Since each of us was several, there was quite a crowd. Here we have made use of everything that came within range, what was closest as well as fartherest away. (Deleuze & Guattari, in the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus, 3)

Monday, November 15, 2010

A flying lesson

A Frogmouth owl mother and her chick have taken up residence on the tree outside my studio window. As I started taking these photographs,  the adult started bobbing and stretching first one wing then the other then, to our amazement, the chick mimicked the adult's movements. 
Could this be the first lesson in learning to fly?

As I write I can see the adult owl still sitting within the crook of the tree. It is pouring with rain.

We have a number of owls in our area: the Boobook, Frogmouth, Powerful, Barking and even a Sooty Owl which perched outside the dining room window one November night. Generally we recognize each by their call: the Boobook with its two syllables which make up its name, the Frogmouth's meditative 'oom' , the Sooty Owl's descending whistle. Most often the call of the Barking Owl is also linked to its name and is something between a cough and a dog's bark, then at others ti can be can be altogether different.

One night I awoke to such a scream of such terror, I was convinced murder was taking place beneath my window.
Again and again someone called out in pain and fear—I vowed if I heard it once more and I would go and investigate—yet lingered, too fearful to discover just what was happening. Then, as the air vibrated once again with the violence, I crept down the stairs, broom handle at the ready.
But there was nothing.
No sign of distress or evidence of a crime having taken place. 
I stood in the starlight, the trees stood around me.
Next morning I reached for the bird book along with my cup of tea, determined to find some explanation which did not reside solely within my imagination. Sitting up in bed, the missive What Bird is That? open and resting on my knees, I discover my night visitor to have been a Barking Owl and capable of:

…appalling nocturnal screams—calls which have given name to the local names Screaming-woman Bird and Murderbird.
Object 4 of 26: Owl Thimble
4 x 3 cm, wood

My description of  the Boobook's call comes from the last line of a poem by Mark Tredinnick, 'The Lyrebird':
"Boobook at midnight: if those are your only two syllables, you'd make them pay". 

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