Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Have your say...

I don't mind criticism. In fact, I welcome it, if it is constructive, because it affords me the opportunity to learn and grow. And that's what we are all here for.

The thing about criticism is that those criticising need to be well-versed in the subject matter, otherwise their critique won't hold any weight.

I woke this morning to find an interesting email in my inbox where a person called Barbara wrote, and I quote, "I want to rain on your parade". Suffice to say that the contents of the email have been addressed, and the issue need not go any further.

My point in bringing this up?

Think carefully about how your message, however well meaning it may be, could be received. And to what end do you level your critique? Do you understand the whole picture? (And sadly, in this case, Barbara did not). Are you really trying to HELP another person and their efforts, or are you trying to break them down?

We are all struggling to make sense of this Life. Most people try to do the best that they know how to, and can do, with the resources available to them.

Remember that before you say anything - especially when you start "I want to rain on your parade".

Peace, Barbara.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Special Thanks to Bob in Canada

Just a quick note to say a very heart-felt THANK YOU to BobandtheOwls for his Google Map contribution to track PPO fans.

It has been labour-intensive for Bob, and I want to just say how Allan and I both appreciate his efforts.

Thank you, Bob. We look forward to hopefully one day seeing your owls too!

Take care

Saturday, November 26, 2011

PPO Fans

We will have a FINAL GOODBYE for the 2011 PPO season this Sunday at 6pm Central Africam Time (11am EAST / 8am WEST). We will be broadcasting live from the balcony. If you have any questions / comments, please email them to me on enquiries@potplantowl.co.za, or leave a comment after this blog post.

One of our PPO fans started a PPO Fans map. Please will you reply below with your first name (and last if you want to) and which city and country you live in the world. There is a wonderful Google Map done by Bob on where PPO fans around the world are located. We don't have any in South Africa which I just know is not correct. So please reply to my post and we will add your name to the Google Map. This will eventually be posted for all to see. Please do this asap so we can finalise map.

Day 54 and our chicks fledge!

I didn't expect to find the chicks on the balcony this morning, but I held on to a sliver of hope that a familiar hiss would wake me up. Alas, it was not to be. We searched the garden, the walls and the neighbours garden, and the owl family were nowhere to be found.

The funny thing is, writing this blog entry now, I am not sad anymore. Neither am I in an unconscious state of yearning for the past.

I have accepted, whole-heartedly, that the owls fledged at just the right time. I am grateful that both chicks are strong and healthy, and a little mischievious, with a good dollop of 'Stinky' thrown in. I look forward to seeing my beloved Pot Plant Owl and special Pappa again soon. And I hold on to the picture in my mind of Merlin and Timka making their mark in this world.

This year's breeding season was not only successful, but also truly inspiring. They have been many differences from previous years, which has made the season even more enjoyable.

"To Timka and Merlin! May you be happy and loved wherever you go!"

PM - Timka's Flight

We wait with baited breath each year, for the last of the chicks to fly upward towards the rooftops. Once that chick takes the plunge and successfully lands on a rooftop, we know the end is in sight. And with bitter sweet emotions, we prepare ourselves for the inevitable - the chicks will leave us, and soon make their own way in the world.

And so it is tonight, after having just watched Timka fly magnificently up to the rooftop to join Merlin. I didn't want to believe that Timka was ready. I was happier holding on to the thought that Timka needed 'just another couple of days'.

But that's not the way Life works. Life doesn't work on a clock of expectations set out by humans who are not prepared to let go. Life works exactly as it should - prefectly.

Timka flew perfectly because it is just Timka's time now. And however hard my mind tries to convince me that Timka is too little and should be back in the safe environment that is our balcony and their nest, deep down I know that Timka is ready.

I wonder if Merlin and Timka will return to our home tomorrow morning.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 53 and it's Thanksgiving in the USA

On this Thanksgiving Day:

Whether you are a North American citizen or not, I believe that the tradition of Thanksgiving is an important one in these challenging times we live in.By learning to be grateful for the myriad of small things you have in your life, you enrich the quality of your life tenfold.

This precious life lesson was brought home to us (literally)with the arrival of nesting owls in our pot plant. Instead of turning a blind eye, or worse still, trying to get rid of the owl visitors because of the 'inconvenience' they may cause us, we were, and still are, grateful that the owls chose our balcony.

And in that gratitude, many windows of opportunities have opened for us. The chance to learn more about these wonderful owls and share our findings, the chance to meet people through the talks we do, the chance to connect with people worldwide through the webcam and the chat site. It has given us the opportunity to work towards protecting the wetland where the owls hunt, and many bird, plant and small mammal species call their home.

So wherever you are today, take a moment to be thankful for all that you are, and everything that you have.

I know I am.

Day 53 and this is Timka

This is Timka on the wall. Our chick is not by its beloved Jasmine bush - it has moved out into the sun to dry those feathers

Day 53 and this is Merlin

24 Nov and Merlin is on Timka's shoe

A typical Highveld storm

This is the view Merlin and Timka have from the balcony pillar - the storm approaching.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 52 and all accounted for

Wonderful to wake up this morning and find one chick on the balcony, and one by the Jasmine bush. I'm starting to think that Timka has a real fetish for flowers - and cars.

Merlin delighted viewers during the day by playing with the shoe on the balcony. This led to some confusion and question marks over whether or not the chick on the balcony is Merlin or Timka.

If one has to look at how the chicks fly, Merlin is a step ahead of Timka. We see Merlin happily fly across to another rooftop, down to a wall, and back up again. Timka's flying (although very good for such a young owlet)doesn't have the grace and finesse of Merlin's. Timka's flying is the 'crash-skid-halt' approach, and the chick hasn't mastered the art of flying right up to the top of a rooftop from lower down - not just yet.

It won't be long before we hope to see have both chicks flying back to the balcony in the early hours of the morning.

The rain is not going to let up, which should make the family less mobile. This is good. It means chicks stay closer to the nest, and we get to see them that little bit longer.

I'm going outside to do the rain dance - note I say RAIN, not hail...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 51 and a great surprise

Everyone wakes up differently. Some wake up like a bull with a sore head. Others wake up singing hymns. Some people can only wake up if an alarm clock, capable of waking the entire suburb, goes off next to their heads. And others just wake up at the same time every day, without any assistance. I wake up with owls.

This morning, to my delight, I woke up to the familiar hissing sound of the chicks. I looked out onto the balcony and there was Merlin on the pillar. PPO and Pappa were on a rooftop looking directly down below them, and I heard more soft hissing sounds. Timka - PPO and Pappa were showing me where Timka was.

It took a lot of coaxing from both parents before Timka finally made its appearance from the neighbour's garage. Timka got up on our wall, and settled back down into the Jasmine bush.

It's been wonderful having both chicks with us today.

15h00 Central African Time: Out of nowhere, dark, threatening clouds gathered over our area, and the Heavens opened. Small hailstones came down in buckets. Within a minute, the lawn was covered in a white sheet of hailstones.

Merlin lay flat in the pot plant nest. Timka rugged down further into the Jasmine bush.

As quickly as the storm appeared, it left - leaving behind two very unhappy looking chicks. At times like this, it is so difficult to let Nature take its course and not rush out and dry them both.

18h00: More storms approaching. PPO flew out of her roosting spot in a nearby tree to see her chicks, and immediately flew back under cover. Merlin is in the pot again; Timka remains by the Jasmine bush.

I suspect this be what happens for most of the night while the storms go past. It seems like we have finally entered our classic late afternoon / evening thunder showers that are so typical of a Jozi summer.

If the weather clears enough later this evening for the family to move about,I really hope we see the chicks tomorrow.

Every extra day we have our owl family around, is a blessed day.

Day 50 and Timka leaves on T's day

21 November: It's my birthday and Timka gave me a special present. Dear Timka Pie decided to show me not to worry or concern myself about its safety anymore.

One minute Timka stood on the Pilot's runway looking in the direction of Merlin, who has successfully landed on the neighbour's balcony. The next minute, Timka flew. The chick missed the balcony, but landed quite successfully on the garage roof. With another hop, skip and jump, Timka was up on the balcony with Merlin.

Pot Plant Owl watched the scene unfolding from the far complex. As soon as Timka was on the balcony, PPO flew a little further away, turned to look at her chicks, and gave a 'hoot'. This was Merlin's cue and the chick quickly flew to its mother.

Timka stood watching and pacing on the balcony railing, until the excitement overcame any anxiety Timka may have felt for such a long flight.

Like poetry in motion, Timka unfolded its wings, and took off. I stood watching with my hands covering my eyes, and only squinting out to watch.

Timka surprised me, and not only made the full flight distance, but also succeeded in joining its family. If PPO wasn't proud of her chick then, I don't think she'll ever be capable of feeling like a doting, proud Mum.

Shortly afterwards, the family including Pappa, left and we didn't see them. They may not have been in sight, but ever now and then, we heard a faint hissing sound.

I wonder if we will see the chicks tomorrow?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Poor little drowned rats in the rain

Our rains have started, and our chicks sit in the pouring rain.

Timka sizes up to Hadedah

Timka sizing up to Hadedah on the wall. Timka is on the left of the wall. The larger, adult Hadedah is minding its own business on the right side of the wall, before PPO swoops in.

Early AM - 20 November

You've heard of cat burglars. But have you ever encounted an owl burglar?

Too early in the AM:
Our house alarm blasts forth, and I bolt upright in bed. 'Someone is trying to break in' are my first thoughts, but I know that we have a very secure complex. I also know that the electric fence is working extremely well -'Thank you Merlin for allowing me to test that the other day'. My second, more realistic thought is 'Something has just moved across the alarm sensor and activitated the alarm'.

Allan, in the meantime, is trying to de-activate the alarm so we don't get kicked out of our complex for damaging hearing with the alarm sounding.

'What on earth is taking Allan so long to switch the alarm off?' I decide to look out the window to see where the owls are, and if the alarm noise has sent them flapping for cover.

Merlin is back on its favourite balcony pillar - looking content. Timka is not on the balcony.

I look out the other window to where we had left Timka on the garden shed. Close to this shed is one of our alarm sensors. On this alarm sensor hangs Timka. Timka decided to use the alarm sensor as a 'stepping stone' to get from shed to wall. The result is an owl burglar hanging by its beak and flapping its wings furiously trying to get on the wall. With every flap, the alarm seems to echo louder and louder. Minutes later, Timka pulls itself up onto the wall and away from the alarm.

All goes quiet. I put my head out the window and look around nervously, to see if any of our neighbours are awake and ready to complain. I feel like I have done something wrong, and it wasn't me - it was one of these wayward chicks - again!

Timka tries a couple more tricks. First, the chick flies to the neighbour's windowsill as if to say 'Ok, you can let me in now'. The windowsill is only a concern because:
A) the chick has no balance and there is a storey drop to a pavement below, and
b) they have a dog which may delight in 'entertaining' a chick that drops in.

Timka tires of sitting on the windowsill and flies to our wall. In a last ditch effort to get hearts racing again, Timka sizes up to a fully grown Hadedah (Ibis). The Hadedah wouldn't do Timka any harm at all, but the presence of the Hadedah so close to Timka, sends PPO into protect mode and she chases the Hadedah away. Poor thing did't know what hit it - not sure if this is literal or just figurative.

Soon after, Timka finds a good spot by our Jasmine bush, and settles in for the day.

It is 7am and my day is already full. I haven't even had any coffee...

Timka to neighbour's windowsill

After flying to the neighbour's windowsill, Timka decides nobody will let it into the house, so it flew back to our wall where it stayed at the Jasmine bush all day.

PM 19 November and Timka begins travels...

Timka's awol. I eventually find our littlest chick walking up our complex road towards the main gate. One minute Timka was playing on the Pilot's wall with Merlin. The next minute we see Merlin on the neighbour's roof, and no Timka in sight.

It's impossible to turn your back on these little stinkers for one minute and expect to find things the same when you return. The result of this "what-can-go-wrong" assumption is a chick on the loose that is up to no good.

I herd Timka into our open gate. The chick runs down the driveway towards the garden. Our garden is free of domestic animals, cars etc so no harm can be done to our chick.

That doesn't mean, of course, that Timka can't do harm itself. Moments after watching Timka practice sprinting down the driveway, I go inside, only to hear a metallic CLUNK coming from the garage.

We rush outside to investigate, and find Timka standing proudly on Allan's car - tell-tale talon scratches on the body work of the car.

Soon after 'decorating' Allan's car, Timka finds our garden shed. I half-expect the chick to go inside and hammer around with things, but thankfully Timka leaves this to the humans of the house. Instead, Timka hauls itself to the top of the shed roof and waits expectantly for food deliveries from PPO and Pappa.

The good parents feed their chicks a smorgasbord of king crickets, flying ants and small rodents.

The thought of where I may find Timka when I wake up makes me nervous...

Timka's Big adventure

Timka standing proudly on Allan's car in the garage.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Day 47 and Merlin spreads its wings...

Life amazes me. If you look closely enough, you will see that everything in Life is perfectly timed, in wonderful sync.

Just as we arrived home in the late evening from a work function, we saw PPO feeding Merlin on the top of the neighbour's roof! Merlin had made the big leap onto the tallest object around here - a rooftop.

And to toast the occasion, Allan just happened to have won, this very evening, 'a year's supply of beer' - which is why my car resembles an overburdened donkey trudging wearily home.

I went straight into the Chat and together we all 'cyber-toasted' Merlin's success (with tea).

Timka is progressing in leaps and bounds too. Our little chick still plays and attacks everything it sees, yet remains content to stay put on the balcony at night. And that suits me just fine.

I don't want to say goodbye just yet.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Day 45 - How cute are we

Timka and Merlin on the 'T-Box' as the owl box is now affectionately known.

Why the 'T-box'?

Because the first owlet to use the box for shelter was Teeny last year. This year, it is Timka who uses the owl box properly. So it seems that whoever has a name beginning with a 'T' uses this box.

Did I tell you my name is Tracy?

My room with a view...

This is my room with a view. The chicks on the pillar as Pot PLant Owl flies in. In the background, you see the wetland where the owls hunt.

Gotta love my office...

With Christmas just around the corner

I wanted to share with you am email I received this morning. Although it is South African themed, you will get the basic idea of what the email is trying to say. As we say in South Africa, "Local is lekker" (Local is great). Here it is:

Christmas 2011 -- Birth of a New Tradition

As the holidays approach, the giant overseas factories are kicking into high gear to provide us with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods -- merchandise that has been produced at the expense of South African labour. This year will be different. This year South Africans will give the gift of genuine concern for other South Africans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by South African hands. Yes, there is plenty.

It's time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in mass produced wrapping paper from abroad?

Everyone -- yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local hair salon or barber?

Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.

Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car valet’d? Small, South African owned car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the cash on an overseas made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway fixed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or roof waterproofed and painted.

There are a Gazillion owner-run restaurants -- all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn't about big National chains -- this is about supporting your home town South African with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or motorbike, done at a shop run by a South African working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could do with an upgrade, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people are great. They make jewelery, pottery, knitted stuff, Teddy Bears, paintings and home preserves etc.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre.

Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand mass produced overseas lights for the house? When you buy a R50 string of lights, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining South African pockets so that foreign countries can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about us, encouraging small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other South Africans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine. THIS should be the new South African Christmas tradition.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 45 - 16 Nov and aren't we well behaved?

Since Merlin's grand adventure, with me as the reluctant Co-Pilot, our eldest chick has been well-behaved. I say 'well-behaved' as, in this instance, not gallivanting around the neighbourhood gardens and generally running riot. Merlin has been a good example to Timka, by being loving and cuddly, and above all, the chicks has remained on the balcony.

This is good news- no, GREAT news - for me.
It means enjoying a relaxing dinner, instead of shovelling mouthfuls of cold food into my mouth as I run from one side of the property to the other, tracking a wayward chick.
It means waking up in the middle of the night and being able to go back to sleep again, after seeing two little bodies on the balcony.
It means being able to enjoy a morning run instead of rescuing chicks.
So, yes. I have enjoyed the last 24 hours. It's the simple things in Life...

Timka is a honey. The chick hops, jumps, scratches,gnaws at, and tries to touch and feel everything it sees. We've seen fantastic 'shoe handling skills' that would rival any skills shown by professional soccer players. Timka continues to make use of the owl box - not only for exploration purposes, but also for the purpose for which it was made - for shelter. In the heat of the day, Merlin continues to struggle in the blazing sun while Timka sleeps restfully in the owl box.

Is it too much to ask for another few days of balcony bliss? The quiet before the (2nd) storm...

Monday, November 14, 2011

15 Nov AM - Merlin's Adventure

You know it is going to be a long day when you have had an epic, hair-raising adventure, and it's only 7am. Let me explain...

04h00 Central African Time: I stumble out of bed and immediately go to look for the chicks. I find Timka sitting peacefully on the balcony pillar. As per yesterday morning, I can't find Merlin anywhere. Pot Plant Owl is on the neighbour's roof, so I know that Merlin is near.

Eventually I spot Merlin - walking along the wall that separates our complex from the next one down the road. Allan and I watch Pot Plant Owl and Pappa both try to lure Merlin away from the wall and back to towards our house, and the nest.

As I watch Merlin, I realise there is a problem. Somehow little stinker Merlin has got between two electric fences - the one on our complex wall, and the one of the other complex. Merlin can't find a way through the fences, and the fences are live.

I realise that we have to get Merlin out, so under an umbrella and carrying a garden chair, we make our way through our neighbour's garden to the wall. I stand on the chair to reach Merlin, who is beak snapping furiously by this stage, attracting PPO's and Pappa's attention of course.

I reach through the one fence to grab hold of Merlin, but Merlin has other ideas. A power struggle ensues between owlet and human - all the while the crackling of the electric fence sounds ominously.

PPO and Pappa don't even launch an attack. They must know that I am trying to get little stinker out of a tight situation.

Merlin is feisty - too feisty for its own good - and falls off the wall and into the complex next to ours.

We are very aware of owl superstitions that are rife all over the world but especially in Africa. 'If an owl lands on your roof, someone close to you is going to die' - that sort of thing. Owls are attacked, stoned, burnt to death - it is horrible. For this reason, and not knowing what sort of domestic animals and dangers there were on the other side of that wall, we decide to go to the next complex and find Merlin.

All this happens before 6am. It is a long wait at a closed gate that doesn't open. Eventually, an early -riser drives out and we get access into the complex to find Merlin.

Cut a long rescue short: I find Merlin hiding under a small bush. It takes me a few minutes to get us both back under an umbrella (PPO and Pappa out and ready to attack after Merlin's beak snapping), and we drive back home together.

A very surprised, bot hopefully happy, PPO flew into the balcony just as I released Merlin.

In a last act of defiance, and confidence boosted by Mom's arrival, Merlin turns towards me with wings open wide and lots of beak snapping.

Soon, Merlin joins cute Timka on the balcony pillar - no doubt sharing its adventures with its sibling.

I'm going back to bed.

The electric fence where Merlin was

Difficult to see in this picture, but there are two electric fences on this wall that divides our complex from the next. There is approx a 4inch gap between the black electric fence (our complex) and the white electric fence (the next complex down). Merlin was in between these two electric fences when I found the chick.

Reunited 7am 15 Nov

Reunited again after Merlin's ordeal.

Timka plays on the balcony - 14 Nov

"Now, what do I do with this?"

Merlin on the Pilot's Wall - 13 November

Day 43 and who's got a lead?

05h00 Central African Time: I wake to find Timka Pie still admiring the view from the balcony pillar. 'Good Timka. Now where is the other little stinker, Merlin?'

I look outside to the dividing wall where Merlin had spent many hours the previous night. Of course, the chick is not there - that would be too easy. I look for Pappa - he's not around. Pot Plant Owl? No sign of her. Take a quick look around the garden, and no fluffy owl chick appears anywhere. Now I'm starting to become concerned.

Just as I'm about to organise an 'owl search party' (is there even such a thing?), I spot Pot Plant Owl on a rooftop at the top of the complex. She sees me and flies immediately to the neighbour's roof and watches me from there. Now I know Merlin is near.

I stand for a minute, looking around in the direction of Pot Plant Owl's gaze. Suddenly, I hear a THUD, SCRAPE and FLAP FLAP and I see Merlin trying desperately to climb up the neighbour's gate. Merlin's fighting a losing battle attempting to grip slippery, vertical bars, but the chick doesn't give up. Again, I give it full marks for trying.

Just then, a dog appears around the corner, and I know I have to put Merlin back up on a wall or tree branch for its own safety. I call the neighbour who comes out to open the gate and let me inside.

Merlin puts up a fight but in the end size does count, and I pick up the chick, and put it on the wall. After it gets over the initial shock of being '(wo)man-handled', Merlin appears quite content in its new surroundings - two pot plants on the patio below the balcony nest.

Hours later...

Merlin's done a disappearing act. I can't find him anywhere, despite searching in, and under, everything in the garden, and getting scratched to ribbons for my effort.
I give up searching for the little stinker, and decide to water our veggie patch.

And lo and behold! Sitting behind a Protea bush on the far side of our garden, is the missing Merlin. Right next to the bush is our bird feeding tray.

Hmmm - the plot thickens. I wonder if Merlin was out for a 'midnight / midday snack'?

Day 42 and Merlin makes its move...

It's early evening when we first notice Merlin's animated movements . The chick paces up and down in the pot plant, and eventually launches itself onto the balcony pillar. Not content with just standing on the balcony pillar, the adventurous chick flies down to the 'Pilot's wall' below the balcony.

The wall is halfway between the balcony and the patio below. It forms part of the uncovered section of patio, and it is affectionately termed 'the Pilot's wall'. For it is on this very wall, that brave chicks earn their wings. This is often their first chance to test their wings and see if they can become airborne.

Merlin passes the test with flying colours. One minute, I'm watching Merlin run up and down the wall - the next minute, Merlin is a fluffy blur taking off over the garden.

Merlin's first flight is nothing short of magical - swift, straight as an arrow and silent. The 'slight' noise we heard when Merlin careered into the far bushes head first shouldn't detract from the beauty of the moment - it was a brilliant effort!

Still not content with its explorations thus far, Merlin proceedes to fly / hop sections of our garden and the neighbours garden, until it eventually settles on the wall diving our two properties.

There Merlin remaines for the rest of the evening - at least, until we fall asleep.

Timka watches Merlin's flight from the balcony pillar. Our little chick appears chuffed to bits with itself for getting up onto 'Merlin's pillar'. Even take away deliveries from PPO don't appear to satisfy Timka as much as standing on the 'grown up' pillar, looking out onto the night sky.

I go to bed thinking "What will be wake up to?"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 40 and we mark 11.11.11

Today is 11.11.11 - a significant date in our times for a number of reasons. Our Planet is evolving and changing, and we have to step up too, and embrace this change.

Here, in our small part of the world, this day marks 40 days since our first chick, Merlin, hatched from the egg.

The chicks grow bigger and bolder by the second. For the better part of 3 hours after sunrise, Merlin stood quite happily on the balcony pillar. Timka dozed off on top of the owl box.

It's wonderful to see how independant they are becoming - exploring on their own, finding interesting things to play with, jumping and moving around in broad daylight.

Timka hasn't yet mastered the art of getting back up to the nest, but this is not uncommon. Each year, there is at least one chick who struggles more than the others with this task.

Where a chick may appear 'weaker' in one area, it makes up for it in another area - the balance of Life thus perfectly displayed. So while Timka can't yet climb like Merlin can, Timka displays an intelligent streak by using the owl box for shade and comfort. Merlin remains in the pot in the full sun, even though it can easily hop down to the balcony floor and seek shelter.

They are funny and so interesting to watch. Never a dull moment.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My first time up close to my dear Pot Plant Owl

FreeMe's Nicci Wright catches PPO

9 November and what a day for PPO!

6:40pm Central Africam time: I feel like a steamroller has ridden over me once, and again for good measure. If I feel like this, I hate to think what Pot Plant Owl must feel like now.

To quote the famous detective, Monk, here's what happened:

3pm: Nicci Wright from FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre arrives, armed with 3 different types of catching nests for PPO. The plan is simply to throw the net over the unsuspecting PPO sitting in the far pot plant, and put her in the carrier box. Easy.

The first approach - the 'lets-sneak-up-on-her' approach - failed miserably. Before we could blink, PPO flew off the balcony and landed on a wall in the neighbour's garden. There is a fair distance between our house and where PPO landed on the wall. As I squinted to where PPO landed on the wall, my mind's eye pictured a field of flowers with someone wearing a summer dress waving a large butterly net over her head, and PPO flying into net.

Ergh! Back to reality. We couldn't run around waving a large catching net over our heads, so we had to think of plan B.

Plan B came in the form of my head being used as target practise. I went out on the balcony with Nicci and taunted PPO by going right up to the nest, and her chicks. At first, PPO didn't take the bait. She knew what we were up to, and what we wanted from her. But after a series of cheeky beak snaps from her chicks as I got closer and closer to the nest, PPO and Pappa finally had enough, and launched an attack.

With one deft swing of the catching net, Nicci swooped the attacking PPO up in the net, and quickly moved her to the travelling box. I then drove PPO to Dr Brett Russell, the expert Avian vet.

In Brett's consulting room, PPO made one further attempt to 'stamp her authority' and flew around the room until Brett finally caught her. PPO was x-rayed and samples were taken and tested.

A grumpy looking PPO and I sat in the waiting room together, for the results of the tests to come back.

Good news! PPO is well. What may be causing the 'coughing' is fur or something similar stuck inside her, that she is trying to get out. Otherwise, the x-rays showed no sharp, foreign objects in her, which was a major concern. Tests came back negative for very harmful, often fatal, diseases in owls, so that's also great.

The ride in the car home wasn't pleasant. I suspected the cold shoulder from PPO, but I got an icy reception in the car. I believe she sensed she was going home, and played up to that.

PPO's release took the form of me carrying box out onto the balcony, and opening the release door. PPO bolted out of there, landed on the balcony railing, threw a 'if-looks-could-kill' look back at me, and flew quickly away.

So much for 'thank you for checking on me'!

PPO has since been back to the balcony. She now has to contend with hyper chicks running amok on the balcony, and I have to prepare to do an owl talk on ol' stinker and her family.

No rest for the wicked here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Special update on Pot Plant Owl

We've all noticed Pot Plant Owl 'coughing', and it has caused concern.

This morning, we went to our vet who has been away recently - an expert Avian Vet, Dr Brett Russell, who is very well-known and highly regarded in his field. He does a lot of work for FreeMe's wildlife - sick / orphaned / injured. We showed him the latest footage of PPO's 'cough' and asked him what he thought.

Brett's advice is rather to be safe than sorry. We must bring PPO in for tests and x-rays.

We contacted FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre to come and catch PPO. They have the equipment and expertise to attempt to catch PPO without undue stress on her.

Tomorrow FreeMe will attempt to catch PPO. At this time, we will be switching off the webcam - we don't want any extra 'attention' on the event. I'm sure you can appreciate how delicate this situation is. It is not like taking a tiny sick chick out of the nest - this is much more difficult to accomplish.

If FreeMe is successful at catching PPO, Dr Russell will take over and I'll keep you updated.

As for the chicks: for the moment, they will remain in the pot on the balcony where Pappa should continue to feed them. However we will monitor the situation. If the chicks are not getting sufficient food, their diet will be supplemented under the supervision of FreeMe.

I'm not going to attempt to guess what happens next, as this is completely unchartered waters for us.

All I ask, is that you don't panic or send us a flood of messages asking for updates and expressing concern. PPO is perfectly fine, until tests prove otherwise. And we will cross that bridge if we come to it.

I will keep you constantly updated based on information I receive. Again, I ask that you please not keep on querying directly with me, because I promise you, I will let you know as soon as I know.

Thanks for your understanding.

The Chicks have Names!

And here they are - the much-anticipated names for our dear Pot Plant Owl chicks.
Thanks again to everyone who submitted names and voted. We're sorry we couldn't have chosen more names - think PPO better lay more eggs that hatch nest year.

The winning names are:

Chick 1 - Merlin

Chick 2 - Timka

Congratulations to Beck and Alison for the name, Merlin, and Jean for the name Timka.
I'll be emailing you shortly for to organise your "Pot Plant Owl" book prize.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Day 36 and we have a winner!

Monday 7 Nov: It's early in the morning Central African time. The sun is just starting to rise - the perfect time for little owl chicks to be heading for bed.

Not so for 'soon-to-be-named' Chick 1, who decides that now is the time to explore. Our sweet chick doesn't just choose the lip of the pot plant - it decides to climb rigt out of the pot and up the balcony pillar. Once it reaches the top of the tiny balcony pillar, it sits there looking out - ever so pleased with itself.

Have a look at this video clip showing the 'pot plant escape':


What's in the air at the moment

We've had a lot of people contact us about Pot Plant Owl's cough. We are aware of it. We monitor it. And we also have FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre monitoring it too.

PPO appears to be heathly. She is eating, moving around normally, and not showing any obvious signs of distress. The cough is a concern, but is it worth risking taking her away from the chicks to get looked at, and the stress that they would all feel?

Let me share with you what is happening to me.
I've been a long-distance runner for a decade now. In the past few weeks, I've developed a bad sounding cough - especially after exercise. I had it seen to and was told it is a bronchial irritation. The cause? An extremely high count of pollen in the air - highest recorded in 50 years. Our rains haven't started properly yet, which accounts for the prolonged pollen count in the air.

The result of this high pollen (and possibly pollution) count, is that I cough like crazy and sound 'raspy' at times. Actually, I sound like I smoke a lot, when I dont smoke at all.

Perhaps this is what PPO is going through. Perhaps she is coughing up pellets noisily. Perhaps their diet of a lot of birds this year is making her throat 'tickle' because of the feathers.

We will monitor PPO so please don't worry.

Meaning of short list of chick names

I've been asked to provide a list of the meanings of the names that were short listed for the 'Name-the-Chick' competition. A lot of names were submitted without their meanings, which is why they were not included in the short list.

We chose the names on the basis of how they sounded, and if the names were short enough for people to remember and of course type on the chat.

I've looked up some meanings of the names, and they vary according to where the person submitting the name comes from. Thus, is is almost impossible for me to accurately give you what the short list of names mean, without knowing more about who submitted the name.

That said, for fun, here is a list of possible meanings:
Kani - 'music' in Hawaaian
Kizzy - 'cinnamon bark'
Merlin - something to do with a sea fortress, and of course, the well-known wizard from King Arthur's time
Sheba - 'daughter of an oath'
Mika - varies according to origin. In Japanese, mika is 'beaituful smell' and in Hebrew, mika is short for 'Who is like God?'

Manny was the only name in this short list given with an explanation of the name - meaning 'Miss Manners' as in the patient one.

Have fun with the sounds of the name and get voting!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Shortlist of names for chicks

Here they are – the short list of names for the chicks. It was hard for us to narrow down the names. We had so many names on a potential short list and eventually had to be ruthless and cut, cut, cut.

Eventually, we chose names that are short 'n sweet, with a mix of African-sounding names and more traditional names.

In no particular order of preference, the names are:

Chick 1

Chick 2

Manny (Miss Manners - patient)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Day 32 and stinker attacks me...

Pot Plant Owl is a little stinker!

It's almost 8pm, and we've just arrived home. As I was closing our gate, and heading towards the front door, I felt a powerful thud on the back of my neck. I didn't have to guess what happened. I had just been 'owl struck'.

I've experienced this enough times to know what steely talons making contact with my flesh feels like. It hurts. A lot. And my head rings, or in this case, my neck rolled around.

What could have sparked this unprovoked attack on me was a coughing fit I had just as I got out the car to open the gate. I sounded like a 60-a-day cigarette smoker, and I don't touch the stuff. So perhaps PPO thought I sounded too 'foreign' for my own good, and decided she'd get me out of the territory.

Whatever the reason, PPO is a little stinker. Tomorrow she is getting the silent treatment from me. So there.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Naming of the Chicks

I know a lot of people have been anxious to name these adorable chicks. And tomorrow you will get your chance!

On Friday 4 November, the shortlist of names for the chicks will be announced on my blog, on Facebook and on the Africam website. You will have this weekend to select which names you think are the most appropriate.

Early next week, the winners will be announced.

There have been a lot of interesting names submitted. Some are very typical, and others quite unique. Allan and I are going to have a hard time narrowing our shortlist down (at this stage, with still more votes allowed for a few hours, we've got a 'shortlist' of about 50 names per chick).

Good luck and please check the names tomorrow and put in your final vote.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2 November and look how we've grown...

The Spotted Eagle Owl markings are seen clearly now through what's left of the fluff. Wings continue to grow at a rapid rate to prepare the chicks for flight.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day 30 and the chicks are staying put...

Did anyone tell these chicks not to climb out of the pot plant?

It seems to me that the chicks got wind of the friendly wager PPO chatters have taken on what date the chicks will brave standing on the lip of the pot. This 'staying put' suits me because the date I chose is the 3rd November, which is in a couple of days time. Whoever told the chicks not to move, please remind them that Thursday is the time to start really exploring. 'Go on chicks, the 3rd is an excellent date to begin exploring'.

Pot Plant Owl is allowing herself more time away from her chicks. The past few mornings, viewers on the webcam have seen two cute chicks in the pot plant - often without PPO.

Some of the time, she dozes in the far pot plant or stands on the balcony railing. An hour later, we check on the chicks and find that PPO has disappeared. She's not on the balcony, or anywhere in sight. She'll leave the chicks completely alone for an hour or two, and then suddenly reappears.

It is fascinating to watch her, because I don't believe her actions are purely based on getting her own free time. From my observation of PPO over four years now, I can believe that PPO has an agenda - probably to teach the chicks to be on their own, or 'grow up' a bit. Don't you wish your parents did that when you were growing up?

On a sad note, I was told yesterday about owls that were killed at a school in Johannesburg. The act was deliberate and probably based on superstitions about owls. I have been asked to do a talk at that particular school to see if we can get through to at least some children.

To end on a happier note, there is a lovely article in the 'Birdwatching Magazine' in the UK about PPO - entitled "Potty Owls Gain Global Support." Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the 'global support' for these owls. We really appreciate each and every one of you!