Every Thursday morning, my friend Rachael volunteers at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center in the hills outside Los Angeles. She puts on her falconer’s sleeve, fetches her friend Orion, the Great Horned Owl, and spends time outside with him. Sometimes adults and children that visit the sanctuary come by and interact with Orion.
If not, Rachael calls her friends and chats on the phone. I look forward to Rachael’s phone calls every Thursday and now more than ever because Orion talks to me too. That is he chirps and twitters into the phone. It's really a call from the wild and I had no idea a huge bird like Orion could make those sounds. I get chills and tears in my eyes and I feel honored and grateful for the experience. Rachael tells me he makes those sounds for her only. I wanted to talk to him more and that gave me the idea to do this interview with Orion:
Inger: Hello, Orion, first I want to thank you for granting me this interview. I was so thrilled you agreed to talk to me after you chirped in my ear the other day.Orion: You’re welcome to the interview, but I must correct you: I didn’t chirp into your ear, I chirped into Rachael’s cell phone and it must have chirped into you ear.
Inger: OK, you are right. Now Orion, you are such a magnificent bird. May I ask how old you are?
Orion: Yes, I’m 22 years old. We can live a long time in captivity, one of the other owls here recently died at the age of 35.
Inger: That's really very old. Now how did you get your name?Orion: I was named for the master hunter and
Inger: Now, let me ask you some owl questions. I know owls can see very far, can you tell me how far you can actually see?
Orion: They (people) say if I could read and they put a newspaper at one end of a football field and I was at the other end, I could actually read it. (Of course, they (people) don’t know if I can read or not.)
Inger: Wow! That’s amazing! Now tell me about your silent flight options.
Orion: In the wild, we have to be silent fliers so we can catch our prey. The prey is also the reason we can see so well, forget about reading newspapers and all that silly people stuff. We have special fringed feathers that allow us to fly very silently.
Inger: That makes sense. Is there anything else about owls that you’d like to tell me?
Orion: Yes, I can hear just about as well as I can see. My ears are placed in such a way that I pick up sounds better than most.
Inger: That's impressive. You are a formidable hunter, aren't you? Now tell me about your eyes. I know you can't move them in their sockets. So what do you do when you want to look around?
Orion: If I want to look to the side, I have to turn my head because I can only look straight forward.
Inger: Oh, and that reminds me of another question. One I’m sure you have heard before. Is it true that owls can turn their heads all the way around?
Orion: Duh! We’d be dead then, having wrung our own necks, wouldn’t we? But I can turn my head 3/4 way around, and very fast. I wonder why I always get that question.
Inger: I don’t know how that rumor got started, but I’ll put your answer in my blog so at least some people will learn the truth about that issue. Now, I bet you are happy when Racahel comes to visit you.
Orion: Yes, I’m always very, very happy to see Rachael. Rachael is my very own volunteer. She comes every week and tells me everything she’s been up to since we last saw each other. I do the same. I tell her all the latest that goes on here at the sanctuary. It’s the highlight of my week when Rachael comes and I get to sit on her falconer’s sleeve and watch all the goings on in the woods. We usually sit under a big tree and I get to see all kinds of animals, birds, and people. Rachael is a very kind person, who takes so much time out of her week to help me and all kinds of other animals, even snakes, lizards, and feral cats. Can you imagine? And, and, guess what?
Orion: She tells me I'm her Boyfriend!
Inger: If I put that in my blog, it will be all over the internet.Orion: It's OK, you can put it in your blog.
Inger: Thank you very much, Orion, for taking time to talk with me and thank you Rachael for facilitating this interview. Finally, I would like to ask Rachael how the falconer's sleave works.
Rachael: You are welcome. Here are a few words about the sleave that Orion sits on when I visit him:
Working with birds of prey is considered the art of falconry, even though he's an owl and not a falcon -- that term applies to all birds of prey. The equipment: he has leather anklets on (which get replaced as needed when they wear out) and they have little slits in the bottom of them. A swivel goes thru the slits and then a leash goes thru the swivel, which is then wound around your fingers on your gloved hand -- this all keeps him attached to the handler. It's called 'manning' him. There is a little slack in the leash so that he can 'bait' -- which means trying to fly off of your hand. You don't want it so tight that he can't bait.
Inger: Thank you very much for all this interesting information, Rachael and Orion.
Rachael and Orion: You are welcome.
Click on the tab, Sydney's Legacy, located at the top of my blog to see my earlier posts about Rachael's animal education program with that name. You can also visit Rachael on her website:It's All About the Animals or click on Critter Education with Rachael toward the bottom of my sidebar to see Rachael on YouTube with her albino Burmese python, Sahara.
And there is more: to see a very cool video about the invasion of Snowy Owls in Washington state, filmed by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, please visit Upupaepop's blog:
http://meanderingwa.blogspot.com/ It's gorgeous and you will see how the owls turn their heads.