better off just working with Wildlilfe officials to incorporate this well documented barn owl behavior into regulations that must be incorporated into ALL barn owl boxes in the United States. After all, these requirements are already in place and regulated in captive situations for barn owls (branching systems and a climb up log, etc.).

If we just incorporate the knowledge and understanding gained by Barn Owl Biologists into the existing regulatory code, then everyone will be notified about it and will know about it and will know what to build and how, because that will be in the regulatory code.

I'm starting to think that hassling everyone who builds boxes is NOT the way to do this! It just puts them on the defensive and makes them think that the entire alliance is against them. Also, if your'e a member, it's ok to educate, but please don't harrass people in the name of the barn owl alliance.

People WILL add branching systems once they are convinced for themselves that this is a real behavioral need for barn owls. It takes time. It is pointless to accuse people, because most people don't know about branching behavior in barn owls!

This is a slow lesson for just about everyone. And it's hard to take if you've been doing this for years!

I think we ought to continue to try to obtain more video, and possibly find a contact in England who would be willing to help us, to share with us their process as they made their laws requiring branching systems for barn owl boxes. England has already been through this entire battle, so we should learn from them and not try to reinvent the wheel!

So, if you want to help, please try to find someone in England who's part of the Barn Owl Trust in England or who knows how to go about this and can sort of mentor us. THAT would be a huge help!

Sorry this is so long!
And I do apologize to the Hungry Owl Project on behalf of the Barn Owl Alliance if anyone was disrespectful of your intent and your integrity. I know you to be wonderful, sincere, great people who are trying to help the owls AND to stop the use of rodent poisons. In that, we are on the same page!

Let's not divide, let's try to unite! (yes, I know this is very hard to do. I've been through this also, as you all have seen. This is a difficult path, but a worthy path).

Love and peace to all,
Stacey O'Brien

Thanks for all the advice!

Well, I'm just trying to figure out how to untag everything and get it back to normal - I did write to CafePress immediately and told them what my situation was and asked them to remove all crosstagging. Wendy is just super super stressed, trying to meet the deadlines on her book, that's all, and the media she has of mine is no longer immediately accessible to her because the computer that had it crashed irrevocably - a sort of perfect storm of problems.

Thanks for your ideas!

What is HOP?

I hear that people are going onto boxes and agitating or causing trouble. That could mean any number of things. After all, I've been accused of being "disruptive" and ever, apparently, of threatening to sue. So...what does that mean?

But I will honor the request to tell "my people" (by the way, each person is an individual. I don't control people, nor do I control what they do with the information they have, their new knowledge, their passion. So everything everyone does should not be attributed to me! I'm just one lowly person who cares passionately about barn owls, but I am NOT instructing anyone to go to owl boxes and cause any kind of trouble!). not to cause trouble.

Please don't go on owl boxes and "cause trouble" or have arguments that seem argumentative. Now, that's an almost impossible thing to define in this day and age of chatrooms that serve more as cultish cliques, full of flamers, than actual discussion groups, so the words "seem argumentative" mean different things to different people.

So, if you come across an owlbox that does not have a branching system, it's best to just start out by saying that the owlets don't fledge, but that they branch. So, for a good outcome, the box owner needs to put up something for the owlets to land on, right in front of the door, then another one about 2 feet from the door, then another one about 3 feet from the door, all at the same height, more or less. Be humble enough to say that a lot of us are just finding out about this and it's not the fault of the box owner or box builder that they didn't know this. A lot of people don't know this (which is why there are so many owl boxes in America without branching systems, and which is why we have so much work to do).

Also, you could explain that they also need a way to get back up if they fall to the ground. You could refer them to one or two of the links that we've got that show barn owls who are unable to get back in to their boxes. You could explain how they climb out onto branches and then hop-fly from branch to branch for about 2 weeks to strengthen their wings and learn how their wings work. You could even talk about how they watch each other and learn moves from each other. And how occasionally one will miscalculate and end up on the ground, which is not normal for an owl. They don't fledge to the ground like songbirds, so an owl on the ground is a good target for a predator.

If people want to enjoy watching the owlets succeed, it's a real thrill to watch the process of branching. So if one falls to the ground, there needs to be a way to get back up. A ladder leg covered w/ astroturf is a perfect way, and easy.

It doesn't have to be a difficult thing to put up a branching system after the babies are already in the nest. Carlos did it and so did the Owlivia people. You could refer the to look at the branching system on the Molly the Owl box or on the Owlivia and Owliver box.

The main thing is to explain the behavior and let them decide to do something about it. You could point out that everyone involved wants to see the owlets thrive, and that this is the best way to do that.

It's best to emphasize the fact that we ALL want to see the owlets survive and thrive.

That's what I did for weeks and weeks. Yes, I got banned, but it did get people thinking, and it WAS true that they didn't want the "story" to end tragically either, and they DID built branching systems, and we DID get to watch the delightful process of the babies learning to fly and succeeding.

You could say that, too.

Try not to get sucked in with people who are deliberately trying to trap you into an argument. This is EASIER SAID THAN DONE because there are people who are clever at this sort of thing, and before you know it, you're defending yourself and then people say you sound "paranoid" or whatever, or you're a "worry wart" or a "rabble rouser" or "disruptive".

You've watched this happen to me. You've seen me blunder right into traps, unknowingly.

I've never dealt w/ chat rooms before, but I'm finding them to contain some of the worst of human nature! It's really a shock, because I'm so used to dealing with honest, straightforward, good people that I just think people really do have good intentions, and I blunder right into the trap. But I'm learning! As we all are!

I don't know what these complaints are about "People from the barn owl alliance", so I'm just dispensing general advice based on what I know at this time and have learned at this time. We are ALL on a road of learning and growing, so none of us knows the perfect way to approach each and every anonymous person on the net. Also, there are people who will accuse you, and then when you defend yourself, YOU are accused of being disruptive. Sigh.

so it's complicated.

All I can say is, try to be diplomatic and don't assume that everyone is deliberately obtuse. Sometimes it just takes a good explanation for people to figure out what to do. It's worth taking the time to explain what branching is and why it's needed.

Just do your best, that's all any of us can do. We all make mistakes, we all blunder into situations, none of us is perfect. And when you're the one trying to educate or suggest changes, people find it easy to make you a target for some reason. So just be careful.

In the good news department! I've finished my meetings w/ my lawyer and the 501(c)3 is well on its way, as we are filing the paperwork now. There's a process that takes some time, but our part is done! The Stacey O'Brien American Barn Owl Alliance is a reality!

As for the website, it turns out I'm going to have to find a way to get all my pages from Wendy and rehost them somewhere else. This is a blow. I am no expert at this and will have to learn FAST how to do this. Once I've done that, I've got to learn how to make the Barn Owl Alliance website because Wendy has withdrawn her offer to help. Like I said, she's just too swamped with her own book. It gets VERY INTENSE as you near the deadline for a book. I had no idea how intense it was, nor how many steps and rechecks and changes and just tons of things you have to do before the deadline, all under some level of stress. So she's just not able to do what she had hoped to be able to do.

So I'll have to figure it out. I have a month to get all this worked out.

I'll probably just have to hire someone to do this. But never fear! We will have BOTH websites up and linked together as soon as I can possibly do it!

Then, when you're trying to discuss this with people, you'll be able to refer them to the website for examples of branching and explanations, pictures, video links, etc.

Things are on their way to getting BETTER!

Just keep up the good work and the educating and research and we'll have a place to put it all pretty soon, for the public to learn from!

Everyone hang in there! Let's not get discouraged. After all, this is about those beautiful, innocent souls we've all come to love - the baby barn owls themselves!


Friday, June 11, 2010

An example of an owlet trying to get back into a box

This has a narrative that oversimplifies the situation. I don't know if there is a tree nearby, or whata the exact situation is. I do know that if an owlet is strong enough, he/she can climb up the pole and not encounter a "ceiling", ie, he can continue up to the top because the pole is not in the middle of the box floor.

However, this is unusual in that most of the owlets somehow learned to fly without an obvious branching system. We've seen other videos where none of the babies were able to get back inside because they could not hover and aim for the doorway. Instead they fell all the way to the ground - and this box was in a tree, but did not have a branch in front of the door. So all the owlets were stuck outside overnight, and when the parents tried to feed them, they inadvertantly knocked the owlets right off the branches, or the food fell to the ground - it was a very sad video.

In this video, the owlet falls to the ground and makes many attempts to get to the top of the box. There is no comment about whether or not he is able to get back into the box for the day. I doubt it. He also missed quite a few meals that were brought to the other owlets on top of the box.

So this is an incomplete story, but the footage is good for the barn owl alliance, and it's good for showing what some owlets do go through. This is a particularly strong group of babies, however, in that they probably fledged late, had plenty of food (obviously if 7 babies were thriving, they had a lot of food available), an were very strong at the outset. This is not always the case, as we've seen with little Wesley at a certain owl box - he was developmentally slow and took longer than usual to catch up to his siblings.

Anyway, here is the video. Take a look.



PS: I need help with something. I have a little store, one that I don't advertise, but if you're on my website you see a button that says, "CP Store", and that's a Cafe Press store. A while back, I noticed that my store had been illegally overrun with Molly the Owl products. When you went to the Wesley the Owl store, you saw Molly t-shirts, Molly everything, with the Wesley items confusingly scattered amongst the Molly things I was very upset, of course, but I didn't turn anyone in (I should have gone straight to the complaint department but I didn't).

What to do? So, I thought, Ok, I"ll tag my stuff with HIS product names like "Molly the Owl" and so on. So now BOTH our stores were polluted w/ each other's stuff. I should have known he was laying another trap. He then removed his stuff from my store and turned ME in for tagging my stuff so it ended up in his store.


Ok, so I went in to take the tags off and put everything back the way it was BUT...the only way to do that is to go to your media basket (where you keep the images used on your products), go to "View", go to "Tags", and undo your tags.

Well GUESS WHAT? ALL MY MEDIA WAS GONE and my basket was empty, so I could not go in and remove the tags!

I wrote to Cafe Press about it and haven't received a response yet.

This is insanity. Of course, they can prove w/ their archives that he contaminated my store first. I just got tired of the constant attacks. I mean, enough already! But instead of getting him in trouble and turning him in, I did it back to him so he'd know how it felt. Not knowing he was probably deliberately entrapping me. For all my media to be gone is insane.

Does anyone know how to remove tags without going through the media basket?

To complicate this matter, Wendy has full control of ALL MY MEDIA! She has all my physical pictures and all digital copies, and is unable to help me with this kind of stuff, now that she has her own book. Yet I also can't get my media from her to restore it. I'm really in a tough spot.

So I'm asking if any of you know how to undo tags on Cafe Press without having to have the original media in the media basket.

Thanks in advance for any advice!
I hope all this attacking and misrepresenting will stop. It makes no sense. It's time to move on for heaven's sake! How can any one person be so jealous and focused on another person who they've never even met? Oh well, I'm not a psychologist.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

To That Which you Tame, You Owe Your Life

What does this mean to me now? Now that Wesley has gone, it still resonates with me because by knowing Wesley so intimately, I gained knowledge that does not absolve me from action. I know how emotional owls are, and how vulnerable, and how smart and intuitive and precious they really are. So, if I see barn owls in danger - ANY barn owls, I must act. Because by giving me his love and the deep knowledge of the soul of the barn owl, he has made me responsible not just for him, but for all his wild cousins. My knowledge, now, is my burden - but this burden is a joyful one - and I must speak for these creatures. I must try to help them when I see them in trouble, because perhaps others might not have had the privilege of knowing their soul, or even their behavior and needs. So I have to speak out when I see their needs being ignored and when I see them being exploited for man's benefit, but to their own tragic demise.

This is why I'm so passionate about the Barn Owl Alliance. I must be their voice as much as possible, and now many have joined me by falling in love with the owls they're coming to understand, too. Through the miracle of webcams and streaming, many people have watched the intimate lives and the emotional lives of Barn Owls, and have realized that each individual barn owl is precious, has his/her own personality and quirks, and is deeply loveable and passionate and affectionate and even caring of each other. Many of us have now been touched by the indelible spirit of the Barn Owl, and we are now all burdened with our understanding, to help them.

This is what drives me, makes me passionate, keeps me going. This is what the Barn Owl Alliance is - a group of people who have come to understand these precious creatures with whom we share this earth, and who have come to care deeply for the welfare of these individuals, and who are willing to speak for them and help them overcome the obstacles that mankind has unknowningly put in their way.

Education is the key. Once we understand a creature, and come to love it, then we can learn how to help it.

By the way, we need a word in the English language for a nongendered being, whether human or animal. We are reduced to having to say he/she, him/her, his/her when we are talking about non gender specific people or animals. I HATE saying "it" when referring to any animal. An animal is not an "it". An animal is an individual with feelings, emotions, drama, concerns, passion - an animal is him/her, he/she, ....

I'm amazed that we have never come up with a word for this. We try to get around it by saying "their", "them", but it doesn't work gramatically.

Perhaps when the Barn Owl Alliance has made the entire world safe for Barn Owls and educated the very last person, and has eliminated rodent poisons, and has established branching systems for all owl boxes, we can figure out a word for the English Language and lobby for its inclusion in our lexicon. But until then, we have much work to do.


PS: Last night I heard a northern pygmy owl. Wow! This morning I woke up to the familiar crunching footsteps of deer and the sound of them munching on the delicate spring greens below my window. I got up and watched them from out on the balcony. One of the deer looked up at me, right into my eyes, and held my gaze. She had such wild eyes that I was startled. Gentle, but totally those of a wild creature. They did not run, but continued to nibble their way through the forest.

If Cait wants to see if I'm awake in the night (we're both notorious insomniacs sometimes), she hoots out her window, which is one floor below mine. If I leap out of bed and rush to my window to hoot back, she laughs and says, "I thought you might be awake." I guess she knows me pretty well! hah.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What we can do to save other wildlife from future spills:

I got this from Defenders of Wildlife and I did go to the link w/ the letter, altered it w/ some of my own comments, and hit "send". They make it very easy to lobby for change to save wildlife. If you're interested, I'm posting this email I received from Defenders of Wildlife. I am a member, obviously, and they are an organization that uses letters and pressure from members to ask lawmakers to pay attention and do the right thing in these matters:

Here's the email I got, plus info on Defenders of Wildlife:

Here is the exact link to the letter page where you send a letter to Washington to stop driling in the Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Some people have had trouble getting to it, and there are so many links in this message that I thought I'd put the exact one here for you:


If you can not read this message for any reason, you can view it
online now...

Dear Stacey,

Imagine the potential damage from an industrial oil field in
the midst of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - one of the
most important
onshore denning habitats for polar bears - and you'll
understand why I need
your help today.

Polar bear mothers are particularly sensitive to noise and
other disruptions. Construction, road traffic, airplanes and other
activities can cause these beloved wild bears to abandon their cubs,
them to die without the important lessons that only a mother bear can

Help preserve the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Tell the Fish and Wildlife Service to
the Arctic Refuge - and the polar bears and other wildlife that
rely on this
pristine landscape to survive.


With the Fish and Wildlife Service set to revise the Arctic
Refuge's 15-year management plan, we only have until Monday
(June 7th)
to make our voices heard. We only need 800 messages from caring people
in California like you to meet our goal of 40,000 messages. Will
you help?
(note, they are talking about California because I am listed as being from California. But they need letters from people in all states).


Please take action
right now! Urge the Fish and Wildlife Service's Arctic Refuge
Planning Team to protect the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge and the spectacular wildlife that live there.


For years, the oil industry and
its political supporters have pushed to industrialize this special
place. Just this week, one of the oil industry's
biggest supporters, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin even claimed
that the offshore oil disaster in
the Gulf proves the need to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge! In fact, the Gulf oil spill proves only that drilling
is too dangerous to risk harming a pristine place like the Arctic

The Arctic Refuge is home to polar bears, grizzly bears, caribou,
musk oxen, Dall sheep, wolves and rare wolverines. It's also an
important area
for millions of migratory birds, many of which make their way
across California on
their way to the Arctic Refuge.

Today you have the unique opportunity to tell the Fish and
Wildlife Service how you think the Arctic Refuge should be managed for
generations. Please help protect the Refuge's wildlife by taking
a moment to
tell the Fish and Wildlife Service how important the Arctic Refuge is
to you.

Send your message


and urge federal officials to...


* Begin
a comprehensive review with an eye toward designating the
entire Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge as federally designated
Wilderness, so that polar
bears and other wildlife need never again be threatened by
the potential
for harmful oil and gas drilling and other destructive
development in the
habitat they need to survive;

* Stand
strong against the State of Alaska's
efforts to extend its out-of-control and scientifically
unfounded predator
control programs into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge;

* Preserve
the viability of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and
its wildlife for
future generations of Americans by setting aside unique
ecological areas
and regulating recreation.

With the lives of threatened polar bears and other arctic
wildlife hanging in the balance, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is
how exactly to manage the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

It's up to us to ensure that these federal officials act on
behalf of the Arctic Refuge...and the wildlife that call this
special place
home. Please take action right now!


For the Wild Ones,

Peter Nelson
Director, Federal Lands Program
Defenders of Wildlife

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Washington, DC 20036

ps; the only copyrighted part of this blog is my own comments. The rest belongs to Defenders of Wildlife

Saturday, June 5, 2010

BIG NEWS! Tom Stephan is joining us! (this is one of 2 posts today so don't miss the one below this one!)

This is WONDERFUL NEWS! Here is my answer to Tom. I hope all of you will take this same attitude and let bygones be bygones, and work together with Tom to come up with a nesting and branching system that will allow all owlets to survive in the way they would in a natural hollow tree setting. I'm SO HAPPY TO HEAR from Tom and believe he is sincere! After all, he probably started this whole business of building barn owl boxes because he was interested in the owls. It has taken all of us awhile to realize the extent of the branching problem, so let's welcome Tom with open arms and be his ally!!!

Here's my response to Tom, followed by his comment/letter to us:

This is very brave of you to come here and be willing to work with us to help change the way owlboxes are made and installed, and to work with us in making branching systems. I am THRILLED And I hope everyone will help you to find the right solutions. You have a huge influence in the greater San Diego area, and could do so much to help the owls with an improved box and branching system! I'm really, really excited to have you on board and am looking forward to working together to make a difference for the owls.

I think that for a long time no one has realized the problem, so I don't fault you for that. And I know that you have felt attacked by people in the past, which makes it even harder to say, "Ok, I want to make improvements" because you feel like you have to defend yourself first!

But we will not attack you. We will work with you for a greater outcome, and I think the result will be a triumph for the owls and for the humans alike, and that your improved design could become the prototype for owlboxes w/ branching systems worldwide, if we do this correctly!

Right now we're doing research - looking for photographic and video resources that show owls branching - unfortunately it sounds like Carlos will not let us use any of his footage, although it shows so well how owlets branch about 2-3 weeks before they can fly well, and it shows how they learn and train their wings on the branching system Carlos finally did put in place.

We're also looking into box designs all over the world.

I'm going to post this answer to you so it's not buried in the comment section.

People in the alliance, let's work closely with Tom. He is not here for us to attack him. Let's put the past behind us and move forward together to learn what the owls NEED to survive according to their natural behavior, and help Tom to set up what could become the prototype for other successful nesting and branching systems!

I'm very, very excited to have Tom on our team and wanting to work with us!

Thank you so much, Tom! Welcome!

Stacey O'Brien

Here's Tom's letter to us:

Tom Stephan said...
Stacey and friends of owls,
After some careful consideration, I wish to join your goal of state and federal standards for the construction and installation of barn owl nesting boxes. These laws could be very much like the falconry regulations that I abide by everyday when housing and flying my trained raptors.

I have new fledging posts in service and am dreaming up new owlbox designs that have a catch pan "porch" under the provided perch. That I hope you will approve of. Also I try to install these boxes next to trees for shade and comfort and for later fledging when I can, but some properties new and have no trees a few have been installed in the sun. They all have fledged young that fluttered down to the ground and vertically walked/ flew (I use the term srambled) back up to the top of the fence and then into the box after 2-3 days, but there is as yet no studies to show any mortality, if there is any. So, I could provide a double roof affair for those boxes in the sun needing some insulation and a ramp affir for them to regain the porch therby regaining the perch and the the box. The newest box design is a two pole mounted "Castle" with a cleanout trap and spacious "drawbridge" doorway that is wide eneough for the entire brood. Under the door way and just below the box is an oval plywood board that I call the "moat" that would act as a catch pan for fledging owls. Please feel free to contact me if you have any thoughts on my new configurations or any part of the installation process Please anyone may contact me please at tom@airsuperiority.com or just call me at 760 445 2023 Thanks, Tom Stephan

Let's work WITH Tom for the betterment of all barn owls and let anything any of us has said be put behind us. It's the only way to move forward! I admire Tom for being so willing to do this! YAY!

Stacey O'Brien

June 5, 2010 3:41 AM

An adventure in the Colorado Rockies

Hi All!

I'm here in the Rockies, soaking up the forest and wildlife, and sweet, clean air. Before I start telling you about this latest adventure, please read the comment attached to the post below this, the one w/ the link to the barn owl alliance. Tom has some ideas about owl box and ramp design that you ought to look at and see if you think it's good. The only comment I would make about the ramp is that you don't want it to go directly to the entrance of the box, lest predators use it for easy access to the owlets. A ramp to a nearby perch or platform from which they could fly-hop to the perch in front of the door would be best in that case.

About yesterday:
Not one day goes by here without some kind of wildlife encounter or adventure! I was sitting here by my bedroom window writing an email to Sy Montgomery, of all people, when I had a big bird adventure (Sy's new book is called Birdology). As I was emailing, I heard crows making a ruckus, then heard the sound of something crashing through the trees and a thump on the ground. I leapt out of my chair and looked out the window. The crows were now on the ground (crows? They were huge. Maybe they were ravens. I'm not sure. They were as big as small barn owls). And then I saw a large animal thrashing on the ground w/ the crows attacking it. I thought it was the mother rabbit who lives in the wood pile below my window. She has babies, so I started yelling, "Stop it! Leave her alone! Go away!"

This didn't have the effect I had wanted so I threw on some sandals and raced down the stairs and out the back door, and up the embankment toward the crows, yelling. As I did, they backed off and the animal they were attacking stood up. It was a female red tailed hawk! She was beautiful, magnificent!

She was shaken and took a second to get her bearings, then she flew away as fast as she could. Thank God her wings or back were not broken. I was worried they might have pecked her eyes so I followed her. So did the crows. I followed crows and flushed crows for about an hour, and I tromped around the forest looking very carefully for the Red Tailed Hawk and for perhaps any babies or fallen nest.

Apparently there had been no fallen babies. Cait didn't think they had a nest nearby, and she's an astute observer of nature, so she would know.

But here's the part that I've never experienced before:
As I walked through the forest, it was completely devoid of animal sounds. All the animals were aware of what had happened. As I peered closely at trees and branches, and even at the ground, I began to see the animals, lots and lots of animals, frozen in place as they had been when this all happened. I walked right up to a branch at eye level where an adolescent gray squirrel sat like a statue, not even twitching his tail or moving his eyes. He was not afraid of me, compared to a hawk or mob of crows. I stood looking at him and talking to him for awhile and then moved on. When I came back that way, he was still frozen in place.

I would have thought something was wrong with him, except that the birds were also frozen! I saw some amazing birds, all completely still. I would have stepped on one had I not been looking where I was going. They were not trying to get away from me at all! They knew the hawk or crows were the greater threat. I was impressed by how long every animal stayed frozen - long after the hawk and crows had left the area. These animals are WILD animals and are survivors.

It was almost an hour before I began to hear birdsong and see chickadees and finches moving in the trees again.

The amazing thing was that it felt like time had stopped and I was walking through some kind of museum piece, where the animals are forever preserved in position at the "waterhole" or in the "forest". The other amazing thing is that the animals had figured out that the greater threat was the hawk/crows.

Later that day, Cait and I took a walk on the roads around her house, and we heard the crows again. This time we knew that it meant there was a predator around. So we looked down the slope to where the crows were making their ruckus and we saw a large fox trotting along with a VERY ANNOYED look on his face. The crows had ruined any chance of him getting a good hunt, because they had alarmed every animal for who knows how far around that there was a predator in the area! He looked soo annoyed, like he was saying, "Scat! Get away! Shoot! Shoot shoot. There goes my dinner. Gosh darn it. Go away. Stupid crows. I hate when this happens."

Again, he wasn't concerned with us at all but continued to trot, annoyed, away.

I am continually amazed at the dramas that go on around us in the wilderness. The fox's ruined day, the hawk's trauma, the terrible fright the birds and squirrels had. Each species has their own world, their own culture, their own dramas and fears and triumphs, and they are all emotional about what happens in their day or night.

I wonder what today will bring?

This is how humans are meant to live - in the middle of all this. This is how we have lived for millions of years. The more out of touch we become with the wild ones, the more out of touch we become with ourselves, because this is the world that we share with the wild ones.

I look at the selfishness, the pure greed, the evil that spawned this oil nightmare. Some of America's most precious land is being as surely destroyed as if an enemy combatant had dropped a nuclear bomb on the area. It's the chernobyl of America. And the fact that a foreign country did this to us is even more odious. It just feels like we've been bombed by some other country. It's not THEIR land, animals, precious delicate habitats, that are being destroyed! They can go on as they please, while they ruin some of the most irreplaceable habitat on earth.

Thank God we didn't let anyone "drill, baby, drill". Remember hearing that it was "perfectly safe" and how "there were so many precautions in place that drilling would not affect the environment?" Well I give you exhibit A in the gulf of how "safe" it is. I'm so furious and so sad and helpless I can't even express it. It's the most helpless feeling.

I love the fact that there is one parish that is not waiting, not taking no for an answer. In Louisiana they have learned not to wait for help from the federal government. They've lost any sense of innocence about that. So they're dredging and creating a sandbar to block the oil from reaching their wetlands. They have t-shirts that say, "Dredge, baby, Dredge"> haha.

When you are in a habitat where wild animals are carrying out their precious lives in front of you every day, you realize that they have emotions, attachments, friends, family, love, empathy, pain, joy, playfulness, and you realize how precious they really are. If we all lived like we were made to live - in close proximity w/ nature - I think we would not be so glib about using this earth and these animals as if they were all here just for us to exploit. They are not "ours" to exploit!

A little humility would go a long way in almost every one of these cases where animals or habitats get abused by pompous, arrogant people who have no idea who they're hurting when they hurt these wild ones. We're not only hurting them, but by hurting them, we are hurting ourselves.

Maybe someday, we will collectively understand this. I hope it's not too late by then.