Posts Tagged ‘owls’

Photo: Greg Clarke, Flickr.
News: when humans and owls hear a new sound, their pupils dilate. Read how owl research is helping doctors identify hearing problems in babies.

Living on Earth is a wonderful radio program covering environmental news, and with the help of donors, it stuck to its mission all last year despite pandemic obstacles. In this episode, Living on Earth explains how research into owl behavior might help some newborn humans avoid developmental difficulties.

Bobby Bascomb at Living on Earth and Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Jess Burns have the story.

“BASCOMB: Newborn babies are given hearing tests shortly after they’re born. It’s important to establish they can hear properly to develop language skills, but it’s tricky to do. Babies can’t tell doctors what they are hearing. … Now it looks like researchers at the University of Oregon may have found a solution to the problem using … owls. …

“BURNS: Our story starts about 20 years ago at the University of Oregon. Neuroscientist Avinash Bala was trying to measure how well barn owls hear as a way to better understand how human brains process sound.

“BALA: We had the owl in a quiet room. We had a video camera like a security camera watching the owl.

“BURNS: While they were setting up the experiment, going in and out of the owl’s room. The odd door was slammed down the hall. Bala would drop something on a desk.

“BALA: And I realized that every time something unexpected happened, the owl’s eyes seem to get brighter.

“BURNS: They showed brighter on the video because the owl’s eyes were dilating in response to the new sound, reflecting more light back to the camera, like a cat in headlights. The experiment Bala was actually there to do wasn’t working, says Institute of neuroscience co-director Terry Takahashi.

“TAKAHASHI: Avenashi was extremely frustrated when he came up and said, ‘Hey, this doesn’t work. The only thing that happens when I play a song is the pupil dilates.’ And then all of a sudden, we all stop and go, ‘Aah wait a minute.’

“BURNS: They recognize this involuntary pupil response could be used to measure hearing in owls. And pretty soon thereafter, Bala figured out that humans have the same involuntary response to new sounds.

‘What I realized was that we could also use this in people who are unable to respond for one reason or another. And the biggest such group of people is infants. Because babies can’t tell us what they’re thinking.’

“BURNS: There are hearing tests for young children out there and in use. … But they all have different limitations says OHSU audiologist Kristy Knight.

“KNIGHT: One of the things that we really struggle with young children is knowing can they recognize the difference between sounds like else versus elf, for example. Our regular hearing tests don’t tell us that.

“BURNS: Knight is working with Bala to test a new pupil-response hearing test.”

The new hearing test helps researchers understand if a child or adult with a hearing aid is recognizing different sounds. The level of pupil dilation varies.

“BALA: It’s so reliable, and it’s so predictable. And that is what makes it so eminently usable.”

More at Living on Earth, here.

Read Full Post »


These photos are mostly mine, taken over the last month in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. But the adorable baby owls were captured by one of my brothers in his Wisconsin backyard. All the bird lovers in my family were envious of his owls.

In Massachusetts, I was especially drawn to flowers against fences, including my own Black-eyed Susans. Success at last! I’ve been trying to grown more native species for some time now.

In Rhode Island, I enjoyed looking at second-hand shops, art galleries, and unexpected decorations like this hydrangea-covered tank.

John got a permit for a fire on the beach so the kids could make s’mores, and Erik broke up logs for it by jumping on them.

The painted rock offered words of wisdom for protecting the environment, including turtles.












Read Full Post »


Sculpture: Nancy Whelan
Cat sculpture “Henry VIII — Six Wives, Nine Lives,” Catskill, New York.  See and hear the artist’s description, here.

Sandy and Pat attended a family wedding at Lettterbox Farm in upstate New York recently and took a little time to check out the local sights. They loved the cat sculptures in the town of Catskill and the owl sculptures in Coxsackie, whose name is thought to come from an Indian word for “owl.”

Ariél Zangla wrote at the Daily Freeman, ” ‘Cat’n Around Catskill’ is celebrating its 10th anniversary. …

“Visitors come from local communities, but also from out of state. [Catskill Association President Tina Annese] said she knows of at least one family that has visited the cats each year as part of their summer vacation. She said people come to see the cats, get their pictures taken with them, and then visit area businesses.

“ ‘It brings tourism into the area, without a doubt,’ Annese said. She added that with neighboring communities doing their own art displays, visitors can stop in multiple areas. Annese said she loves that — and the more public art displays, the merrier.

“Locally, Saugerties once again has its decorated horse statues on display, while Greenville will have its ducks for the second year.”

More about the cats at the Daily Freeman, here. And if you are on Facebook, you will want to check the Cat’n Around Catskill page, here.

As for owls, it was last September that Coxsackie decided to get into the act.

Melanie Lekocevic of Columbia-Greene Media wrote about the effort at the Daily Mail: “Catskill has its cats, Cairo has bears, and Ravena had trains. Now, it’s Coxsackie’s turn.

“A volunteer committee has been working for several months to get a new project off the ground – ‘Hoot of the Owl,’ a public art exhibit that will bring sculptures of creatively decorated owls to the community.

“Owls have long been the symbol of Coxsackie; indeed, some translations of the name ‘Coxsackie’ – said to be of Native American extraction – are thought to reference owls, according to an article by Coxsackie Town Historian Michael Rausch on the town website. …

“Like the Catskill cats, once completed each owl will be posted at locations around the village for several months, and later auctioned off at an extravagant gala.

“Visitors to [the early September] Coxsackie Farmers Market got a taste of what is possible in creating an owl when local artist Ellen DeLucia put on display an owl she created just to get the creative juices flowing around town.

“ ‘When we started, we decided to buy one owl prototype and have Ellen DeLucia paint it to give people an idea of what it would look like,’ said Committee Chair Joseph Ellis, also a village trustee.” More at the Daily Mail, here.

Horses, ducks, owls, bears, cats. Dragons, Anyone? I’d definitely go out of my way to see dragons.

Photo: Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media
Artist Ellen DeLucia created the owl “Freedom” to give artists an idea of what a finished owl can look like.



Read Full Post »

Jim Robbins writes in today’s NY Times that snowy owls are showing up where they have never been seen before (Hawaii!). Bird lovers are thrilled, and scientists are puzzled.

“From coast to coast across the northern United States, a striking number of snowy owls have been swooping onto shorelines and flying over fields this winter, delighting bird-watchers and stirring speculation about the cause of the spike. …

“Why so many more of the birds are showing up is largely a mystery, [Denver Holt, director of the Owl Research Institute in Charlo, Mont.] said. ‘We do know they had a really good breeding year, and there was plenty of food last year,’ he said. Instead of no chicks, or one or two, a single nest will produce five, six, seven or more fledglings in a good breeding year, he said.

“The owls are even showing up in urban and suburban areas, along highways, on signs and fence posts, and in other places where people can more easily spot them. It has been a good snowy owl year at Logan Airport in Boston, too. Because the airfield looks like tundra, snowy owls tend to flock there, and they must be trapped and removed.

“ ‘We’ve removed 21 so far this year, and the average is six,’ said Norman Smith, who works for the Massachusetts Audubon Society and traps the birds. The most ever trapped was 43 in 1986, Mr. Smith said, ‘but the year’s not over.’ ” Read more here.

WordPress blogger Photo Nature Blog captures birds really well. Here is one of a snowy owl getting ready to take off.

The owl below is from the National Geographic.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: