Sunday, July 5, 2009

Spotted Owlet

I lost track of time today, this glorious day, under a clear blue sky and bright sun. An atypical day these past weeks. I was mesmerized by the clear air, brisk summer breeze, and solar warmth. So mesmerized that I spent 4 hours weeding 5 rows of carrots at New Roots Farm, before I realized the time. I wondered why my knees were starting to hurt. I am even celebrating a little sunburn on my legs.

My thoughts are actually on India, with my in-laws arriving on Wednesday from Bangalore for an extended visit. Our menus will be shifting to homemade south Indian vegetarian meals. We can already taste the first serving of dosai, expertly made by Srini's mother. Once we tried to count the number of dosa or dosai that she has made in her lifetime, thousands and thousands. Dosa are crepe-like, fried thin, made from a mix of fermented rice and split urad bean (a black lentil). Stuffed with potatoes, onions, and spices it becomes a masala dosai. With a little coconut chutney on the side, it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

While we are getting more rain than is needed, India is suffering from delayed and diminished monsoons. These rains are critical for food and hydropower production. Less rain leads to crop failures and power outages. One wonderful thing that we can offer our Indian relatives when they arrive is clean air. They will breathe deeply upon arrival, cleansing their body of the polluted air that permeates Indian cities.

On to the title of today's post - spotted owlets. My sister-in-law Shanti sent several photos of a spotted owlet (Athene brama) that got stuck inside their veranda in Pondicherry, India.

Since it was daytime, and these owls are largely nocturnal, they caught the bird and kept it in a box under their bed until they could release it at night. This is a common owl, widespread throughout India. It is small and stocky, grayish brown with white spots, and large yellow eyes.

They are common around human habitation, feeding on insects and other small animals. You can see them emerge from daytime roosts as darkness descends, flying out to perch on utility poles or the roof of a building.

Pondy is hot and humid right now, not something that I usually wish for. But we could use a taste of both right about now, to spur on the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants that need a shot of sun.

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