Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Urban Wildlife in North Carolina

Although I don't have any exciting new field stories to recount, I haven't had to venture far from NESCent to have had a few close encounters with nature - including one that was much closer than expected. Pictured in the upper panel of the figure at right is a cool praying mantis that we found perched on the rear tire of my Aveo the other day. However, it was what happened to me this evening as I finished an easy run around dusk that really takes the cake. As I was running up the street towards my house in Old West Durham, I suddenly perceived the shadow of something flapping right above my head. Before I had time to react, I felt what later turned out to be talons and the weight of something quite large on my head! Of course, I did what almost any normal person would do (yell "Ahh, ahh!" and swat wildly). After hanging on to my scalp for a second, I felt it release, and then an enormous barred owl flew off my head and up to the telephone wires, where it hung out long enough for me to go back to my house and grab a camera to snap the (admittedly poor) photo in the lower panel at right. My neighbor reports that this is the 4th time he has heard of this owl attacking, and by interesting coincidence, several other owl attacks have recently been reported for North Carolina (here and here).


Susan Perkins said...

Perhaps that owl fancied you, like this kakapo.

Dan Rabosky said...

That is crazy! And you are now the second person I know who has had this happen to them while running. But seriously, what kind of software/processing error goes on inside an owl's brain to cause it to mistake a bobbing round ball on 6 ft stilts for some sort of normally-encountered prey item?

Joel Sadler said...

This is hilarious. I live in Old West Durham and was attacked by an owl while running on Green St. early in the morning about a week ago.

I saw the shadow in the street light and waived my hands over my head in panic just in time to knock the owl away. It flew up to a nearby tree and stared at me. I told my wife and she thought I was crazy.

Unknown said...

The owl is probably being somewhat territorial. I got attacked by a goshawk in Colorado once for riding a bike through its territory. One of those N&O stories would seem to indicate that it's a mother owl, and she's just had a chick.

Liam Revell said...

This story got picked up by the Durham News, a local paper here in Durham: link here. I was happy to see that the story wasn't nearly as sensational as I feared it would be.

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