Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I love owls. I’m not sure if I got this love from my paternal grandmother, who also admired owls and collected anything with an owl on it or because I loved listening to their nocturnal serenades as a child living near a state park. As an owl lover, I had a memorable experience last night. My husband and I went to a local Owl Prowl, which is a presentation on owls of Iowa as well a hike where you learn owl calls in hopes of getting a reply from a real owl. We learned that the most common owls in this area are the Eastern Screech, Barred, and Great Horned. Most fun of all was getting to see a live owl! Barb (pictured below) is a barred owl who was injured in an unfortunate barbed wire collision but thankfully rehabilitated. 

She was very calm for an owl but kept her eyes clearly focused on the handler most of the time, so it was difficult to get a shot of her entire face. She weighs about 1.5 pounds.

Somehow I managed to capture Barb blinking. Isn't this precious? No wonder I love owls!

And here is a side view of this magnificent creature. While she has been rehabilitated, she will never be able to return to the wild again due to her injury. She has a good home but I think she needs a companion to keep her company. After all, how would you like to spend all day alone?! There was some talk of finding another barred owl to join her and I hope that will happen. 

The rest of the owls we saw during the presentation were taxidermy examples—still a sight to behold. This dapper duo features another barred owl—so named for the bar-like markings on its chest—and the Eastern screech owl. Sadly, we learned that when the young owls embark on their new life of independence away from their family, they have a 70 percent mortality during that first year.

This grouping from left to right shows a Long-Eared owl, Barn owl, and Great Horned owl. We were told the first two are not common in our area. The Barn owls get their name from the fact that many farmers used to construct perches for them in their barns to encourage them to roost and hunt rodents and other pests. My husband remembers one such perch in their century-old barn and seeing barn owls as a child. The Great Horned owl stands 25" tall and is nicknamed the "Flying Tiger" because of its deft predatory skills. Among its prey are other owls like the Barred and Barn owls. 

They opened up the second half of the program to questions from the inquisitive audience. One of the kids in the audience asked if it was true that owls could turn their heads practically all the way around. It turns out that's not quite true but they can turn their heads a whopping 270 degrees. Compared to humans' 180 degrees, that's quite astounding. We learned that their ability to do that is due in part to their vertabrae, which allows for more flexibliity. They have twice as many vertebrae as humans. The program ended with some tips on how you can help the owl population. Apparently, several die each year because of rat/mice poisons from the rodents that they ingest. For this reason, the speaker urged that you not use such poisons outdoors. He also encouraged us to resist the temptation to cut down dead trees, which provide homes for many of these cavity nesters. At the end of the program, a nice lady handed out candies shaped like owl pellets for everyone.

All of this talk about owls inspired me to dig through my wool stash when I got home late that night and make my own little Valentine's version of a barn owl. This is just the start of her—nothing has been stitched and I still have more features to add.

Instead of a perching her on a tree branch, I thought I'd try a pinked wool strip for a fanciful twist as I love incorporating those into my designs. The edges are so delightful (as shown below). As you might imagine, my sewing room is scattered with several pinked wool strips!

For all you blogging friends from afar, I hope this post brings a smile to your face just like Barb did to mine!