Jun 21 2010

I’m not Furby

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Okay, so he looks like a Furby. But he isn’t. This is one of two gorgeous great-horned owlets I discovered behind our property. (Yes, it’s owlet … not owlette.)

Contrary to popular belief, great horned owls don’t “hide” during the day – which is how I spotted the owlets. During the daytime, they generally roost or perch in a protected area. This little guy finds protection on the west side of a shaded cliff, perching in palo verde trees, on cholla cacti, or on the cliff’s ledges.

I had suspected for months that the parents had offspring somewhere in the area, though I never saw them. Almost every time I’d jog by, I’d see an adult owl (got some great shots of her, too!)

But last week, I did catch a glimpse of the offspring. Admittedly, they have grown rather large, but you can tell they are still young from their downy feathers and their inquisitiveness with humans.

Let me preface my post by explaining that I have been very sensitive to these beautiful creatures and their habitat. I limited my jogs past their home to only once a week, and when I did take photos, I was very quiet and used the zoom lens so I didn’t get too close. I even contacted the local Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to be sure I wasn’t impacting their habitat.

I was assured that it was okay to watch from afar. But I did learn that tampering with any part of an owl’s nest is punishable by law… not that I wanted to take anything. Raptors are protected by Arizona and federal laws. Even taking a feather or a bone from a nest can result in fines!

It was difficult to decide which photo to post today since I had multiple shots of both of the owlets together. But then I thought: how many people get to see a profile shot of an owl? I’m fascinated by his face and the incredible detail in his feathers!

Like others throughout history, I regard the owl with fascination and awe. These majestic birds have great symbolic significance in many cultures (and in many literary works), and could be a great addition to your next work of fiction. For me – for now, at least – I just want to observe them, enjoy them, and appreciate their beauty.

Stay tuned for a future post about the baby barn owls that were in a burrow only one “hill” away!

Jun 4 2010

To Bee or Not to Bee

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I’ve always been afraid of bees … You know, the kind of idiot who swerves her car all over the road when she discovers that a bee is riding along with her as an unintended passenger.

Notice this bee is dusted in pollen. As she stores the pollen in her leg pouches (see this bee’s bright yellow left leg), she inevitably carries pollen from her body to new flowers. Hence begins the pollination process!

As the years have passed, though, I’ve grown to appreciate them. I even wrote a story about them a few years back and poked around rural Southern Arizona with a bee expert who could find every nook, cranny and crevice in the state where bees are nesting – simply by listening.

That’s probably why I stopped today to take note. They were creating their own melody as they foraged on the newly opened palo verde blooms. In fact, at this time of year, when you stop and listen, a dull buzz resonates in every direction. Kind of disconcerting, but exhilarating at the same time. Especially when you get a close-up view of the action. Admittedly, they got a bit too close for my comfort. But then again, I was the one inviting my camera lens to their dinner table.

I marveled at the gluttonous way they attacked the flowers, the tiny pollen-collecting sacs on the backs of their legs like yellow leg warmers, nearly exploding … It seemed they were ravenous and completely unashamed in their euphoria. They were indulging with abandon and, frankly, didn’t care if I was there or not.

I stood mesmerized as they zipped and zoomed around rather sporadically, staying on one blossom for less than a second, then moving on to the next.

Then I realized … bees aren’t much different than us, are they? Maybe we can actually learn a thing or two from them as we zip and zoom through our own lives. Maybe wild abandon isn’t such a bad thing, either.

Listen to the buzz of bees in our backyard.

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