by Bryce W. Robinson
A few weekends back I had the good fortune of finding myself on an Audubon ranch in southern California. Starr Ranch is an incredible coastal forest tucked behind a large gated community in Orange County. I came to the ranch to band owls.
The night was incredible. We had a few Big Brown Bats find their way into the nets, providing me the experience of seeing these winged mammals up close. I have never seen teeth so delicate yet fierce. We did have luck with capturing owls. Our first owl of the night was a beautiful female Barn Owl. I was able to take her from the net and band her. Having this ghostly creature in hand, staring into its dark marble eyes, is an experience I will never forget.
We also had four Western Screech Owls caught in the nets. I love the small owls, and was looking forward to the chance of banding one of these birds. The small birds are so endearing. Cute fits them perfectly, they are so full of fight and life. Returning the bird to the night was spectacular. I walked to the woods and perched the bird on my fingers. It sat for a while, not certain of its ability to flee. After a minute or two, the bird took to the night air and disappeared into the dark.
Today I spent my afternoon illustrating a headshot of the Western Screech Owl. I thought it appropriate to revisit this subject, given my recent intimate interaction with the bird. Every time I finish the owl, I feel a bit dissatisfied with the outcome. For whatever reason, I can never get the owl quite right. I would have probably loved this illustration if I would have left the ear tufts tucked back. I feel I drew them a bit too long. Still the exercise was rewarding, and I’m sure I will come out with a screech owl I am happy about if I only keep trying.