Sunday, December 16, 2012

Can You See Me?

Those who know me are well aware that I can’t go anywhere without my camera.  This is especially true when I’m on duty as a volunteer at the World Bird Sanctuary.

I’ve catalogued 100’s of photos of the animal residents, both those on public display and those behind the scenes.  I never tire of their personalities, antics, and posturing behaviors.

One of the most intriguing of these behaviors is that of “pancaking” or sunbathing.  The bird will flatten itself out on the ground with its wings spread out to collect some serious rays.   Even those that are nocturnal still love the sunshine.  I recently caught Xena, a female Eurasian Eagle Owl, pancaking in the weathering area behind the Environmental Education Center.
Can you see Xena in this photo?
Eurasian Eagle Owls, in their natural habitat, nest on rock ledges or in caves so they must be able to blend in with their surroundings.  The first time I showed this picture to a friend, they said, “what bird?”  At first glance, they didn’t even see her.  Her natural coloring and markings make her almost disappear from view.  If you’re not looking for her, you’d never see her.  This got me to thinking about camouflage.

Many animals have developed natural camouflage that helps hide them from predators, thus greatly increasing their chances for survival.  Have you seen a Walking Stick in the park or a Praying Mantis at the zoo that looks like a leaf?  Have you seen a frog that looks like mud and butterflies that look like flower petals?  Chances are your eyes have passed over these and other creatures without registering that you’ve seen anything other than a tree or a rock or the ground.  These are all examples of how that natural camouflage can hide an animal from not only a predator’s eyes but ours as well.
If Timber were sitting on a branch next to the tree trunk you probably would not see him.
Timber is an Eastern Screech Owl.  A fierce predator in their own right, Screech Owls often find themselves as prey for larger raptors.  Being camouflaged is really important for their safety and survival.  Cavity dwellers, these amazing little owls blend in with the rest of the tree. 

Here’s Jake, a most excellent Great Horned Owl, at a recent Camera Day event at World Bird Sanctuary.  We made a perch in a tree on our display line and stationed Jake there. 
Here's Jake--if you cover his eyes he would be almost impossible to see
His natural color and markings are so like the tree trunk that if he closed his eyes, and we didn’t know he was there, he would be virtually invisible.

The next time you go walking in the woods thinking you are going to find some owls or turtles or snakes, think again about where and how you look.  I guarantee that they are looking at you long before you see them – that is if you can see them at all.

Submitted by Sandra Lowe Murray, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer Naturalist

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