Thursday, July 29, 2010

Feathers and spiders

In the past couple of weeks I've been finding bird feathers littering the earth, just about everywhere I walk. Most of the feathers I find are from American crows (), but I've also found others at Howarth, including this 13 cm long owl feather.

Looking in my Sibley Guide to Birds, I found three owls that might dwell in Howarth Park.

I didn't think I'd be able to identify the owl this feather came from but The Feather Atlas has given me a tentative identification of a Western Screech Owl (Megascops kennicotti), a small nocturnal owl that's equally at home in open woodland and urban and suburban settings. The reason I know it's an owl feather is that, when I found another one a few weeks ago, my friend, JoAnn identified it immediately by the fine hairs covering the whole feather, which appear to help muffle the sound of the wings moving through the air, allowing the owl to fly silently.
While drawing the owl feather I noticed a lovely spider and web stretched across my outdoor work space (our umbrella-covered patio table). At this time of year, these webs can literally be run into just about anywhere! Even though they're large and usually stretched across an open space, it's easy to miss them when the light is wrong. If that happens to you you'll find yourself snared by the European Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) that built the web.

The female is the web builder and, apparently, she eats the web and all of the caught prey each night before building a brand new web for the next day.

More about owls:

 and about feathers:

and spiders:
Nick's Spiders
Bug Guide


  1. Interesting fact about the owl feathers, I've never had the opportunity to find and observe one closely. Lovely drawing, by the way!

    The spider is quite handsome; she must have quite a job creating and then devouring a web each day - especially since they are large.

    I love the collection of tidbits in this post, I have a picture of you wandering around, your eyes catching all sorts of nature wonders. :)

  2. Gorgeous feather, Debbie. You've really captured to softness. I like Mrs Spider too. I used to always be walking into spiders' webs in Sydney. Here they just like to build little ones in the high corners of the apartment. I wouldn't mind if they ate them and built a new one next day. Instead I don't usually notice them until they start to hold dust and almost always when we have dinner guests!