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February 23rd 2010    Tim Candler

    Mr. Peterson, in the fifth edition of his Field Guide to the Birds of Central and Eastern North America, makes several references to the word "moth-like" in descriptions of some Owls.  The Short-eared Owl and the Barn Owl are apparently "moth-like."   No mention of this characteristic in the "puffy headed" Barred Owl.  And no mention of this characteristic in his description of the Northern Harrier.

    These past few days I have chased my understanding of  "moth-like."  I initially thought "moth-like" in Mr. Peterson's meaning of "moth-like" described flight pattern.  Now I suspect "moth-like" contains a more subjective vision.   It describes an understanding of presence in the way  the word "ghostly" might.      

    Nor would it be deference to Mr. Peterson were I to support the use of "moth-like" over the use of the word "ghostly".   Many others have seen moths as vehicles for a departed soul.   Fluttering onward toward other domains.   But in the movement of moths, I see a clumsy and tentative purpose more characteristic of the lost.   A determination to get nowhere rather than a sudden presence with intent.

     In the end I suspect, the word "ghostly" lacks the science favored by a common room of measurement.   And I guess a knock-kneed, monkey faced Barn Owl can manage the burden of "moth-like" if it has to.

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