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Monday, March 11, 2013


Yesterday, while walking on Salmon Creek Beach in the late afternoon, Eric looked down to find a tiny owl on the sand:

Okay, this isn't a real owl, but sometimes pieces of sea urchin skeletons have a way of looking like owls to us.  Two large eyes looking up at you, a facial disc, sometimes even with feathers and wings (see below).

Here's another example from the past:

The "eyes" are raised tubercles (bumps) and are actually the attachment points for the urchin's spines.  The small holes in between the tubercles are the pores through which the urchin's tube feet extend. 

A sea urchin's skeleton is made up of lots of pieces, but when the skeleton breaks apart, some of the pieces stay together, similar to a jigsaw puzzle.  We scanned another section that we found years ago.  This one looked like a pair of owls sitting side by side (duetting, perhaps?).  Do you see them?

After finding the owl on the beach, we awoke early this morning to a pair of Great Horned Owls duetting in the trees above our house.  They were very close by, so I stepped outside to record them.  

I'm pretty sure this was a male-female pair.  It sounded like they were singing from the same tree.  The male's song is lower pitched (and often tremulous), slower, with fewer notes.  The female's song is the opposite higher pitched, faster, with more notes.  

In the clips below, one owl starts and then the other begins before the first finishes.  Can you tell which is which?  Does the male or the female sing first?  Remember to turn your volume up to enhance your listening experience.  [If you're reading this in an e-mail, click on the title of the post above to see the sound files on the web page.] 

ghow duet 1 by nhbh
  ghow duet 2 by nhbh

(In the sound clips above, the male starts to sing first.  Throughout the entire time I was listening, the male didn't always sing first, but he did in the recordings above.)

In the last audio clip, there's a third owl singing in the distance.  It's very subtle and will probably be very difficult to hear.  You'll need to turn your volume all the way up to even have a chance of catching it.  But if you listen very closely between the gaps when the pair is not calling you might be able to hear the more distant owl.  I think the pair might have been calling in response to the other owl.  If you can't hear the other one, don't worry, just enjoy the duet!

ghow duet 3 by nhbh


Anonymous said...

Interesting that in the 3rd audio clip, the male and female appear to switch leads. The first call has the male start, followed by the female. The second call, is the reverse, with the female starting first. In the final call, they start together!
-- EDS

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post on so many levels. Thanks for sharing!!! -AH