Thursday, March 28, 2013


I'm not referring to the town Down Under, but those piles of rocks that line trails and direct travelers. Be they made of stone, wood, bone, old cans or whatnot, these stacks of stone have been used throughout the world and across time. Some are obvious trail markers, some are the last known points of explorers lost to the pages of history, some are the repository of fatigue or fear.

In my friend David B. Williams new book, Cairns: Messengers inStone, he investigates the silent monuments, their meaning, their history. From foreign lands to Arches National Park, Williams covers the globe to uncover the story of stacking stones.

One of my favorite chapters dove into cairns the ill-fated Franklin exploration party had left that contained tin cans and other objects indicating that the group had passed through an area. Searchers could only tear apart these stone monuments and examine the pieces, wondering what had happened to the party.

Silent Stones

Not all cairns are constructed equally
So if you are in for a good read, check out Cairns; you'll never look at another stack of stones the same way...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Great horned owls

On my early morning dog walk I heard a pair of great horned owls calling. Light snow covered the ground and a few flakes were still falling as Thielsen and I walked "the loop." I hear owls along the loop often, and I am sure they nest somewhere in the neighborhood. Occasionally, owls land in our back yard ponderosa creating a ripple of nervousness in the chickens. 

One thing that stands out to me during these pre-dawn walks is the amount of noise that disrupts the calm. I can hear highway traffic about 3 miles away and commuter traffic along the street that borders our neighborhood. Some might consider this time of day quiet, but the sounds interrupt listening for owls. I've trained myself over the years of owling to blot out the background noise and concentrate on the sounds that are different, the hoots and toots of owls. Sometimes the mourning doves get a second listen, as their calls are very owlish in pitch and cadence.

Below is a little information about great horneds that I published in our local newspaper, The Bulletin

The hardest thing about owling is either getting up early or going out at night. I can't say I prefer one over the other, both have their place. I think the most important part is to go when things are quiet to reduce confusion over background noises and to be as quiet as possible. Sometimes the owls let go a string of calls, other times just a few notes. You don't want to miss those short calls because of distracting sounds you've made.

Great horned owl

Finding a great horned owl can be a challenge

About the Great horned Owl

Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
Characteristics:  Large, fierce looking owl. Average size is 22” long and 44” wingspan. A large fierce-looking owl with prominent ear-tufts, gray or brown mottled undersides with dark barring, a rufous facial disk, large yellow eyes with black pupils, and a white throat patch.
Breeding: nests in rocky caves or ledges; abandoned hawk, magpie or raven nests; or tree cavities. Eggs may be laid in early winter (Jan-Feb).
Habitat: widespread from urban areas to deserts, lowland forests and up to alpine woodlands across most of North and South America.
Food: although mostly nocturnal, may hunt during the day. Preys on small to large mammals from mice to rabbit-sized, including skunks, porcupines and occasionally domestic cats. Also preys on birds, reptiles, amphibians, bats and insects.
Bird facts: Females tend to be larger and more heavily marked than males; some birds have pale plumage. Song is a series of deep hoots that have an up and down cadence represented by “Whose Awake, Me Too.” Males have a deeper pitch than females. Owl pellets contain remains of previous meal.
Sources: Oregon Department of Wildlife Resources and David Sibley’s The Sibley Guide to Birds.