Tag Archives: owls

Survival Instinct

Firstly, I have just come out the other side of those atrocious Twilight books – one week of my life I’ll never get back.  Sheesh, I forgot how utterly ridiculous that final book is.  “Renesmee”??  Please.

In other news, I am currently trying to fight against my survival instincts.

You may or may not know that my day job is that of a falconer-in-training.  I basically spend my days feeding carnivorous birds scraps of meat while they fly around, trying to make sure my fingers don’t get in the way – and more recently, failing at just that.

First, some background information.  Owls don’t have great eyesight for things close to them – why would they need it, in the wild their prey is noisy rodents who give away their position with sound.  But obviously, what we feed our owls is dead already.  So what we do is place a bit of food in our palms, stretch our hands flat and try our best to aim for their beaks.

As a result, I now have a series of large owl-bites covering my right palm and fingers.

Yeah, that hurt.

The stupid thing is that my survival instinct is actually what’s getting me injured just now.  I feel the urge to pull away too quickly from the large, gaping beak of the owl in question – which in turn makes her miss the bit of food and get my flesh instead.

The culprit - an owl named Lump. She might look all cute and junk, but that's a mighty large beak.

So how do you train yourself to stop listening to your own survival instincts?  Especially when they’re wrong and in fact preventing the survival of your badly battered fingers??

I have a plan.  It involves cheating.

During the winter I used these fingerless fleece gloves to combat the freezing temperatures, yet leaving my fingertips free to do all the knots and nonsense I need to do.  Now, the problem with these is that sometimes when feeding the owls they caught the fingerless glove as well as the food – and once something is in their beaks they don’t want to give it up.  So the second part of my plan involves somehow layering some thin leather over the palm of the glove.  We have a bunch of leather at work, which we use to make jesses, anklets and the like, so I have a supply of that.  So I can reinforce the palm of my glove so that it’s not something they can bite into.

And thus save my poor little fingers.

I know I get braver when there’s something covering my vulnerable flesh, so the idea is that by doing this for a while I’ll get the confidence to override my survival instinct.  Eventually I won’t need the glove, and I’ll be able to feed large bitey owls safely.

In the meantime, I am well stocked with plasters/bandaids and antiseptic wound spray.

The Witches of Fife, Research and Other Nonsense

As you may or may not be aware, Fife was rampant with witches in the Days of Yore.  In this attempt to write my Kelpies Prize entry I’d been looking for something I can research inherent to Fife, which I can rely on to give me the credibility I lack from not being natively Scottish (and yet trying to write Scottish children’s literature).  And from a half-remembered lecture given back in my student days with the Pagan Society of St. Andrews I recalled this particular bit of information.

I’ve been looking for inspiration with hints of the supernatural, and this might be perfect.  My favourite children’s stories are the ones that escape the bubblegum-pink prose where everything is well-meaning and the danger isn’t really all that dangerous, like bumbling pirates and laughable ogres.  I like slightly Grimmer stuff (as in stuff more like Grimm’s Fairy Tales and less like a Disney film) with shades of grey.

So, witches it is.

I’m not sure if I want to pursue the supernatural angle, or the historic-political angle, but to be honest I bet I’ll end up doing both.  I’m also not sure what time period to set this in, mainly debating whether to set it historically or contemporaneously.

Luckily, there seems to be a wide range of local-interest library books I’ve found in the subject.  For example, The Witches of Fife: Witch-hunting in a Scottish Shire and The Weem Witch.  So hopefully through research I can work out a lot of the details and find inspiration for a plot.

Look at me go, actually researching things before writing them!  Before you know it I’ll be outlining and everything!!!

I’ve also been rereading Harry Potter books, partly as research for what’s expected writing-style-wise for the age group, but also just because why not.  For all that I whinged about J.K. Rowling and her oh-too-perfect ending, I do like reading them.

And I secretly wish I had my own Hedwig!

Not that J.K. Rowling actually knows the first thing about owl behaviour, as I’ve come to realise.  Hedwig was “fast asleep with her head under her wing”??  Pah!  Owls don’t sleep like that!  But hey, maybe magic owls are a whole other shebang, who am I to know??