Owls in the suburban web of life

Out here in our neck of the Colorado Front Range, it’s been a good year for great horned owls.  Two owl families set up shop within a few minutes’ walk from home.  One was in a nest hole that’s been used in past years, but the one shown here used a new site in a broken tree top.  Dinner for the owlets included rabbits as well as snakes, voles, and doubtless other critters.

The owls draw quite a crowd at times, indeed often more than a half dozen people, along with their dogs, and cameras of various sizes. There were experts with huge lenses, who seemed like they were out there several times a day, and casual dog-walking (but also camera-toting) visitors like myself.  When a lot of people converged on the owl site, it got harder to get a good camera angle, but it became a festive occasion on its own account.

Great horned owls have been increasing in Colorado. I had certainly never seen so many of them until I moved here. Even outside the spring breeding season, there are a few times when I saw several adults just on a casual walk through the neighborhood. The other thing we have a lot of are rabbits. At times, it seems almost every lawn has a rabbit in full view; it’s like an all-you-can-eat rabbit bar. So, I have assumed that this partly explains the abundance of owls.  But according to the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas, the increase of great horned owls in Colorado has coincided with a decline of the long-eared owl, likely due to competition.  So, not all the owl species are happy — despite the rabbit bar.

Pangolins can’t wait 11 months

If you enjoy strange and whimsical-looking creatures, then pangolins are definitely for you. These tropical mammals look like something out of a kids’ cartoon fantasy, perhaps a cross between a dinosaur, and a fish out of water.  They have been one of my favorite animals since I first saw illustrations of them in books as a kid.  They are hard to find in zoos, perhaps because they specialize on ants and termites. During one of my visits to the San Diego Zoo some years ago, they kept a pangolin in the behind-the-scenes collection, but it was only brought out occasionally, and not during my visit. Finally, on a trip to Taiwan, to my great delight I found a pair of pangolins in a regular exhibit at the Taipei Zoo. There’s something about a bizarre beast like this that never seems real until you finally witness them going about their business, with your own eyes.  They were every bit as engaging as I could have imagined — exploring their surroundings with energy, playing with toys in the exhibit.

You may have already heard that pangolins are the world’s most trafficked animal.  So, we all need to celebrate these creatures, and make it known that we value them, before it is too late.  World Pangolin Day happens every February, but I don’t want to wait another 11 months to tell the world about them!

You can visit the Pangolin Blog at pangolins.org and cheer on (and donate to) the organizations that are working for pangolins.  And, you can get creative, as I have tried to do, and celebrate pangolins in your own way.

From pangolins.org —

12 things you can do to help pangolins on World Pangolin Day and beyond:

  1. TWEET using the hashtag #WorldPangolinDay
  2. LIKE the World Pangolin Day Facebook page
  3. BLOG about pangolins on World Pangolin Day
  4. SHARE pangolin information on your social media networks
  5. CREATE pangolin art — paint, draw, sculpt, tattoo
  6. EDUCATE by giving a presentation about pangolins at school
  7. SUPPORT organizations which are working to protect pangolins
  8. HOST a World Pangolin Day party or event (post your photos on the World Pangolin Day page!)
  9. BAKE cookies or a cake in the shape of a pangolin (post your photos on the World Pangolin Day page!)
  10. REQUEST full enforcement of laws and penalties for smuggling pangolins (and other wildlife)
  11. INFORM traditional medicine prescribers that the use of pangolin scales is illegal (and there are no proven health benefits to consuming scales — they are made of keratin, just like fingernails!)
  12. NOTIFY the authorities if you see pangolins for sale at markets or on restaurant menus, or if you know of anyone capturing or possessing pangolins.