Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wesley the Owl - Stacey O'Brien

Lovely true story about raising Wesley the barn owl. His wing was injured very young and he was never going to have the stamina to live on his own in the wild, so Stacey O'Brien took responsibility for bringing him up. She was trained as a biologist and working full-time with owls, so she did know what she was getting herself in for, but for me it was a really vivid lesson in the difference between domesticated and wild animals. Agreeing to raise Wesley was making a years-long commitment. When he was young she couldn't leave him alone at all (mother owls don't leave the nest for several months after their eggs hatch, the fathers are in charge of fetching food for the family), and even once he was older and could be left at home during the day, getting someone to look after him if she ever wanted to travel was a major undertaking. His food needed to be fresh (or at least fresh frozen) mice, fed several times a day. If it was someone other than Stacey doing the feeding they could not actually come into the room with Wesley as he would attack them, and had to wear protective gear to even come to the door and give him his mice. Taking care of Wesley required a level of commitment that I doubt most people could handle. On the other hand, Wesley sounds like he was an incredibly devoted, and very unique little companion. Owls mate for life, and he decided that Stacey was his mate - even attempted to feed her mice and got extremely upset when she declined to eat them (she eventually got really good at pretending). He sounds like a wonderful character, and I really enjoyed reading about him, but I can't imagine adopting an owl. I can't even imagine putting that much effort into a relationship with another person!

Overall a fabulous book. I picked it up because I loved Daily Coyote so much, and the story is even more incredible, but O'Brien isn't a professional writer or photographer, and so the book doesn't hold together quite as well as it should. On the other hand, she is a biologist, and the insights into barn owls that she acquires are just fabulous. I wish this had been written from a more scientific and less emotional/religious experience perspective...but that may just be me.

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