Emma speaks Owlish

Toronto, 2013.10.12

We've been trying to encourage Emma to speak using actual words. She's quite capable, and has a vocabulary that even includes "elbow" (soon she'll be eclipsing a certain former US President). But she doesn't use her words, and merely grunts and points. And shrieks. She shrieks for every purpose: sad, happy, hungry, delighted, amused, playful, hungry, angry, questioning, demanding, startled, hungry, and—frequently—hungry.

Today we broke the code. When visiting a bird of prey display at the Wye marsh conservation area near Midland, she saw a long semi-open cage affair with a variety of owls on stands. She pointed and, of course, shrieked.

The owls, of various sizes and breeds, and some previously appearing to sleep, all turned to her as one. They regarded her for a second, and shrieked the same way in response.

So now we know.

Meanwhile, Ken and Mari had a different experience with the birds. Inside one of the indoor cages was a "Bespectacled" owl. It took particular interest in little Ken, and began bobbing its head and making strange sounds (should have asked Emma for a translation). Then it started to advance on its platform. Ken grew fearful, and I took him on to the next cage leaving the thing to hoot and whirtle to itself. The next cage had a peacefully dozing barn own in it, and we looked at that for a while. Then we had to pass the Bespectacled bird again, and it squawked at us as we passed. Turning, I saw that it had silently left its platform and was on another immediately next to the chicken wire that separated us from it. That was enough for Ken, and we left.

Mari was just heading in with Emma, and also found that bird unnerving. It's not a particularly large owl (they did have a Eurasian Eagle Owl there, which is huge and looks like it could plausibly left Emma) but it made an impression.

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