March 2019 SOLC–Day 13
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Part 1: Yesterday’s post was called The Day I Didn’t See An Owl.
Part 2: Ever since I didn’t see an owl, it seems like everyone else is seeing them. I’ve become convinced that if I just look hard enough, I’ll see one. So, I drive everywhere slightly erratically, peering into the trees, occasionally crossing the center line, but to no avail. There are no owls in sight. At least not for me.
Since the owl I didn’t see, Kurt has seen two or three more barred owls, and then last week, as he drove home, a horned owl swooped out of the night and landed on a snow bank by the road.
“I could see his yellow eyes!” he enthused.
Then, at morning meeting a student shared with the class, “You guys! It was so cool! There was a barred owl outside my window on Sunday. It stayed there for like an hour!”
On the regional birding site I follow on Facebook, people are posting pictures of barred owls daily. There have even been a couple of saw whet owls spotted.
Owl sightings are definitely up. At least for everyone except me.
Unfortunately, more of the story has emerged. Apparently, it’s been a very difficult year for owls to hunt. With all the back and forth freezing and thawing, the snowpack has become very dense. The owls can’t get through it to their preferred rodent diet. We’re seeing more of them because they’re starving, and they’re coming to scope out bird feeders and other likely hunting areas. People are now reporting finding dead or severely malnourished owls. They’re trying to figure out what to do to help, but there isn’t much. It breaks my heart.
This past weekend after looking at some recent owl-related posts, I said to Kurt, “You know, I almost don’t want to see an owl now. I’m afraid it would mean that it was starving.”
You guessed it.
Sitting at the table that afternoon, I glanced out the window, and there it was. A barred owl sitting in our birch tree above the bird feeders. Finally! After all my searching, it came straight to our house. And close, too! I couldn’t believe my eyes! I jumped up immediately, flapping wildly, barely able to speak in my excitement.
“An owl! It’s an owl! Kurt! There’s an owl! Kurt! Look! Right there in the tree! Oh my gosh! I can’t believe it! Look! There it is! A barred owl!”
I fluttered about for a few minutes, then grabbed my camera and flew to the window to take a few photos. And then a few more. And maybe just a few more.
Then we stood by the window together watching it through the falling snow. It was a gorgeous bird.
Kurt called softly to it a few times in his best barred owl call, “Hoo hoo ho hooooooo.”
I crooned to it. “Oh, you’re so beautiful!” and other sweet nothings along that line. I admired its feathers, its beak and its haunting, soulful eyes.
“It looks pretty healthy. Don’t you think?” I asked Kurt, seeking reassurance. “It’s alert and active, right?”
“Yeah,” he said, “I think so. In that one picture on-line the owl looked sort of slumped over, like it had its chin, if owls had chins, on its chest.”
I looked again. Our owl was definitely upright. No slump in sight.
Throughout the day, I watched and wondered and worried. When I wasn’t perched by the window, I’d glance frequently to check if the owl was still there. It remained for several hours, departed, and then returned again. I was entranced.
The how-to-help-an-owl consensus on-line was to sprinkle bird seed on the ground to attract rodents. Even though “our” owl looked fine, I determined to do my best. As night approached and the owl remained, I scattered generous handfuls of seed under the feeder. I never thought I’d be trying to attract rodents to my yard, but I guess I’ll do just about anything for an owl.
Shortly after nightfall, the owl left. I didn’t see it fly away. It was simply gone when I looked. It had left as silently as it arrived. There’s a spot in the birch tree that looks bare now. Owl shaped.
I’m hopeful that our owl was fine, and that the snow will soon thaw enough to improve its hunting. Its whole visit seems like a dream now, even though I have the pictures to prove it. But it’s true. I finally saw an owl.