White Trash Repairs and Fixes – Owls and Rock ‘n Roll

[Plus Gregorian Chants, Chuck Wagon Gang Gospel, Navajo flute, Beethoven’s 9th, Mozart Horn Concertos, old-timey country, cowboy and hillbilly, bluegrass,  big band, folk, blues and songs of the Civil War, WWI and WWII thrown in for the discerning night predator]

Bear with me here.  This is a bit complex for a dumb old redneck to explain.

The problem:  If you’re a person trying to keep free ranging chickens some of them will insist on sleeping in the trees.  If you also keep guineas, all of those will nest in the trees.  The guineas tend to bunch up in several clumps in the treetops, and they whisper and burble to themselves or to one another in their dreaming.

Enter, the owl:

“An Owl’s range of audible sounds is not unlike that of humans, but an Owl’s hearing is much more acute at certain frequencies enabling it to hear even the slightest movement of their prey in leaves or undergrowth.

“Some Owl species have asymmetrically set ear openings (i.e. one ear is higher than the other) – in particular the strictly nocturnal species, such as the Barn Owl or the Tengmalm’s (Boreal) Owl. These species have a very pronounced facial disc, which acts like a “radar dish”, guiding sounds into the ear openings. The shape of the disc can be altered at will, using special facial muscles. Also, an Owl’s bill is pointed downward, increasing the surface area over which the soundwaves are collected by the facial disc. In 4 species (Ural, Great Gray, Boreal/Tengmalm’s & Saw-whet), the ear asymmetry is actually in the temporal parts of the skull, giving it a “lop-sided” appearance.

“An Owl uses these unique, sensitive ears to locate prey by listening for prey movements through ground cover such as leaves, foliage, or even snow. When a noise is heard, the Owl is able to tell its direction because of the minute time difference in which the sound is perceived in the left and right ear – for example, if the sound was to the left of the Owl, the left ear would hear it before the right ear. The Owl then turns it’s head so the sound arrives at both ears simultaneously – then it knows the prey is right in front of it. Owls can detect a left/right time difference of about 0.00003 seconds (30 millionths of a second!)

“An Owl can also tell if the sound is higher or lower by using the asymmetrical or uneven Ear openings. In a Barn Owl, the left ear left opening is higher than the right – so a sound coming from below the Owl’s line of sight will be louder in the right ear.

“The translation of left, right, up and down signals are combined instantly in the Owl’s brain, and create a mental image of the space where the sound source is located. Studies of Owl brains have revealed that the medulla (the area in the brain associated with hearing) is much more complex than in other birds. A Barn Owl’s medulla is estimated to have at least 95,000 neurons – three times as many as a Crow.

“Once the Owl has determined the direction of its next victim, it will fly toward it, keeping its head in line with the direction of the last sound the prey made. If the prey moves, the Owl is able to make corrections mid flight. When about 60 cm (24″) from the prey, the Owl will bring its feet forward and spread its talons in an oval pattern, and, just before striking, will thrust it’s legs out in front of it’s face and often close it’s eyes before the kill. Click here to see a Great Gray Owl using it’s hearing to catch a small rodent concealed under snow.”


Got all that?  The feathered cones or funnels around the eyes of the owl act as parabolic sound receivers.  They work in concert using parallax to locate the positions of prey.

In a sense it works similarly to an array of electron telescopes  positioned some distance apart to provide parallax to measure the distance from earth to celestial objects.

Or the way this vintage pocket range finder used parallax to accurately provide distance for photographers:

Okay.  So how’s a poor old redneck who has guineas sleeping in the trees being picked off by owls carrying secret weapons, a guy who has four cats he needs to consult regularly on important matters, a man with a herd of free ranging chickens supposed to curtail such nonsense?

Answer:  Echoes.  Noise reflected from all directions 24/7.

I began by looking for castoff disk harrow blades, woks, pot lids and parabolic tv dishes and placed them in strategic locations around the place.

At the time my CD player would only take five CDs, so until the player wore out it was Gregorian Chants, Mozart Horn Concertos and Carlos Nakai Canyon Suite [Navajo flute] here day and night, outdoors maximum volume.  But by the time that player went Communist,  months had passed and I hadn’t lost any more guineas at night.

So there I was knowing how to keep the owls somewhere else, owning a couple of hundred CDs, but cats, chickens, guineas all mutually agreed on one point:  it was time to broaden my horizons music-wise.  Even the coyotes were sick of Mozart and the cats were beginning to open confessional booths for the chickens.

Enter the Coincidence Coordinators:

A lady on the Kerrville FreeCycle Yahoo group advertised she’d like to give away a Sony 200 CD disk player because she was using an MP3 or some such thing for her music.  I called her and made a special trip to town to pick it up, swing by the Habitat for Humanity Recycling Store to buy an old receiver and a pair of speakers large enough to wiggle the ears of the deer population.

Eventually that player wore out.  But as luck would have it, I found a 300 CD player at the Salvation Army Thrift Store and a willingness on the part of the guy at the counter to do some horse trading, which I’ll describe another time, that horse trading in thrift stores. http://tinyurl.com/3t4ums9

Yeah, it ain’t the way the smart alecs save their chickens from predation by owls – I don’t know how they do it.  But this old white trash redneck fixed them owls but good and the chickens and cats are in Rock and Roll Heaven.

Old Jules

 Rock and Roll Heaven by the Righteous Brothers

24 responses to “White Trash Repairs and Fixes – Owls and Rock ‘n Roll

  1. That’s good stuff Jules it really is. Put those feet back up and take a rest.
    Have a good one.

  2. Thanks amigo. You also. J

  3. Jules, perhaps some blues from H “owl” in Wolf might be appropros. This is a great post.

    • Hi Cletis: The chickens and cats love old H owlin’ Wolf, but he has to wait his turn behind Robert Johnson and Leadbelly. Thanks for providing me with a laugh this am and thanks for stopping in. Gracias, J

    • Thanks Momlady. I’m actually sort of proud of it. I didn’t think of it myself except for the owls part, though. There’s a demonstration at the Very Large Array of electron telescopes in the desert near Datil, New Mexico. They have two parabolic dishes set up facing one another 150 yards apart with chairs in front of them so people can sit and whisper conversations to one another from 150 yards to demonstrate reflected sound. I just applied it to the owl situation. Gracias, J

  4. What a great post. Humorous, very, and informative. Chickens and cats in rock and roll heaven, indeed. Who says America has lost its ability to be innovative? Its alive and well in Texas hill country.

    • Hi Teresa Evangeline. I appreciate you coming by. Mother of invention is still necessity, thinks I. Sometime maybe I’ll tell how I use mirrors spotted all over the place to run off the hawks. Gracias, J

  5. Jules, that’s some great info. I’m surprised an owl can find anything around there as is without music though. With all the reflected and distorted sound from all the dishes it seems to me that the sound bouncing off of the dishes would confuse the heck out of them?

    • Morning tffnguy. Thanks for coming by. I went a while without the music [bit of a relief, to be completely candid] thinking what you’re saying might be the case. When the first Sony 200 CD player went out and before I found the 300 CD player there was a time lapse of a couple of months and I thought maybe the dishes would reflect enough of the white noise of breeze in the trees and whatnot. Turned out not to be the case. In a month the owls were hooting at one another three nights out of five.

      But I do think I’m probably putting out more decibals than is necessary. I appreciate you, love your blog. Gracias, J

  6. A scrappy collection of redneck tacknology you’ve gathered up there, Jules. And as far as your own amusement goes, the tackier the better, I suppose.

    But step back a moment from the myopia of engine-earing. Have you considered collateral damage? A bad side effect for me would be that any music I played 24/7 – any music – would soon turn into mere racket. And it wouldn’t take long, either.

    Sounds like a sure path to a tin ear.

    Music is one of the mainstays of my life. But only as a refuge. When I’m outside, I much prefer the sounds of silence, even if it should occasionally mean the sacrifice of a guinea or two. Feathers and guts well spent, I say.

    I suppose it helps if you live alone. At least then, when you reach the personal limits of tacknology, you can chuck it. But all the poor birds can do is call fowl. Eventually they may even pray, in their clucking way, for the Blessed Peace of the dread LORD *WL.

    Note that, as with YHWH, I dare not put the vowel in *WL. DEATH FROM ABOVE. I say no more.


  7. I’m impressed with your outside-the-coop thinking.

    I’m afraid that after one 24-hour cycle of endless music, I would be tracking and eating the chickens myself. If I can’t persuade Annie to turn off a motor or two around here for five minutes, I start looking around at the cats with crazy-eyes.

  8. I am not immune to the siren call of aggie engineering. I was going to suggest deer whistles or something like them, but as it turns out the hearing range of *wls lies well within that of humans.


    So anything that annoys *wls is apt to annoy humans even more. Chickens too. Dern.

    Have you considered draping surplus mosquito netting or some such barrier around the guineas’ favorite roosting spot?

    Bob, the fixit guy.

    • Hi Bob: Mosquito netting’s too fragile. The trees would rip it apart in no time. Same with nylon fish netting. Lots of force behind those limbs moving in a breeze. But both are also expensive.

      During the Y2K time in New Mexico the chickens and guineas all roosted in the trees during the summer, so I did a lot of thinking about what might work. Considered trying construction chicken-wire, but the problems of putting it up didn’t balance with the risk it wouldn’t work, but having it there afterward as an expensive experiment that didn’t do what it was intended to do. But by the time I arrived here I’d had several years to consider the problem.

      I’ve tried using a strobe to keep the ‘coons and ‘possum from coming around, but the strobe was a thrift store item and burned out. Seemed while it was working that it might be keeping them away, though, and when I find another strobe I’ll give it another try.

      Sounds as though you’re the kind of fixit guy who goes to town and buys whatever’s needed new and throws away the old one, which I admire. Keeps things tidy. I admire tidy.

      The music evidently doesn’t bother the predators, other than the owls. Doesn’t keep a deer from coming onto the deck porch or dropping a fawn underneath it. Doesn’t keep me from killing a dozen coons a month off the porch nights. My nearest neighbor is over the hills and through 1/2 mile of woods.

      So I reckons if it bothers the chickens and cats I’ll be obliged to get rid of them and start keeping deer and predators.

      Thanks for the suggestion. I like my music any way I decide I like it, so I’m blessed to be able to change it if it gets bothering me.
      Gracias, J

  9. I admit to being bugged by noise more than most folks appear to be. Smells, too. And thus crowds, which come with plenty of both. Crowds start at 5 people. Less if there are pets.

    I think Mother Nature has improvidently neglected a necessary cutoff switch in defense of the more intimate senses. The way eyelids serve sight.

    Perhaps she’s working on it.

    The real conflict here is that I insist on being able to hear myself think, and impute that need to others, even animals. Hell, even trees. I was once camped in a place where I felt sorry for the pines, which rained needles down around a neighbor’s unmufflered generator.


    In an increasingly crowded world, perhaps the ultimate solution is for people like me – who like it quiet – to just die out. Mother Nature may be working on that too. The bitch.


    • There’s a place for both, Bob. I’ve spent enough time in my own company in quiet settings a long way from people to know whatever I need to know about it and to need it when I need it, know how to recognize the need for it, know how to fill the need. I don’t have to trouble myself wanting it as an ideal, as something sacred. It’s too available to me for that, too easy.

      As for people, I’ve gone months over the past 20 years without seeing any and a lot more without seeing more than four or five. I usually go two weeks without seeing another human being since I’ve been living here. I haven’t discovered yet how long I can go without wanting to see one.

      Dying out isn’t necessary if you don’t want to hear any noise but the sounds of nature, don’t want to see anyone. You’re rich Bob. Got a fireman retirement. You can go anywhere you want to and live any way you want to. You can do it in the lap of luxury the way the RVers among your friends do. So I reckons you must enjoy the way you’ve chosen to live, same as I enjoy the way I’ve chosen to live. Otherwise you’d make a different choice and spend your money some other way, and I’d make a different choice and beat a hole in however it needed doing.

  10. Lol. Well, you picked up on the whiny self-indulgence. What I was aiming for was an impressive air of stoic fortitude in the face of adversity. Dang.

    I’m gonna have to get me some chickens.


  11. Yeah Bob. And I guess I’d have to start listening to talk radio. Then each of us could communicate in ways the other could understand.


  12. Don’t mind me. I get carried away. Proceed on. You are doing just fine. Trojan work.

    Bob, who can’t abide talk radio.

  13. Pingback: Upside Down Thrift Store Horse Trading | So Far From Heaven

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