Is it possible that Australia's Powerful Owls (Ninox strenua), are fans of The Simpsons?
We ask this intellectually-stimulating question because folk monitoring a Sydney family of the owls have just taken an incredible series of photographs of a juvenile owl playing with, chewing on and shredding a pair of shorts. Were the shorts hunted and whisked away from someone's clothes line? The pictures have reminded an online visitor to the images of Bart Simpson's iconic challenge "Eat my shorts!"
The pictures have to be seen to be believed and you can see them (they include a graphic picture of the dramatically shredded shorts after the owl has tired of them as a toy) via the Birds In Backyards website. http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/forum/Powerful-Owl-juvenile-catches-and-eats-pair-shorts
Meanwhile our own celebrity Powl, the Powerful Owl of Turner, is getting on with more orthodox hunting and eating. John Bundock's recent picture shows it warning Bundock, with its wild eyes, not to try and share its meal of a young Crimson Rosella.
And there is new proof of just how unflappably ensconced the famous Canberran is in Canberra's suburbia in and around Haig Park.
One of the great fowl's devotees and monitors, a member of the Canberra Ornithologists Group, reported to COG that "At about 8am this morning [earlier this month] a very large branch of a pin oak tree [next to the pin oak favoured by the Powl] broke off and dropped all over the power lines resulting in restricted power supplies for North Canberra all day. The whole area was been cordoned off, with noisy use of heavy machinery, wood chippers, cranes and chainsaws etc plus many other vehicles and workers in attendance."
"How is Turner [the Powl], you may well inquire [for surely there were fears this commotion might scare it away]? I was unable to obtain access because of the work going on. But about 4pm I was able to speak to a supervisor who, on making enquiries, discovered that workmen had clearly observed [the owl] high in [the next] pin oak, glaring down at them and seemingly taking a keen interest in all activities."
Meanwhile, scarcely a kilometre away (as an owl flies), the already cosmopolitan campus of the Australian National University has suddenly been further cosmopolitanised by the appearance there of a dashingly gorgeous yurt (pictured).
The gift of the Mongolian Embassy (the Ambassador himself, His Excellency Mr Chuluunhuu Batlai, helped with last Sunday's fiendishly complex erection of it) it decorates and transforms the HC Coombs Lawn, just across the road from the Chancellery.
The erection of it (and yurt-erecting is traditionally the work of men) needed the Mongolian expertise of someone like His Excellency because the traditional yurt has no screws and nails. Its joints are all held together with ropes and cow hides. At the yurt's elaborate erection His Excellency, who was born in a yurt, taught yurt novices the traditional knots involved.
Professor Veronica Taylor, Dean of the ANU's College of Asia and the Pacific explains to us that with Mongolian Studies under way at the ANU the Mongolian Embassy asked "How can we support you?'' The college wondered if it could possibly have a yurt, yurts being so very distinctively Mongolian.
The Mongolians responded generously, constructing in Mongolia for eventual shipment to Australia what Professor Taylor emphasises is an especially grand and beautiful yurt and "a showcase for Mongolian culture".
She says that the yurt will be a "pop up" feature of the campus, popping up for events like Orientation Week and other special occasions. It will pop up, too, as an "exciting place for teaching and learning" in which to teach Mongolian subjects, including languages, because it is a perfect "in the round" classroom.
Not that popping it up can be done in an instant. It is a challenge for the men who must pop it up. Professor Taylor asks us to remember occasions when we have struggled to put up a chunky family tent at a camping ground and to imagine that struggle multiplied by 10.
Let us hope the students who go to classes in the yurt will not be too bedazzled by their surroundings to pay attention to lessons. Professor Taylor rhapsodises about the sheer beauty of the yurt, the hand-carved features and the way in which "the inside lining of golden silk" gives a "golden glow" when the roof is opened to allow sunlight in.
But Professor Taylor emphasises that for all its special splendour this yurt has all of the noble qualities, including extremely sophisticated weatherproofness (even a clever adaptability to flooding), utter windproofery and the sheer portability when dismantled that has always made the traditional knockabout yurt so wondrous a creation.
There is an official opening of the palatial (but portable) yurt, in the presence of a galaxy of dignitaries including the Ambassador and ANU Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt, at 9am on Thursday.