Artist Elizabeth Romanini never intended for the barn owls living in the field of her Aptos home to become overnight superstars, but such is the fleeting nature of fame and opportunity.
It seems the owls’ current moment in the spotlight came courtesy COVID-19 stay-at-home orders which, have left most people stuck at home.
A couple years back Romanini, a wildlife artist, set-up a live streaming camera inside her homemade owl box to keep an eye on her feathered visitor’s activities. She recently discovered she wasn’t the only interested in their comings and goings, as neighbors began tuning into the livestream. Not only that, but she learned some were using it as an educational resource for their homebound kids.
“Some people have been using it since they’re homeschooling their children due to the COVID-19,” Romanini said. “They’ve been sort of using it as an educational tool teaching them about the cycle of life, which I think is really wonderful.”
Romanini originally erected the owl box several years ago as her Aptos neighborhood grappled with a rodent problem. Instead of poisons, Romanini hatched the idea of attracting owls to the area to take care of the pest control. Within a short time of installing the box, it attracted its first residents. A year ago, that owl hatched five owlets.
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It seems in the current stay-at-home saga, the sight of an owl mostly just sitting in one place is serving as an escape for people hunkered down in their living rooms.
"We really look forward to checking on the owl activities a few times a day,” said Santa Cruz neighbor Brian Brinkerhoff. “It's our calming spot and makes us feel good about the world in a small way."
Romanini said the box currently has five more eggs due to hatch at the end of the month, ensuring plenty more people will be tuning in.
“This is not something we set out to affect so many people,” Romanini said. “But it’s wonderful that it has.”
View the livestream here.