Karla Bloem is the executive director of the International Owl Center in Houston, Minn. The center’s Festival of Owls, which began in 2003 and includes presentations, trips and demonstrations, is March 2-4 in the Houston area. (See other Currents profiles here.)
I am lucky that my passion is my work, so I devour the latest research about owls (especially on vocalizations.) I just finished two absolutely fantastic books: “Feathers of European Owls” by Marian Cieslak (more than 200 pages devoted to owl feathers and new insights about them) and “Investigating Egg Failures in Birds” by Arnold van den Burg (which made me wonder how any bird eggs ever hatch with everything that can go wrong!)
My brain needs a break from heavy reading sometimes. I am currently reading “Meadowland: The Private life of an English Field” by John Lewis-Stempel. The author takes me along into his meadows to explore all the life there throughout the seasons, from grasses and flowers to birds and mammals, to insects and spiders.
Google Alerts serve up the latest in owl news from the internet, which keeps me on top of most of what’s going on in the world of Strigiformes (owls’ scientific name). The rest is shared with me on Facebook and e-mail by anyone and everyone who knows me from the general public to other researchers. I like to follow the Owl About Minnesota Facebook page to keep up with what’s being seen where in the state, nesting, and on.
I watch “Owl TV.” We don’t have a TV subscription, but we do have 12 cameras on our captive research and education owls streaming through a computer. That’s what we watch, aside from an occasional feel-good or historical movie. I also keep tabs on other great horned owl cams to compare and contrast behaviors of owls in the wild with our captive birds.
I find variations in owl behavior fascinating, and we know so little about it. Cams are giving us our first really significant views into their lives, which contradicts some of what is in the published literature.
My phone is a good representation of what I listen to: I have three meditation tracks, nine motivational tracks, 115 music tracks and 531 owl tracks. I started a vocal study on great horned owls in 2004 to document their complete vocal repertoire. Over time the research grew to include identifying individuals by voice, regional variation in their territorial hoots, vocal development of young owls, and heritability of territorial hoot characteristics.
Great horned owl vocal research; preparations for our annual International Festival of Owls; plans for building a permanent home for the center; and compiling and sharing information about effective owl education methods used in different cultures around the world. I’m only 98 percent owls, though. I’m also working with the state and the Houston Nature Center to create an educational family event about rattlesnakes. When I can wrangle a little free time, I absolutely love to go for walks in the woods or bike rides on the Root River Trail or the little gravel road on which we live.