The weekly report from the world’s birdwatching capital… by Seymore Thanu
If Plato had been a birder and not a cat owner, as well as a philosopher, he might have coined the notion of Owlness rather than Tableness to express and explain his concept of The Ideal. That’s a mighty big might, though. From a marketing standpoint, Tableness certainly enjoys more broad-based familiarity than Owlness.
Chances are you, Mr or Ms Average American, are familiar with tables; know what they look like and what they do.
Chances also are you’ve never seen an owl. Wouldn’t recognize one if it flew to your door to deliver a bill for the coming semester at Hogwarts School of Wizardry.
This is sad. Tragic, even. Because owls are not only a good deal more interesting than tables, they are also only slightly less common (and they’re great mousers). You heard me. Owls are pretty common here. In fact, I saw five this morning, heard four more, and I was was just taking a walk.
Yup, on the basis of this morning’s sampling alone, the ratio of owls to tables came out overwhelmingly in favor of owls
Tables Seen: One kitchen, one coffee, one writing. Tables heard: None.
Owls Seen: Four Great-horned, one Barn Owl. Owls Heard, Not Seen: Four Great-horned.
That’s right. Score was 9 to 3 in favor of the owls.
Of course, it was a biased sampling. I spent only half an hour in table habitat but a full hour in owl habitat.
The table habitat included one bedroom, one kitchen, one den, a bathroom, and an office.
NOTE: I did not include bathroom or kitchen counter in my table count. Countertops are not only a different genus, they are a whole different family, maybe even order, of home accoutrements. Nor did I count “night stand.” Although I was in proper habitat, I did not see or hear the night stand, merely smacked the alarm clock it supported and stumbled downstairs.
I did, however, include writing desk in my table count which is certainly a matter open to interpretation and debate. Whether a writing desk is, or is not a table, is a question that has dogged furnitureologists for centuries. It could be argued that the very question of Deskness vs Tableness undercuts the philosophical underpinnings of an epistemological Ideal.
Yet, and still, in my efforts to be open-minded in my approach, and generous in my standards, I have allowed that a desk and a table are one.
Why then, you might ask, is it that you have yourself seen so many more tables than owls?
1. You spend more time in table habitat than owl habitat.
2. You know how to find tables, not owls.
3. Tables are easier to find.
If tables perched in trees and were only out at night, you would see fewer of them. Conversely, if owls were fixtures in your home, supporting lamps, fruit bowls, and piles of unpaid bills, you’d be very familiar with them.
The problem is one of your not spending enough time in proper owl habitat. If you want to develop a sense of Owlness, go out to a nearby woodland near dawn. Watch and listen. It’s good exercise. And if you have a heart whose purity approaches the Ideal, you are assured of seeing an owl.
The alternative is bringing owls into your home. But they are a lot harder to buy than tables, and illegal to own. And they don’t support lamps, fruit bowls, or unpaid bills easily. On the other hand, you will save on cat food. Having just enlisted the services of the Ideal mouser, who needs a cat?
The Cape May Bird Observatory does a weekly Friday night walk that meets at 5:30pm at the Nature Conservancy on Sunset Boulevard. Chances are you just might be lucky enough to hear (or see) a Great-horned Owl as the walk wraps up.
The Cape May Bird Observatory (CMBO), is THE place for anything to do with nature. Located at 701 East Lake Drive overlooking lovely Lake Lily in Cape May Point, the center is open 9:30am to 4:30pm every day. Ask any of our staff or volunteers – they are glad to help with anything you need. Check out the newest books (including Bayshore Summer by whats-his-name), bird feeders, and some great new and fun merchandise – including our exclusive CMBO logo jewelry, clothing, totes, and more. Take a look at the sightings log or our website to check what’s being seen, pick up a bargain from the vintage books section, look at some of the wonderful Charley Harper merchandise, or just browse. And if you aren’t fortunate enough to be in the area, visit us online www.BirdCapeMay.org – where birding Cape May is only a click away.
Seymore Thanu is New Jersey’s own Pete Dunne, Director of the Cape May Bird Observatory and Chief Communications Officer for New Jersey Audubon. Author of several books about nature (available at the CMBO) he has written for virtually every birding publication and for The New York Times.
Get out early (or late) enough and you might spot a Great-horned Owl.