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 (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 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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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 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.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Truth, Honor, and Freedom (thinking of Memorial Day)

This AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL song sums up a lot of my personal way of looking at life. When I sing it, I substitute "all people" for "our people" for obvious reasons. Please send me a quick comment if you listened to the song and tell me if you like it, too. How do you feel about this post? It's different from the others....thanks.

Listen to it on this link (it's free):

Here are the lyrics:

Both sides the Tweed

What's the spring breathing jasmine and rose
What's the summer with all its gay train
What's the splendour of autumn to those
Who've bartered their freedom for gain.

Let the love of our land's sacred rights
To the love of our people succeed
Let friendship and honour unite
And flourish on both sides the Tweed.

No sweetness the senses can cheer
Which corruption and bribery bind
No brightness the sun can e'er clear
For honour's the sum of the mind.

(repeat chorus)
Let the love of our land's sacred rights
To the love of our people succeed
Let friendship and honour unite
And flourish on both sides the Tweed.

Let virtue distinguish the brave
Place riches in lowest degree
Think them poorest who can be a slave
Them richest who dare to be free.

(repeat chorus)
Let the love of our land's sacred rights
To the love of our people succeed
Let friendship and honour unite
And flourish on both sides the Tweed.

This is a beautiful ballad and was composed by Dick Gaughan. Copyright to lyrics = Dick Gaughan
The version you just listened to was recorded by Mary Black. It has also been recorded by Capercaillie. If you have never listened to Irish traditional music, you ought to give yourself the gift of at least checking it out. ;-)

Perhaps you know, or have figured out due to my name, that I am at the very least, significantly Irish. I speak some Gealic (though I've forgotten most of it), and sing some of the old songs in the old language. I was at 3 different traditional Irish sessiuns this weekend. We slept until almost time to go, took quick showers, and went straight to the sessiuns, and played Irish and Scottish traditional music through the night. I dozed off in the middle of about 20 top traditional Irish/Scottish musicians playing the best of the old music and my dreams danced like the Faerie.

Tonight (well forest is softening into light and the sweet sounds of sleepy birds awakening floats through my window, so it's really the next morning), I want to share with you the music that inspires me, moves me, informs me. This song pretty much defines my philosophy, although when I sing it, I substitute "all people" for "our people" for obvious reasons.

Tonight, many of the songs were about the wars and troubles when we were sold into slavery by the English, when our land was taken and made into farmland for England while we perished by the millions from starvation, or protest songs about Scotland being sold off to the English for gold ("they made us slaves for the sake of the gold"), and we were crammed into death ships and dumped off in Australia (being a criminal meant disagreeing w/ the English crown at that time - it's kinda like being banned, but the consequences are much worse). The Irish Famine, the divisions made between the different Celtic groups. Don't get me wrong - I have no problem w/ English people - it was their leaders at those times who did these things. And they also did them to the regular English people, too.

Like many peoples, the Celts (pronounced Kelts) have struggled to maintain their culture and integrity in the face of much opposition. I think this is true for most human beings at some point in their lives, too.
Anyway, some songs were protests, some were sad, but this one is by far my favorite because it is conciliatory and hopeful.

This bit of family history might also give you insight into why I am so against the twisting of truth and why I find it so scary when people are frightened into silence over something as mild as an anonymous chat room. It's scary. People used to give their lives to shelter a stranger - a Jew during WW2, a slave before/during the Civil War, anyone who is persecuted, during the persecution of that person's group.

To be too fearful to stand for the truth and to be a voice for those without a voice when the consequences are not death and dismemberment is astounding to me. So many people have given their lives for the freedom of others, for the truth to be allowed, for freedom of speech and thought.

This is a touching song that is sung in pretty much all Irish and Scottish music circles (which are everywhere by the way. Call your Irish pub and ask if they know of or if they have a "Traditional Music Session" and GO TO IT if you can!

Thank you to all the veterans who have freely given of their very lives for the sake of freedom and justice. We will never forget you.

-Stacey O'Brien (Steise Ni' Bhriain)