Some Screech Owls And Geeking Out

Tuesday was much busier than I anticipated at The Raptor Center. The rest of my crew was off, there were no programs scheduled and it was pouring rain so the possibilities of walk-in tours was pretty darned remote. But that didn't mean the staff couldn't find things for me to do. In less than four hours I worked with a merlin, a kestrel, a peregrine and two screech owls.

The screeches needed some re-training to the glove. The above gray phase screech owl has been going through a rough molt and was practically bald all summer and didn't do as many programs. When I put my hand in a crate to get him out, he jumped onto my finger and just tried to squeeze the life out of it, apparently my finger had to die. But he will go through retraining and relearn that the gloved hand is a good place where screech owls get food, and have a relaxing time.

The gray phase lives in the same mew as a red phase screech owl. What's interesting about these too, is that when they are perched in their mew, the red phase is usually sitting in front of red bricks and the gray is perched in front of some weathered wood, working their camo feather colors.

I don't know if you noticed, but this bird was facing my camera but was not quite seeing it. It has some eye problems and can't see well. My camera makes a slight sound when it's focusing and the screech owl could hear it, but not quite focus on it.

The gray phase could totally focus on it.

Well, I haven't had a good old fashioned geek out in awhile, but had it last night. Scott Weidensaul is in town for Minnesota Audubon and I was invited to attend. I have to say, Scott is one of my all time favorite bird authors (Living on the Wind is one of the best books ever) and he is a really nice guy who will sign a book in just about any way you'd like him to. A few years ago, I found his phone number on the Internet and called and asked if he would autograph a book in a very unique way for my buddy Amber (at the time we called ourselves "the baddest b!tches of birding" and he did). So, I got to introduce him to Amber last night.

I was nervous because the last and only time I met him face to face was VERY early on the blog, I met him at an ABA Convention in Southeast, AZ in 2005. He was supposed to be there and then his name was crossed off the list so I didn't think I'd get to meet him. It was my last night there and I was having some drinks with some optics reps and new friends and was very much "in my happy place". Then, he walked into the hotel lobby and I suddenly realized I had to pull it together, not sound like a stalker and if I could muster it, sound kinda intelligent. At the time, I thought it was the Algonquin Round Table, but the next morning had a fear that I sounded more like John Goodman in The Big Lebowski ("You wanna toe, I can get you a toe, I can get you a toe by two o'clock!"). Anyway, he remembered, gave me a hug, said I didn't act like a slobbering junk, and even took a look at the Disapproving Rabbits book (and liked it).

The program was a special event for donors and highly active Audubon Members. I've donated some photos to some Audubon publications, so that's how I got my invite. I was honored just to be part of the crowd, it was a who's who of the Minnesota birding community. Above is the oh so tall humorist Al Batt, Val Cunningham, Jim Williams, and Laura Erickson just to name a few.

I get to see bird speakers all the time and have a good handle on who is worth seeing once and who is worth seeing two or three times, who is worth seeing after a few shots of scotch, and who you should feign illness for, but Scott Weidensaul is worth seeing multiple times. I feel like I do quite a bit for birds, but he is one of the few who gets so passionate about birds when he talks about them, that I feel like, "Crap! I'm not doing enough, I need to leave right now and help Red Knots." Very effective speaker, and if you're reading my blog, live in Minnesota and thinking, "Bummer, wish I could have been there." Do not fear. Scott is the keynote speaker at the Detroit Lakes in 2008. Plan on going now, it will be well worth it. If you're in another state and are looking for a good speaker, book him, he's worth every penny.