The Mighty Elf Owl

The mighty elf owl. A dainty little ice-cream cone sized owl that calls louder than a Yellow-breasted Chat on cocaine. The world’s smallest owl and focus of my studies in the spring searching in every nook and cranny of Arizona’s vast riparian systems. It was three months spent living out of a truck, a few bags, and a sense of humor when encounters with scorpions in your pants, cougars stalking you, rattlesnakes awaiting, and a nightly meal of peanut-butter and jelly become normal.

April 5, 2015 Journal ramblings from a “typical” day:

Chuckle at the desert scene of burro skull covered in burro scat. Attempt to navigate around beaver ponds.  Realize crossings are inevitable. Meander into murky depths.  Shudder when it reaches my waist.  Make a survey point and jot down vegetation details, move on. Listen to wild asses neigh wildly.  Awful sounds.  Sun draws the shades and part one of an Elf Owl survey is complete. Keith and I sit and eat our PB&Js next to a marsh as a Virginia Rail serenades us.  When the final rusty dusk lights disappear over the earth’s edge, the official survey begins. Blasting the playback on the ginormous FoxPro unit, the maniacal laughter of the Elf Owl haunts my brain. Oh wait, there’s an actual owl responding! The excitement dwindles as I realize he’s at every survey point following what he perceives to be a suitable mate. Sigh. Trudge back through the moonlit desert listening to the sad song of the lone Elf Owl. Cross beaver dam as the resident beaver angrily slaps his tail. Limp wearily back to truck. Tear off wet boots, grumpily set up tent, and then sit in the truck’s heater trying to warm icy feet. Eat triscuits. Go in tent. Zip sleeping bag. Listen to burros until sleep takes me away.

A Barn Owl mother sitting with her hidden nestlings
A Barn Owl mother sitting with her hidden nestlings
Sheep Bridge and riverfront camping
Sheep Bridge in Arizona and riverfront camping
Homes of the mighty Elf Owls
Homes of the mighty Elf Owls
Baby Phainopeplas rocking their mohawks
Baby Phainopeplas rocking their mohawks
Great-horned Owl
Great-horned Owl
Ringtail, a rare treat at Coronado Cave
Ringtail, a rare treat at Coronado Cave
Fancy living out of a Ford
Fancy living out of a Ford
Can you find Keith?
Can you find Keith?
It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time!
A sunset break over the big sandy river before trekking across the land in search of elf owls.

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