The owl

barred owl
No, I didn't take this picture—I wish! This is an image released by "terren in Virginia"; under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

Every once in a while, we hear an owl in our neighbourhood, but this spring we’ve also been seeing it. Most of the sightings have been just as dusk is approaching or after dawn has arrived, and the light’s been good. Yesterday we found castings in our yard—bits of bone and what looked frighteningly like undigested mouse feet.

The current giveaway for the owl’s presence is the scolding from the other birds in the area: this isn’t just one bird fussing, this is concerted and determined.

Today, for the second time this week, fussing started about 5:30 am, close to the bedroom. I crawled out of bed to see what I could see—and what I saw was an owl, parked on a limb at eye level about 15 feet from where I was standing. I got my binos and was able to confirm fine details despite blurry 5-am vision: yes, barred owl, Strix varia. The dark eyes are quite distinctive.

After a few minutes the owl drifted away. Sleep was gone, so I got up and started coffee. The fussing started again, so I took the binos and went outside. The owl was on a snag across the pond. A hysterical red-winged blackbird was beyond fussing, it was quite aggressively attacking the owl, it kept swooping down and smacking it on its back. I guess they must have a nest in the area. The owl didn’t seem overly disturbed, it just hunched its shoulders and then, to prove its contempt, started grooming its breast feathers.

It made getting up at 5:30 seem worthwhile after all.


4 thoughts on “The owl

  1. Goodness! What a sight that must have been. Those barred owls have startled me many times when they have swooped down over us in the woods. Beautiful creatures. I hope they don’t wake me at 5:30 am, though, because that would be a Certifiably Bad Thing.

  2. Yes, they really are beautiful—and silent. I remember years ago going for a walk with a friend at dusk in new-mown hayfields in Alberta. A couple of owls started following us, watching to see if we put up mice, I imagine. At the start they swooped past very close (from behind so we didn’t see them coming) and we shot about a foot in the air in startlement. One gets used to the noise made by the wings of other birds, so the silence of owls in flight is very disconcerting.

    (I agree with the Certifiably Bad Thing—once was okay but quite enough, thank you!)

  3. I had a similar experience with an owl though it was out in the woods and not at
    5:30 in the morning but just as amazing at least to me. The woods are usually fairly quite if there are not any other people or dogs about so when I heard a great deal of bird chatter and not the singing have a n ice day kind but angry hysterical type, I was quit interested in the reason for all the fuss. After spending sometime looking I spotted an owl being harassed by a variety of different birds. What ever type of bird you could think of was attacking the owl and that even meant down to the tiniest of bird the humming bird. Well at any rate it was a sight to see and very interesting to see such comradeship among the wild birds. I’m guessing like you that they were protecting a birds nest. The part I found so amazing was like I said the comradeship of the different types of birds how they band together against the foe.

    1. What an amazing thing to see, Cher. I’ve seen birds mobbing hawks or eagles, but not owls before this. And not hummingbirds doing it!

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