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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

    Arb Notes

    <ay night, around eleven or eleven thirty, and the short walk from Davis Hall to the library seems to take forever, weighted down as I am with a bag full of books. Preoccupied with dread of those books I do not at first realize what I am hearing. Crows. Wait…Crows? There throaty cries sound strange and unfamiliar in the darkness and I look up. My eyes search the darkness until, suddenly, I see it; the silent cause of all that ruckus, flying out of the pine trees that line the driveway behind Leighton. “Owl!” I yell. The people on the sidewalk turn to see what I am pointing at and exclaim in astonishment and excitement. The owl flies low to the ground locked talon to talon with a struggling crow. The wings of the crow beat against the breast of the owl making it unaccustomedly clumsy and slow, unable to fully evade the two other crows that follow close on its tail. Despite its encumbrance the owl quickly fades into the night, fallowed by its two antagonists and leaving the spectators on the sidewalk with the calls of the crows still ringing in their ears.

    A week from the event I still thrill to remember that sight. I had heard before that crows may mob owls if they feel threatened but I had never seen the event for myself. It was also exciting to see an owl within the campus proper when they had often seemed so distant, one of the better-kept secrets of the Arb. But once you look you will find that perhaps the Arb is not such a master secret keeper after all. The pine trees in the northeastern corner of the Arb are good places to go looking for signs of owls. There it is likely that you will see some of the telltale whitewash that marks trees in which an owl has roosted. This whitewash is the excrement of an owl, aptly named for its ability to make a tree look as if it has been splattered in white paint. If a tree like this is found a little judicious hunting at its base might turn up yet another owl sign. The owl pellet, a regurgitated ball of the indigestible fur and bones of an owls prey, can tell you the content of the owl’s last meal and this, along with its size and shape, might even give you a hint as to what kind of owl left it. And if you are lucky you may, upon raising your eyes from the ground, catch a glimpse of the silent predator itself waiting out the day till dusk when it will come out to hunt; a reminder that beyond our books the ancient struggle of hunter and hunted goes on everyday, although sometimes with an odd twists.

    -Mira Alecci, for the Student Naturalists

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