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Archive for 'owls'

Owls ~ The Research and Maori Lore

For the last year, I’ve been obsessed with owls. I have no idea why, except that I like their cute faces and huge eyes.

Owl

Photo by Rúben Marques on Unsplash

My current work-in-progress is Black Moon Dragon. I was writing away, and suddenly, an owl appeared. Since this dragon romance is set in New Zealand, the owl was a ruru or morepork as they are more commonly known. An owl made an appearance in Journey with Joe (this was a pink owl) and I also wrote one into Stranded with Ella. None of this was conscious, but I clearly have owls on the brain!

In Maori mythology, the owl is a bird of the Underworld. The Maoris thought this because the morepork is a nocturnal bird, it has big, round eyes, and is a silent hunter.

Before the arrival of the white man in New Zealand, the Maori considered the arrival of the ruru a bad omen—a sign of death. They dreaded its powers and the people thought the bird was connected with witchcraft or makutu. Rumor said the ruru ate dead men’s fingernails and these became part of the owl’s eyes, which is why no one ever ate an eye.

The Taranaki Maori used to eat owls, thinking that by eating the birds they would prolong their lives. They did not eat the eyes. The Maoris in other areas considered eating owls distasteful.

While some tribes thought the bird a bad omen, others considered the appearance of an owl a family protector. They could protect, warn, help and advise on important matters.

One last thing about the owl—the first Maoris viewed the owl’s big, round eyes and adopted this wide-eyed look for their hakas (war dance or challenge).

While visiting England, my husband and I had a chance to fly owls, and we held a morepork. They are a small owl, much smaller than I’d realized. It was a rare privilege since although we often hear the owls call, they are seldom seen. Read about our visit to the Exmoor Owl and Hawk Center.

A morepork’s call is very distinctive. Early European settlers thought the birds where calling More pork. More pork, hence the owl’s common name.

Source: Maori Bird Lore by Murdoch Riley

Shelley and a Morepork (New Zealand owl)

This is a photo of me holding a morepork (ruru) during our Exmoor visit.

A Visit to the Exmoor Owl and Hawk Centre, England #travel

I’ve always been a big reader. Although I read primarily for entertainment, I learn all sorts of random facts and pieces of trivia. The moment I read historical romances featuring falconry, I was fascinated.

I’ve never mentioned my fascination to anyone, but when we were planning our recent trip to Britain, I decided I’d do some research. I was delighted to discover the Exmoor Owl & Hawk Centre, which not only offered the chance to fly birds but bed and breakfast accommodation too.

The Exmoor Owl and Hawk Centre is situated in a beautiful part of the world, in the Exmoor National Park and not far from the small village of Portlock.

Exmoor Bed and Breakfast

According to their website, the some of the buildings date back to medieval times. It was certainly a beautiful spot and very peaceful.

Bedroom at Bed and Breakfast

This was our bedroom, which was very comfortable. The breakfast the next morning was delicious and set us up for the morning of owl and hawk flying.

Hubby and Owl

We were given gauntlets plus a pouch full of chicken wings/legs to feed the birds as a reward when they flew to us. You can tell by Mr. Munro’s expression that he was enthralled with the birds. I was too, and would repeat the experience in a heartbeat. This little fellow was beginning to molt, which is why his feathers look a bit ruffled.

Hubby and Barn Owl

This is a barn owl. He was very pretty, but not very cooperative. Not long after this photo, he flew up into the rafters and refused to return to either of us.

Barn Owl

A close-up. Isn’t he handsome?

Shelley and Hawk

We moved outside and flew this hawk. I thought the birds would be heavy, but it was easy to hold their weight.

The owner of the center answered all our questions, and when he learned we were from New Zealand, he told us about his New Zealand owls. We have only one, commonly called a morepork. Mr Munro and I have seen one when we visited Little Barrier Island, but most New Zealanders have never seen one, although we often hear them call at night. We were allowed to have photos with the morepork or Ruru.

Hubby and Morepork

They’re quite a small owl. I’d call them cute.

Shelley and Morepork

Exmoor Countryside

This is a photo of the narrow country lanes and the beautiful countryside. If you’re ever in the Exmoor area I highly recommend a visit to the Exmoor Owl and Hawk Centre. It was a holiday highlight, and a true bucket list experience.