I have been spending a little time each day looking in on a family of owls. An owlhouse was built in Southern California by an owl lover, and a pair of barn owls named Syd and Mel moved in. Some cameras have been attached so that the owls could be observed 24/7. Seven eggs were laid and six hatched.
During the day, we can get really great color images of the birds and at night, some other form of camera is used so that we can still see them in the dark.
When I started watching, they were already two weeks old, but because of the differential in the hatching times, the oldest was much bigger and advanced than the later ones. But they have grown so fast, you can almost see daily changes. At this time, the older ones are growing feathers, can stand up, and flex their wings. Mel, the father, devotes every night to hunting and providing food for the brood; he brings them many mice, gophers and rats, and sometimes a rabbit. One can get addicted to observing the life and progress of this little family, and many have, judging by the running commentary of “chatterers” that runs along the side of the Web page. And school children are encouraged to participate too through classroom connections. There are also other webcams featuring eagles, hummingbirds, falcons and other owls.
Why am I going into this little story? I am marveling at the wonders of technology that allows for such delights and the whole world seems to like it too. People from 140 countries have tuned into Mel and Syd’s domestic scene. Some have said that it is a touch of nature that brings laughs and wonder into their lives. And, indeed, after learning that more old people than young people in Japan are committing crimes like shoplifting to give them a little social life via interaction with police and others because of boredom and loneliness (and of course, some being poor), maybe owl-watching or something like this could provide some diversion and activity in their lives.
But, I am also aware that all of our fancy technology could not do very much in the face of natural disasters. In spite of all the planning and safeguards put into place, there wasn’t much that could save thousands of lives in northern Japan when the quakes and tsunami hit. And now, there is the terrifying spectacle of a nuclear disaster taking shape. Through all of our modern technology, we can only watch in horror at the images of suffering and what looked like puny efforts to control those nuclear plants.
We can watch not only those tragedies but we also see the continuing strife in Libya and Syria and Bahrain and here we are again, on the brink of another war. The rebellions against those regimes are a breath of fresh air and again were very much helped by marvelous technological advances, and seeing brutal dictators challenged by their peoples is a welcome sight. Still, I can’t help but feel uneasy about the way the world is going. The continued gridlock in Congress, the financial uncertainties, the precarious situations faced by many in our country and the natural disasters are really troublesome.
Coming back to the owl family every day is like an oasis of normality for me. Syd and Mel are so beautiful, and the babies so helpless and ungainly. Observing their growth is reassuring. Every day the six are gaining in power and abilities, and feathers are growing in at a rapid rate. The routine is so predictable that watching it brings a sense of balance into my life. This pair are wonderful parents, caring and careful with the chicks and with each other, the mother making sure that all get enough to eat, and the father bringing in more and more food. It’s a great pleasure to observe.
I’m not saying that owl watching is a cure-all for adding interest in one’s life, but it seems to me that there are a million things out there that can engage the mind and add a bit of meaning to one’s daily routines. It helps to have a sense of curiosity but even that isn’t necessary. The Internet and Google are wondrous things, and every day, I find out some little fact or story that catches my attention and makes me think. For this, I am thankful.
Oh yes — you can watch Matty, Dundee, Joey, Brindi, Barbie and Dinky at ustream.tv/channel/owlceanside.
Chizu Omori is the co-producer of the award-winning film “Rabbit in the Moon.” She writes from San Francisco, and can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.