Wednesday, October 17, 2007

This is how the grasshopper mother of a very sick pre-schooler grasshopper blogs:

*Lorelei is sick. She has been weird for about a week or so, crying inconsolably one minute, laughing the next. Not wanting to eat, even cookies, which she lives for. Not sleeping, and then spending the day grumpy. That's NOT my sunshine girl. She has an ear infection, and also a throat/tonsil infection. Since she stayed home from school and I spent the day at the doctor's office, the pharmacy, and as resident nurse/cookie maker/juice fetcher/pillow fluffer, no bird pics today. So I totally stole this article from LiveScience, about barred owls thriving in North Carolina's largest city...Mary! Get out there and look for some barred owls!:*

Old-growth forests and rural settings are so yesterday, at least for barred owls. The large raptors are thriving in the biggest city in North Carolina, where groomed yards with sparse trees serve as a first-class habitat and cars are the birds' only moving threat.

Results from an extensive survey of barred owls (Strix varia) in Charlotte, N.C., are surprising to some biologists, who had assumed the owl species would have trouble in an urban setting.

“If you read about barred owls in the textbooks, it says they need large stands of old-growth forest to survive,” said Rob Bierregaard, an ecologist and ornithologist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who has directed an ongoing study for the past six years. “Either the barred owls in Charlotte haven’t read that book or the book is wrong, because they are really here and apparently doing quite well.”

The team concluded there is a third possibility: that old suburban neighborhoods in fact are an old-growth forest, at least as far as the barred owls are concerned.

Prime real estate

A century ago, Charlotte was blanketed in rolling farmland, providing few or no suitable tree homes for barred owls. As the land was replaced by residential neighborhoods and the associated backyard trees, Charlotte became prime raptor real estate.

“As the farms have been abandoned, the new neighborhoods that replaced them have planted trees,” Bierregaard said. “If you wait long enough, the barred owls are going to expand their territory, as the trees start to grow up in the newer suburban neighborhoods.”

Since 2001, Bierregaard and his colleagues, along with volunteers, have monitored about 40 nesting sites each year. Residents of the area have given big props to the efforts, reporting sightings of the birds to the Carolina Raptor Center, which sponsored the research. The resulting maps show a dozen or so owl territories in south Charlotte, each about 200 acres (nearly a square kilometer) in area.

In addition, baby barred owls equipped with miniaturized radio transmitters have beamed back their whereabouts as they matured into adults and finally settled within the network of mapped nesting sites.

Urban owls and more

The preliminary findings suggest the urban barred owls are able to reproduce successfully, perhaps even better than in wild forests, as they are churning out babies faster than the adults are dying. When they do die, it is primarily due to disease or collisions with cars.

“We've had a couple die of diseases, but for most of the birds that we have had tagged, where we know how they died, they flew into a car. But it seems that mortality even from that isn’t that high," Bierregaard said. “It certainly seems that they are cranking out enough young to more than make up the difference."

When one owl dies, Bierregaard noted, there are enough owls flying in to fill the vacancy.

Other urban and suburban wildlife successes have included populations of squirrels, Canadian geese, raccoons and deer, all of whose numbers have soared in recent decades in the United States.


Lynne said...

That's a VERY interesting article. I'm going to bookmark that site. I hope Lorelei gets better quickly.


KatDoc said...

Sending cookies and e-kisses to Lorelei.

(I only give virtual kisses to sick children. Being child-free, I have no baseline immunity to all the kid germs out there.)



Mary said...

Oh, my. Don't kiss Lorelei :o) You have an engagement with Cape May! I hope she feels well soon. Puffing pillows and being snack maker sounds like fun - I miss it.

Anyway, after my bird walk on Saturday, I joined the Audobon's listserv through UNC-Charlotte and have learned so much about sightings. I'm drooling. There's a peregrin falcon uptown and owls everywhere. Twice in the past month I've spotted an owl perched on my neighbor's rooftop at 5:30 a.m. (dark outside). It sounded like a GH.

Our area is suburban, not far from the city, but it's also protected with a heavily treed golf course. I wish we were farther away from the constant growth and construction...

Susan, if I could find someone to write a grant for me to offset my meager full-time salary, I'd be out there tracking barred owls and all of the other birds people are raving about in Charlotte. It seems everyone has seen chimney swifts and red breasted nuthatches but me!

Thanks for the info. Hang in there with Lorelei - she'll be just fine.

Liza Lee Miller said...

Poor baby! I hope she's feeling better soon! Cool article!

Trixie said...

Cool! I am not the only mom who spent nearly the entire day with a child at the doctor's. Zoey has an ear infection, too. Being older, she has not cried inconsolably, but she is in pain.

The rest of my day was spent fighting with the clogged and over flowing toilet. Oh joy! Aren't you glad I did not take pictures?

Kiss Ms. Lorelei for all of us. Vivi was just talking about your girls today.

dguzman said...

Oh, I remember having something like that when I was a kid--ugh. I hope she feels better soon, and don't you get sick!

NatureWoman said...

Your poor Lorelei, I hope she gets better soon!

mon@rch said...

I hope she gets better soon! I am also one that would really have to be sick to not want a cookie! Do let us know when she is better and starts eating cookies again!