My parents set aside Sundays as a day when we would all do something together. One of my favorite Sunday activities was to go to the zoo; I learned to love animals there. We went so often I knew the names of most of them and felt lucky many years later to see some of them in the wild and go back to my ten-year old brain and remember what their names were.
When we went to South Africa, wild animal viewing was our primary goal. On that trip we drove our own RV and were responsible for finding the animals ourselves for the most part. Soon I began to suffer from an overactive imagination, seeing a rhino behind every boulder, a monkey on every branch, a lion under ever bush. Especially in Krueger National Park, an area bigger than some of our states, we sometimes spent hours searching for something smaller than an elephant. Two days on that trip we went to a private lodge and were driven around by professional game drivers. What a difference that made! Our first night out they made sure we saw all five of The Big Five. We had a similar experience on a guided trip to the Katmai in Alaska to see the grizzlies. Even these bulky creatures blended into the landscape surprisingly well and we wanted to stay a safe distance away. Somehow our guide always knew which gully to take us through, which lakeside to stop at. Again, very impressive.
When you live in a neighborhood for a long time, you know when to expect the thunk of the newspaper on your porch and the car engine sound of the lady next door going to work. After living side by side with our owl family for the last six weeks, I have come to understand how predicable our animal neighbors often are. Now we are animal experts, too. We have learned that when we get up in the morning, our owl neighbors are already having breakfast. Today they had rabbit. Mom sits with the baby for a while afterward, climbs up the branch two feet and takes off. The baby is easy to keep an eye on; it cannot fly away yet. It flaps its wings and bobs its head like a Punjabi and spends hours sitting alone. We have learned the spots where mom and dad like to hang out. Even though they are well camouflaged and blend into the vegetation, knowing where they like to be it makes them easy to spot. They spend large parts of the day, sitting within three feet of each other, keeping an eye on their offspring or napping. Dinner is served at sunset; that's the best time to hunt. Only once did all three owls share the nest when we were watching. Normally, parenting is done in shifts.
Word is out about the nature show we are so fortunate to have here. We heard there was quite a convention on our site while we were gone. A constant stream of folks stop by in their golf carts to see the show. Some are quiet and polite and clearly love nature as much as we do. They ask us if we mind if they come closer. We say, "Of course not." We show them the snag the male likes to sit on as the sun sets, the best place to stand to see the baby, where the parents are sitting side by side blending into the background. We tell them the new behaviors we saw today and wonder together how long it will take for the baby to learn how to fly. Others talk loudly about their grandchildren and golf game. They ask if you can see the owls from the road. We say "no," but do not invite them to come closer. Fortunately their noise seems to bother us more than it bothers the owl family. Some of the photographers bring pricey equipment. One woman saw an owl baby photo displayed on the back of someone's fancy camera and took a photo of that photo with her phone. She'll probably never be on our tour!
By the time the Wiseowls leave us altogether, we will feel like experts, ready to give the tour and spread the lore.