Before returning you to the Olympic scene here in Sochi, I have to show you four owl photographs. There were taken this past weekend by the renowned naturalist and writer Bernd Heinrich at his cabin in western Maine. Bernd, whose books include the delightful One Man's Owl, was generous enough to share them with his friends at The Naturalist's Notebook.
Here is Bernd's email description of what happened after he first saw the owl:
"I watched it for around 20 minutes, and it looked at me now and then—our eyes locked, but then again it was mostly interested in something on the ground. It seemed quite animated, and I talked to it and it was totally relaxed. But I could see it almost twitch with excitement every once in a while as it focused on something below. Suddenly it would lean over and partially spread its wings. Then it settled and relaxed, as I pressed against the window and took lots of pictures. I could see it was interested again and got my camera ready as it turned around the other way on the perch, bent over to look down again and—zoom—it dived down and onto the snow, and flew up with a shrew in its talons. It flew to the same old perch at the top of the birch by [another] cabin where I'd seen it before in the dark, and swallowed the shrew with a gulp. There were NO tracks of the short-tailed shrew in the snow where the owl got it. It got it through the loose snow there.
Thank you, Bernd!
While we're on the subject of wildlife—of which I still have noticed precious little in Sochi—here's one of the few birds I've seen. Can any of you identify it?
Now back to the Olympics...
Let's eat! This is a typical Olympic press center cafeteria dinner: dumplings—Russians make very good ones—and a beet salad. If you want atmosphere, or appetizing presentation, the cafeteria is not the place to go, but for journalists at the Olympics there is frequently no other option.
We have an unusual vending machine outside our office. It offers everything from croissants to Viennese waffles. Small rusks, anyone?
Yes, there are Russian Cheetos. Someone else in the SI office bought them. Really, I swear.
A few odds and ends from the last few days:
1) I know that many of you love plants, so, for the record, the flowers in those bouquets given to medalists on the podium immediately after events consist of goldenrod, laurel, eucalyptus and chrysanthemum.
2) We closed our second week of Sports Illustrated magazine coverage in the wee hours of Monday morning. Alas, Olympics did not make the cover, but this week they should.
A group of Russians protested the disallowed goal in their team's hockey loss to the U.S. by shredding bars of soap with cheese graters and yelling a traditional Russian sports chant that literally translates as, "Referee to soap!" The chant demands that an official who made an unpopular call —in this case an American referee—literally be boiled down and rendered into soap. And lest you think the Cold War is entirely over, a major Russian newspaper wrote, “An American referee and the puppet international federation deprived us of a deserved victory.”