I mentioned in my previous post that last Saturday I had the opportunity to join a photographic session put on by the Raptor Conservancy in Falls Church. It was being held at the George Mason University Campus in Manassas, on the grounds of the Hylton Theater for the Arts.
My session started at 10.00 a.m. What a start to my day. I had driven two miles - thank goodness it wasn't any longer - when I looked on the passenger seat where I had placed my purse and my camera, and realized I had forgotten the tickets. So I turned around and drove back home. Wouldn't you know it and I thought I had been so organized as I had gotten everything else ready, right down to my choice of clothing, the night before. I had left the tickets on the kitchen table ready to pick up that morning. One of my mental notes, put them in my purse or actually on the seat of the car before I go to bed. I also am not a morning person and should make allowances.
I found out why I had the longest line - it didn't seem to be going anywhere very fast. When it was finally my turn they did not have any record of my name. Not to worry, they said a lot of people had had the same problem. Apparently it was not our lucky day if your name started from A to H. I finally was told that all was well but then was sent to the RCV table 'over there' to pick up my name badge, so that those outside could see that I was 'one of them', and I had paid for my ticket. At the time I didn't think of asking if there was a table plan, which there probably was somewhere. Remember I am not a morning person.
Good grief, sigh, sigh, sigh. Over there meant going from table to table to try and find the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia (RCV), and none of the other vendors knew where they were or were too busy to be bothered answering silly questions. It was a bit chaotic to say the least with lots of people milling around. and there was no way easy way of going back to the entrance to ask another silly question. I normally have loads of patience but found myself getting a little out of sorts. I did not have Gregg to help get me into my zen zone. He's so good at that.
I finally found them on the second level and by this time I was running late by about 20 minutes. However, once I had had a chat with the nice young lady who said, "You must be Denise", which took me aback and at my look of surprise she explained that I was the only person who hadn't signed on the dotted line yet. Oh joy, last one to the party. I said their names must all have started with V, W, X, Y or Z. She didn't get it and I wasn't hanging around to explain, so I smiled my thanks as I asked her where the session was being held. She gave me good directions.
Ten minutes later I was with my group......30 minutes late.....not so bad really......BUT online somewhere I had read that we would be about six feet from the birds and would not need a zoom lens. Thinking about carrying the extra weight I left it in the boot of the car and so I attached my regular lens. It didn't take me long to realize that I needed that zoom and I was mentally kicking myself for not being more prepared on so many levels. As fast as I could I half-ran, did not walk, back to the car, attached the 300 and half-ran, did not walk, back to my little owl......all done without falling flat on my face I might add. I don't have the greatest reputation for staying on my feet when I rush through life, so I have been trying to slow down and smell the roses.....
and this little guy made it all worthwhile. I soon forgot about what had gone on before as I returned to my zen state. Gregg would have been proud. Meeting "Fire", who didn't seem to mind me being so tardy, put my day back into kilter. Yes by this time I am smelling the roses. Many of the birds I met that day had sustained some kind of injury and sadly none of them would be able to return to the wild. Fire, if I identified him correctly from the Raptor Conservancy website, came to them in late 2003 after he had been hit by a car. It was determined that he could no longer be released back into the wild because of severe loss of vision in both eyes.
Doing a little research I found that the Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) is the most common owl in the woodlands of eastern North America and is nocturnal. It often nests in tree cavities and nest boxes in close proximity to people. They grow to an average length of about nine inches, though the male of the species is roughly an inch shorter. The female has an average wingspan of 22 inches versus the male at 21 inches. The normal weight of the female is 7.3 ounces with the male near 7 ounces.
There are two color morphs of the Eastern Screech Owl, a gray phase and like "Fire", a rufous (reddish-brown) phase. It can be difficult to distinguish the Eastern from the Western species but the color of the bill will decide. Eastern Screech Owls have gray-green bills while Western Screech Owls gray to black bills. Their "call" can also separate the two species. The call of the Eastern male includes a long trill or a whinny during courtiship, while the females may hoot or bark while defending the nest.
Breeding season will normally begin around mid April but can start as early as mid March and continue into May, depending on the geographical location and temperatures. They nest almost exclusively in enlarged natural tree cavites but they will also use old Pileated Woodpecker and Northern Flicker cavities. They readily use owl and wood duck boxes. The female will lay between two and eight eggs. The period of incubation is normally 26 days following with the young fledging at 31 days.
The adult owl will remain in their home territory year-round, whereas the young will disperse in the fall. An interesting fact about the Screech Owl is that pairs are mostly monogamous and remain together for life. Some males, however, will mate with two different females. The second female may evict the first female, lay her own eggs in the nest and incubate both clutches.
I also found out that the RCV will be coming back next year and am very happy about that. Next time I will remember my tickets and won't give myself an hour-and-a-half head start, I'll leave at the crack of dawn AND I won't believe anyone who tells me I won't need my zoom lens. Oh yes, I'm also thinking of changing my name to something beginning with Z.
I returned home via Starbucks where I treated myself to a cafe latte. The shot of caffeine did not alter my tranquil state and for the rest of the day I went through the dozens and dozens of photographs I had taken, organizing and resizing all of them.
Gregg was visiting Virginia Beach this past weekend and took his Dad for a ride on the Sunday morning, and the day before they were at a local restaurant. Good to hear and they all had a great time too. Gregg took a few photos which I will share later on.