It was twilight. I was headed out to the garage to start a quick bike ride when one glided by over my head and flapped its wings twice: a huge, silent owl.
Tam and I have heard them, singing away near the Monon, strange, tropical sounds and the occasional ghostly screech. I'd never seen them until this one sailed overhead just as I opened the person-sized door to the garage and while I stared, fascinated, another shadowed me, wings out, steering, soundless.
They sailed across backyards and came to rest along the alley, dipping out of sight towards a tree. I watched them, amazed, and once they landed, reached in the garage and pushed the button to raise the big door, thinking, "I hope they don't leave."
I stepped back to mark again where they'd gone to roost, and another owl went by, dipping and climbing, finally spilling air and coming to rest on the Power & Light pole behind the house two doors north.
I got my bike out as quietly as I could and pedaled up the alley. The third owl was still on the crossarm of the power pole, making a fourth squat gray shape next to the three petticoated, gray insulators on it. A bit frowsy-looking, some feathers sticking out, it goggled solemnly down at me as I rode slowly past, both of us turning our heads to keep eye contact.
A few houses up the alley and on the other side, another owl sat on a tree branch, orbited by three or four small and furious songbirds it seemed to not bother to notice. Sleeker and maybe larger than the other one, it, too gave me the owlish eye, blinking slowly as if wondering what kind of creature I might be.
Never did spot the third but those two stayed in their spots for at least ten minutes, pivoting their heads to stare me right in the eye every time I rode up or down the alley, still trying to work out, in their slow owlish way, what manner of creature it was that moved atop a 36" wheel and stared at owls. On one lap, I stopped and told Tam through the window what was haunting our alley; she was suitably impressed.
Eventually, they owls moved on and so did I. They may be barn owls; they're about the right size and the sounds are a good match, though this would be early for them to be out, as the sun was on the horizon. Was this trio two adults and one recently-fledged juvenile? Maybe.
In any event: Owls. Wow.
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
11 months ago