This is a story of love, love by a wildlife enthusiast for the Burrowing Owl.
Betty Gilbert is an artist and explorer of wildlife, having spent many years photographing birds on Sanibel Island, in Shark Valley and in the Everglades to incorporate into her artwork and stories.
Betty loves to rise before dawn each morning when it's peaceful and quiet, to prepare for a day of photographing or painting when the air is often filled with the aroma of an early shower, the croaking of frogs and the chirping of night creatures announcing the sunrise.
On her daily trip to retrieve the morning newspaper, Betty would sneak out to the paper box trying not to disturb the Burrowing Owl that often sat on the light post or the one eating his breakfast while perched on her mailbox, for if alarmed, these little owls would screech or hiss, generally making quite a fuss before flying off to the safety of their underground burrow.
Betty says, "One of these mornings, nature reached out and touched me in a special way. Ever since, it is quite easy for me to melt mentally and emotionally at the wondrous beauty and charm of these fascinating little owls that nest in the ground.
After ten years of observing, studying and photographing Burrowing Owls, the images of this lovely bird have been forever implanted into my mind and heart.
The Burrowing Owl
is now considered a "Species of Special Concern" and unless we take immediate action to protect it, this bird may be on its way to becoming endangered. Should it become extinct, our children and grandchildren may never know such a fascinating bird existed."
Betty Gilbert's wonderful children's book, Buffy the Burrowing Owl, is an endearing and educational look at the lives of the cuter-than-cute Burrowing Owls of Cape Coral, Florida. The informative text is brought to life with a wonderful collection of photographs and whimsical illustrations. Be sure to get a copy of this charming book for you little ones.
BIRDS AS ART
Readers will come away from this book with the certainty that like us, Burrowing Owls deserve a place to raise their kids, take naps in the sun, and squabble with their siblings over the tastiest parts of a frog. These endearing photos of Buffy the Burrowing Owl and his family are sure to make conservationists out of children and parents alike.
Julie Brashears Wraithmell
Wildlife Policy Coordinator
Audubon of Florida
Betty Gilbert's delightful story about South Florida's beloved pint-sized owls introduces her readers to one of her favorite birds. His name is Buffy, and through Gilbert's engaging narrative and remarkable photographs, we are given an intimate and fascinating peek into Buffy's family life. We watch as Buffy's parent's "decorate" their burrow to disguise it and protect it from predators. We look on as Buffy and his siblings venture out of the burrow for the first time. And we learn about what burrowing owls eat, as well as how they sleep, play, and stay clean. This is a book that will capture the imagination of children of all ages, but more important, it teaches young readers to appreciate and respect a species that has somehow managed to survive among humans in an urban environment as development continues to encroach on its natural habitat.
After many years as a wildlife biologist, studying animals, birds and their habitats, I retired and relocated to South Florida in 2003, never imagining that I would soon find myself a willing participant in a research study of Cape Coral's favorite feathered resident, the burrowing owl. Although the Fish and Wildlife study had already begun when I arrived on the scene, it wasn't long before I was totally caught up in the project. Each spring we banded a few hundred owls and also observed nesting productivity. From what I have learned over the years conducting research alongside other biologist, I can assure readers that Betty Gilbert's portrayal of a burrowing owl family's day-to-day life is informed and accurate.
A little history about Buffy, also known as C-3: Buffy was originally captured and banded at a nest on the corner of Country Club Blvd. and SE 35th Terrace in Cape Coral, Florida, on May 11, 2002, along with a sibling that was banded with a Red B-3. Buffy's sibling was recaptured on June 19, 2002. Buffy was later seen on August 13, 2002, but was not seen again after that date. As with most young owls, Buffy may have moved on somewhere to establish his own burrow. Buffy's parents were never captured or banded. Unfortunately, burrowing owls face many hazards in life and most don't live more than two or three years. Buffy's dad apparently passed away in the spring of 2005 and was replaced by a new male. This new male was originally captured as a youngster on May 2, 2004, at a burrow a few blocks south of Buffy's nest site and outfitted with a Blue band B-V. When Buffy's dad died, this male moved up to the burrow and was captured there on April 16, 2005. He was recaptured at that burrow in February 2006.
As I thought about that location, I remembered that recently a burrow on the very next street was flooded earlier this spring, 2008, and three owl chicks had to be rescued from the high water. Following the rescue, I had to put in a new burrow a little higher up from the swale area to protect the family from further floods. The pair of adult owls moved right in to their new home and are there today. Since Buffy's home was only a few hundred yards away, my wife and I decided to go see if Buffy's original home might still be on that corner. To our dismay a new house stood on the lot where Buffy was born and grew up. But as we drove up 35th Terrace, we noticed two new burrows are being used by descendants of Buffy's family. Owls stay in one burrow for life unless they are forced to build a new home somewhere else, and most owls that have to build somewhere do so nearby. We would like to think that it was Buffy's family we helped out during the heavy rains in April 2008, and that they and their offspring will continue to live in the neighborhood for years to come.
Wildlife Research Biologist