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More photographic evidence of a small gremlin

cranky owlet[Updated 6 July 2014: I understand the urge to point out that spiders don’t chase people in swimming pools — the scenario seems unlikely, I agree. But with a gremlin looking on, who knows what curious occult forces were at work? Better?]

The grainy photo below clearly shows a small gremlin in our pine tree (possibly the same one as here). It was making a soft tooting call that sounded exactly like the so-called “bouncing ball” call of the Western Screech-Owl.

WESO pine small

If I hadn’t captured the gremlin on camera, its clever vocal efforts to blend with the local avifauna would have been successful: in the dark, we would have assumed it was one of our local Screech-Owls, which are common in the yard, and which we’ve seen many times.

<< (Photo of Western Screech-Owl exhibiting HCQ — High Cranky Quotient — taken in ambient light with pinecone for scale, A.Shock 4 July 2014. You may click to enlarge, but it doesn’t get any better bigger.)

In this picture, the malevolent entity gazes down disapprovingly, caught in the act of watching the Six-Spotted Fishing Spider chasing me — deliberately, I’m positive, and E will back me up on that — around the shallow end of the pool by skittering energetically and leggily across the surface towards me, repeatedly. The gremlin’s impersonation of a Screech-Owl is nearly perfect down to the tiny fierce talons grasping the branch, although IMO it needs to work on the “ear” tufts, which are frankly weak.

Bonus quote:

“He only has one eye!” — Peter Lorre, Beat the Devil (John Huston, 1953), on seeing a portrait in profile

Posted by Allison on Jul 5th 2014 | Filed in birds,cranky owlet,natural history,owls,yard list | Comments (0)

Photographic proof of a small gremlin….

…or perhaps merely a screech owl sitting on a sign in a neighbor’s yard.

You can’t see the little bird vibrating, but it was producing its distinctive whirring trill — that was how we found it.


Western Screech Owl in front of an Ocotillo, Scottsdale, AZ. (Photo A.Shock, April 2014)

It was newly dark, and well beyond the camera’s ability to shoot anything like a real photo, especially without a tripod. But dinking around with the pathetic pixels in photo-editing software produced surprising detail and a painterly, almost pastel-like quality in this image of a small owl and its background, an enormous blooming ocotillo lit from below by landscaping lights.


Posted by Allison on Apr 20th 2014 | Filed in birds,cranky owlet,owls,yard list | Comments (2)

Cranky Owlet wonders…

…. where the hell everyone’s been since last september.

Posted by Allison on Aug 27th 2012 | Filed in cranky owlet,three star owl | Comments (2)

Cranky Owlet is having…

…a bad hair day.


Posted by Allison on Sep 24th 2011 | Filed in cranky owlet | Comments (3)

Mess-o’-Owls (with a serious side-bar)

Update: if you’re looking at info on what areas are open for birding/touring in Southeastern Arizona as a result of the fires and floods, here’s a link to a useful and interesting July 19 2011 article in the Arizona Daily Star online:


Last April at “Birdy Verde” (more properly known as the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival), Three Star Owl floated a trial strigid.  That is to say, I put out a couple of Retro Owl Whistle Necklaces, to see how they would go over.  Since the two I had along were gone early in the show (admittedly a small sample), I thought I’d make more, and here some of them are, en masse.

The somewhat artsy, purposely grainy photo to the right shows main necklace components — the owly whistle parts — piled together in a herd.  The finished necklaces are on a faux-leather lace, some with additional hand-made beads, knots, and the like.  They are “retro”-styled, colorful, and shrill, which makes them perfect for everyone except the boring and humorless. Please note, they do not summon owls.  But you can try.  (No refunds for those attracting less desirable organisms.)

The ROWNs won’t be available until they’re officially debuted at my next sales events, which are coming right up: the 20th Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival* in Sierra Vista: it’s August 3-6 at the Cochise College Campus.  Later in the month, Three Star Owl will be at the brand-new Tucson Bird and Wildlife Festival, August 17 – 21.  Click on the names of the events above to link to their websites for more info.


For those who are wondering, the organizers, guides, and local birding hosts of SWWings are carrying on with the festival despite the Monument Fire which affected so many of the rich and unique sky-island Huachuca mountain/canyon habitats that are home to wildlife, plant, and human communities.  They will be running fieldtrips into unaffected areas, such as the riparian zone along the leafy San Pedro River (left, shot in early spring — it would be much leafier now), the arid grasslands of the valley, and forested parts of the Huachucas that didn’t burn.  The Southeastern Arizona birding community, many of whom make their living guiding, hosting, conveying, feeding, and otherwise welcoming birders and other nature-enthusiasts, could use your support.  Visitors, where access is allowed, can see the results of astounding heroic efforts made by fire and public safety teams in the Huachucas and the Coronado National Monument during the fires and the subsequent monsoon storms to keep people, habitats and wildlife safe to the extent possible. It’s an ongoing process: the fires burned hot in many places, leaving steep slopes bare of vegetation, and subsequent seasonal downpours have washed feet of black ash and rubble into homes, property, and waterways in the canyon foothills, changing the natural and human-modified landscape for the long-term.

(All images A.Shock)

Posted by Allison on Jul 16th 2011 | Filed in art/clay,close in,cranky owlet,effigy vessels,Events,owls,three star owl | Comments (0)

San Diego is a wrap!

Here’s cheers to all of the Three Star Owl friends and clients who came by, old and new (nice to meet you, Doriot!), to the San Diego Bird Festival this weekend.  And many thanks to Karen Straus and the volunteers and organizers of the San Diego Audubon Society for all of their good care and hard work.

<< wall art, Campland on the Bay (photo A.Shock)

As always, there were fascinating people to meet, new things to do (more on that later — it involves a friend, two raptors, and a jackrabbit!), with the added bonus of barn owls calling overhead last night.  Now it’s time to pack up a soggy wet tent/office (the rain held off until last night), hop in the truck, and head back across the desert to home.

See you next time, San Diego!

Posted by Allison on Mar 7th 2011 | Filed in art/clay,cranky owlet,Events,field trips,three star owl | Comments (1)

Cranky Owlet says:

“Don’t forget to VOLE, er… VOTE!!”

Posted by Allison on Nov 2nd 2010 | Filed in art/clay,cranky owlet,three star owl | Comments (0)

We interrupt this flamingo…

…to bring you a tiny owlet.  From Pink to Dink, with hardly a blink.

Friday morning, I came home from delivering E to campus, and blissfully opened the back door to let in the first blast of coolish late summer air.  Instead of the usual morning quiet, the back yard was chattering with angry bird sounds: MOB!  Two Curve-billed thrashers, three cactus wrens, one Costa’s and two un-ID’d hummers, a verdin, a handful of Lesser goldfinch, and a couple of Gila woodpeckers, all shrieking in the upper branches of the messy African sumac right outside the bedroom door.

I stood under the canopy of snaggly twigs and miscellaneous branches for a while, with binox, until I saw the reason for their agitation: the Real Cranky Owlet.  A tiny, tiny owl, with a round head, staring down on me with enormous outrage.  I ran in to get binox and camera, and when I got back outside, it was sitting there still radiating high dudgeon.

It took a bit of hunting to find a window through the leafy snarl, but I finally got the owl in clear view.  At first I thought: it’s a recently fledged Western Screech Owl, too young for cranial tufts (ie, “ears”), wedged up in the twigs, trying to pretend it hadn’t been spotted by half the shouting avifauna of the yard, and one quarter of the interior mammals.  I’d recently been hearing a WESO calling at night in the yard, and we get them around here occasionally (well, they’re probably here all the time, but we hear or see them occasionally).  It was a likely candidate.

<< radiating high dudgeon

But… I looked again, without my binox: it was clearly not a screech owl — the bird was SO TINY!  As any birder will tell you, size is one of the hardest characteristics to judge in the field, and an easy place to go wrong. Comparisons are invaluable. The thrashers mobbing it were considerably bigger than the owl; it was about the same size as the Cactus wrens, although in a vertical format, rather than horizontally arranged like the wrens; it was approximately sparrow-sized.  There’s only one owl that dinky, in the desert or anywhere: the Elf owl (Micrathene whitneyi, en français chevêchette des saguaros, en español tecolotito anano).  The supercilious white “spectacles”, the reddish blotches on the breast, the size of the eyes in the smallish head: it was an Elf owl in our yard! I was able to get a couple of poor snapshots — tough light to boot — which I’ve posted here, magnified.

Like the Western screech owls, Elf owls may be in the neighborhood regularly; we live in an “older” (by Phoenix standards) subdivision with naturalized desert landscape, including mature saguaros with woodpecker holes.  But I hadn’t heard an Elf owl or seen one around here, and believe me, it wasn’t for not listening, or not looking in every saguaro hole I know about. So, since the Elf Owl population in our part of the state is seasonal, it’s also possible that this individual could be a migrant, moving out of its breeding area to its wintering zone, passing through our yard.

detail, Elf owl in saguaro vase (Allison Shock Three Star Owl, stoneware, 14″) >>

The sumac probably seemed like a good day roost.  But, unfortunately, it turned out there were not only hecklers, but a paparazza, and the tiny owl flew a few yards to lose itself in the denser, thorny canopy of the nearby Texas Ebony.  The hecklers followed, but I didn’t. (All photos A.Shock)

The yard’s been hopping, recently.  Click here to read an assortment of posts about what we see right outside our doors, birds and other things.


…back from Sierra Vista and Southwest Wings Festival; tired.  Nice show.  Thanks to everyone who came by, and thank you to the organizers, who did a good job in a new venue.  It’s always nice to see friends, returning customers, and new faces.

To those of you on my emailing list, if you’re wondering why you didn’t get an advance email notification of the event in your inbox, it’s because I absentmindedly forgot to send out an e-flyer before the show.  Hope you found your way to the Three Star Owl booth anyway!

Right: Coati/scorpion lidded vessel with coati-tail handles (A. Shock, 2010, stoneware, 9.5″ ht)

Posted by Allison on Aug 9th 2010 | Filed in art/clay,cranky owlet,Events,furbearers,Invertebrata,three star owl | Comments (0)

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