Sunday, February 26, 2006

Hooting Up a Storm

What do you get when you cross an owl and a goat?

-A Hootenanny.

Groaner!!! But it reminds me of what's going on around here lately (minus the goat part.) Alice has been hooty like she's never been before.

Just how hooty is Alice? Take this morning for instance. Twice I blew my nose downstairs in the bathroom, and both times it triggered Alice to hoot. Now if that isn't hooty, I don't know what is.

Just setting foot on the landing at the base of the stairs (where the bathroom is), talking in the kitchen, or setting foot outside of our bedroom door are all enough to send Alice into a hooting fit.

And Alice is now hooting at work! She's never done that before unless she was upset. Now she hoots when I talk on the phone, or when there are visitors if I lean towards her and hoot. And these are tail-cocked hoots, not just regular hoots. There was a first grade boy who visited the Houston Nature Center yesterday. He's grown up listening to owl calls, and he could do the perfect rhythm hoot for a male Great Horned Owl--good enough that Alice responded to his hoot by hooting back!

Along with the excessive hootiness comes excessive nestiness. At home she dives into her nest basket (a laundry basket lined with wood shavings mounted on the wall of her room) every morning and every evening when she hasn't seen my husband or I for several hours. Then she does lots of excited "clucking" and digs and digs and digs. When she digs, she puts her face down and bites onto something if she can, and clenches her feet and scrapes them backward. I'm surprised she hasn't dug down to China yet!

But no eggs. That's good from the standpoint of doing educational programs with Alice (if she laid eggs she'd want to sit on them for at least a month.) But I'm dying to see nesting behavior, so I'm a little bummed in that department.

Ever since Alice has gone overboard with her hormones and hootiness, she's started tolerating more touching. She's never been a touchy-feely gal, but when she's totally absorbed in her hooting, she will tolerate me hugging her, feeling for a brood patch, feeling the flesh on her keel, touching her toes, and--get this--feeling her gular sac (the throat pouch that poofs out when she hoots) while she's hooting! It feels more leathery than I would have expected, but it vibrates when she hoots. Kinda cool. But keep in mind she's merely tolerating this--she doesn't seem to derive any pleasure from it.

I hadn't heard boo from the neighbor owls for about a month until last night. Victor and Virginia hooted some off to the east, and came closer after Alice started hooting inside (in response to my husband going up to her room.) Wendell and Wheezy hooted some too, but WAY off to the east of here.

So that's what's been going on lately--just a heck of a lot of hooting. Loud, too. The filament in the light bulb in Alice's room was vibrating last night each time she hooted!

Aren't you glad you don't have an owl living in your house???

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