Monthly Archives: September 2010

mr. sandman

towards dusk, just after the skies had turned bluer than blue, i watched as the last storm clouds moved over the lake and then, were gone.  

owls were written all over the gathering calm of september 29th…i could feel them, could see them.  “it was,” i told myself, “going to be a big night.”

so often, over the past 25 years as an owler, i have relied on my hunches to direct efforts that have produced both purposeful…and aimless  journeys.  “think like an owl”, i tell myself. 

mostly, it works.   

when an owler feels something visceral, there is a tangible sense that nature’s script is written and free of edits; that you are in on a secret.  i have found nests because of those secrets.  i have snowshoed for miles during daylight because something told me “this is where the owls will be”, then watched boreal owl courtship unfold without commercial interruption. 

those moments are humbling.

when the hunches prove wrong, however, the 3 mile snowshoe produces only severe, inner thigh chafing as its reward. 

it’s not quite the same.

like last night, for instance.  dusk moved towards dark and my nets were ready.  five minutes into the night, it started to rain.  hard.  i bagged my nets and waited inside, swaddled in two layers of fleece.  

shortly thereafter, mr. sandman paid me an unwelcomed visit.     

i fell into deep sleep.  i missed an evening of owls.  i was pathetic.  

when i awoke, it was too late to set up again and so, i rekindled my sleep, unwilling to test yet another owler’s hunch. 

tonight though.  well, i’ve got a really good feeling about tonight.  

no really.  i do.


85-grams of pure hell

the saw-whet’s talons are perfect.  curved, needle sharp,  fueled by reflexes that are blink-of-an-eye quick and tendons that respond to struggle with an exponential increase in pressure (see also: needle-sharp talons).

despite having nearly 30 years of raptor-handling experience and having fully assimilated the “grab their feet before the feet grab you” tenet of raptor biology, i am footed regularly by those affable, cuddly little bastards.  there is nothing predictive in their response and indeed, the docile saw-whet upon extraction from the nets is fully capable of inflicting physical pain and emotional carnage on the poor, innocent foolish owler that let’s his or her guard down.    

last night, after the rain squalls ended, i set up the two time- and owl-worn nets and had my customary front row seat for a strigidaen evening.  owls popped immediately but then, the winds came and persisted and i spent the last hour debating whether i should continue or seek comfort and solace in bed where…i am a true viking. 

i still have yet to experience the “omfg” owl night this year, but have a sneaking suspicion it could be tonight, given the calm, overcast skies, and the absense of whorish moonglow within the landscape. 

bring on the talons.

what’s life(flight) got to do with it?

losing 2 hours of sleep a night wouldn’t seem like much, but after a while, the body suggests otherwise.  your mental focus drifts.  your back feels rigid.  your appetite disappears.  impure thoughts become your friend.   

i’m there, man.

if nothing else, the fall migration has been a bit enigmatic.  there are no set patterns and nothing i have seen makes me go “i’ve seen this before” in this, my 8th year of banding at my homestead, my mecca, my center of the universe.

depsite the personal bemoanings though, every night i come home from work means i get a bit excited.  i eat hurriedly.  my heartbeat elevates.  pain radiates through my arm. 

i’ve been through 25 years of both springtime and autumnal obsessive/compulsive owling and don’t know what i’d do as a substitute.  when i retire, i tell myself i will band all night and change my schedule to fit the owls’, like i used to. those were some crazy days of youth and erstwhile youth.

i was driven to satisfy my curiousity and for the most part, i did.

everything, and nothing has changed.

no really, i’m okay without sleep

i knew it was coming: the lethargy and malaise, the viral reluctance to address the post-it notes defining the next task in my quest to bring order from chaos. 

chaos isn’t that bad. 

it is my friend.

last night, after the winds had left and night had returned to familiarity i sat, waiting for the owls to move.  they did so immediately.  for a while.  then they stopped.  then they began again. 

i felt like a strigidaen yo-yo. 

thirty-two owls later, with the moon casting cheesy shadows in my patch of the boreal forest oak savannah, i had tasted enough.  it is still early in the season and i must pace myself…like running a marathon, even though i have no idea why people would want to do that. 

run, that is.  sometimes i wonder why people would want to owl.

then i remember. 





i couldn’t sleep.  too much coffee.  too many cerebral vectors. 

instead, i listened as the wind rocked my wind generator.   pulses from the arctic.  winter sending out a feeler to see if it’s okay to come home. 

then, the landscape went limp.  like a switch had been flipped.

0100 and i was setting up my nets.  at 0105, i was extracting a hy swet. 

“silly owler”, my voice of reason said.  “he’ll never learn.”

but much to my chagrin, there wasn’t an explosion of birds.  there were 6 over the next 2 hours, at which time sleeplessness lost its foothold.  

tonight now.  that’ll be a challenge. 

i think.

hurrying up to wait

male saw-whet waiting for some booty.

the comma-shaped weather system is not as impressive or as forceful as it was a day ago, but it is still here and it is still sending squalls of rain and wind into my otherwise, sheltered existence. 

i’m getting antsy and it has nothing to do with wanting to try out my new princeton tec, apex pro headlamp (owlman recommended) or stinking up a new seasonal batch of fleece.  instead, it has everything to do with getting on the front side of an owl push, rather than smack dab in the middle of one.

one would think i could temper my anticipation, given the decades-plus sampling, but i can’t.  i am powerless over owls.  powerless over the night.  they own me and i am their bitch humble man servant. 

right now, the winds are still gusty and i am house bound.  when the weather breaks though it’ll be monumental. my fingers will bleed. my back will holler in complaint.  my batteries will need changing.  i will resort to non-nutritive food substitutes.  i will think about nothing other than getting owls out of the nets and back into the night without unnecessary delays.

that’s going to happen and i can’t wait, but dread when it does.

go figure.

son of the son of blog.

i used to do this regularly.  nearly every day i would spend idle hours expousing my insight and values on what was then, an unknowing public.  at one point, people actually paid attention.  when i stopped, those same people asked axed me “how come you stopped?”

i did you all a favor, people.  

what comes of this is unknown.  i lost my original blog to the demons of excess bandwidth.  it amounted to around 6 years of stuff.  owls. life. cynicism (hooray!) observation. bliss.  politics…why it was as though i had found a voice and the venue to voice it within.

of course,  owls are the profound component of my recurring nightmare  endeavors.  i can’t seem to shake them.  they are compelling and alluring.  like ones’ first love.  the first child.  the first six-pack of highly-hopped micro brew. 

sadly, i don’t think i’ve moved much further in life than where i was. 

i love that. 

now, with the gales of november september crashing against the rugged shoreline of lake superior and me having a poorly timed day off (i took it so i could have a long banding effort last night…alas rain and wind), i am going to see what becomes of this. 

the fall migration has thus far, been lackluster.  none of the early season “pushes” i have come to dread expect.  whereas in the early years of my homeownership, job responsibility was not a significant challenge, it now is and so, i must juggle owls with work with salsa canning and of course, there is always that damnable micro brew.

i’m not gonna get into a big chunk of blogging right now cuz i don’t know if i can sustain the effort without a big dose of literary cialis. 

we’ll see.