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ASK OTUS Otus Rufous, an Eastern Screech-Owl, was born on Siesta Key and is a full-time resident there. An avid hunter, accomplished vocalist and genuine night owl, Otus is a keen observer of our local wildlife and knows many of nature's secrets. Otus will answer your questions about our amazing wildlife, but only if you Ask Otus. So please send your questions and photos to Thank you. TALK OF A MYSTERY BIRD ON SIESTA LEADS TO SOME SLEUTHING Dear Readers, As you know, there is nothing I enjoy more than a fine mystery or a good game. Guessing games are among my favorites, although I do wish it were "Two Hundred Questions" rather than a mere 20. Even with a photo, bird identifications can be a bit tricky; without a photo, quite challenging. Over the past few weeks, while dozing on my bowered oak branch, I have overheard descriptions of yet another never-before-seen bird species on Siesta Key. I shall begin my research with the blue beak. A couple of weeks ago, I nearly made a feathered onager of myself in mistaking our Florida Wood Stork for the roc, that fabled bird of the Arabian Nights. I am not making that mistake again! I have narrowed this one down to the fabulous phoenix. In Greek mythology, a phoenix is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. Associated with the sun (meaning this bird is diurnal), a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor (probably a species of grilled chicken, as in poulet rôti, genus Purdue). If you look carefully at the photo of the Phoenix I have included, so precisely detailed and beautifully illustrated by Friedrich Johann Justin Bertuch (1747-1822) for Bilderbuch für Kinder, the first thing that leaps out at you is its blue beak. The second is the ground on which it stands, i.e., a shoreline, or possibly Siesta Key's Point of Rocks. Third, you can see the flames rising from the gas BBQ grills behind the bird. QED, a Phoenix! I ran this well-researched identification past the Sarasota Audubon Society and received the followThis is a scene that is still playing itself out: ing response: "Dear Otus, Guess again!" fisherfolk and picnic-goers — both adults and children — all wondering aloud what blue- Well, it is back to the drawing board, and once beaked bird seen in the inlets at the bay, on again I would like to give readers a few tips the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and at frog on how to proceed in identifying a bird so I ponds could possibly be more beautiful than do not have to. Essentially, quoting Sherlock Homes, "Eliminate the impossible and deteran Eastern Screech-owl (That's me!). It all began with two women walking back from the picnic and BBQ area by the bay's inlet saying, "Have you ever seen such a beautiful bird?" Well, flattery gets me every time and everywhere, particularly in my feathers, which all fluff up to the point where I could be mistaken for a Great-horned Owl! Then, I heard, "I've never seen a bird with a blue beak before." I quickly checked my reflection in a nearby window and intently as I peered at it, sadly, I could find no traces of blue.

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