Wesley will teach birders and others

April 21, 2013 

The character “Wesley the Owl” peered up at me in a way that made him irresistible. I had to pick up Stacey O’ Brien’s book, subtitled “The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl.” While gazing at the enchanting little fellow perched on the book’s cover, I told myself I didn’t need another bird book. So I set it down – and then I picked it up and headed for check-out. Wesley and Stacey soon became constant companions.

They traveled with me to all appointments requiring some time in a waiting room. We even went a little early so I wouldn’t be called too soon. O’Brien’s writing and Wesley’s antics weave their way around your heart as few books ever do. As one reviewer said, “This book is destined to become a classic.”

O’Brien was trained as a biologist specializing in wild animal behavior and graduated from Occidental College with a B.S. in biology. She continued her education at California Institute of Technology and that is where she and a 4-day old barn owl met – on Valentine’s Day. It was love at first sight. Nineteen years later, she wrote about the experience and included a collection of scientific observations never before written about owls of any kind. Her training as well as the input of her Caltech associates allowed her to write a book that will be appreciated by other wildlife biologists and for anyone who enjoys birds and other wild (or tame) creatures.

I’ve always believed that any person who can take a newly hatched bird and raise it to full adulthood has something special in them, a sixth sense that instinctively tells them what to do. I have a cousin like that and have seen that it is no easy task to accept the responsibility for the life of a young robin and care for it round the clock for several weeks. To attempt to do the same with a 4-day old barn owl sounds as easy as undertaking brain surgery without the education. O’Brien not only did this but she came to love Wesley with all his demands and they were many. Her adventures with this special creature glue your eyes to the book’s pages.

Wesley was born with one abnormal wing. It would never be strong enough for him to survive in the wild. One muscle hadn’t developed correctly even though in appearance it looked perfectly normal. He grew into a beautiful gold and white barn owl. His adaptation to living in a human household was amazing. Perhaps that’s because his human did most of the adapting. One of the real treats of this book is something that always makes a book special. At some point, you will laugh out loud. If you don’t – get therapy.

How would you like to be enjoying a nice hot shower when the curtain begins moving in a manner that looks as if something is climbing it. What do you suppose it feels like to see a barn owl suddenly appear above the shower rod and know that he thinks getting sprayed by water is the best thing ever? Considering the talons involved and your own buff state, a drastic decision must be made and immediately.

Many of us know what it is like to have a favorite pet beg to share whatever we are eating. Ignoring their pleas works with well-trained critters but seems to encourage those other ruffians. When a barn owl wants to share a dinner it means he wants to share his with you. Owls eat mice and the sight of you swallowing anything else upsets them. Wesley took matters into his own talons on such occasions while Stacy did everything possible to stop him from force feeding her one of his dead mice. That’s true “owl love” or as the book says many times, that’s “the way of the owl.”

“Wesley the Owl” by Stacy O’Brien was published by Simon & Schuster. Give yourself the gift of a copy or give it to someone you know who would “just love it” as I did

Write to Joan Carson, P.O. Box 217, Poulsbo, WA 98370. Include a self–addressed, stamped envelope for a reply or email joanpcarson@comcast.net.

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