Friday, May 23, 2014


     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.


Home on the Range said...

How fortunate you are to have shared some space with them. They're such beautiful creatures.

Stuart the Viking said...

I once saw someone in a "YOLO (You Obviously Love Owls)" tee shirt that gave me a tickle. This reminded me of that.


Bob said...

True story: I used to volunteer at the local raptor rehabilitation center, and one of the non-releasable male barred owls had a romantic fixation with one of the women on staff, and would perk up and hoot at her whenever he saw her. This was very endearing and the staff girl loved the owlish attention. This went on until, on a field trip to a college to do a raptor awareness program, the owl (named Dumbo) started paying court to a blonde co-ed with The staff girl was less than enthused about this development, as you might expect.

Enjoy your owls! You should plan a trip to a raptor rehab center for even closer looks at these marvelous birds.

SJ said...

Owls, near where you live.

Who would have thought it?

(I'm sure the owl would echo me... 'Hoo-oo' would have thought it?)



Joe said...

Check your mail slot -- you probably have a letter from Hogwarts.

Old NFO said...

They ARE amazingly quiet... The quietest of all birds in flight.

Educated Savage said...

I thought I was the quietest thing in the woods until one flew over my head and perched in a tree without my ever hearing it. You don't hear them fly unless they want you to. I like 'em.

Ed Skinner said...

What Joe said - good one!

I had a coupke of fust-size Screech Owls sound off near me once. I shiver at the remembered unholyness of it.

Roberta X said...

Barn Owls sing their own song and it sounds quite exotic -- tropical, even. Plus they will hiss and click if you get too near their home, bobbing and weaving all the while. Another name for them is "Goblin Owl" and a group of them in full warn-off mode makes me think of Tolkein's orcs in The Hobbit.

ROger said...

Way back in the stone age I drove wrecker overnight. The road home passed multiple old barns. For reasons known only to the owls, the wrecker appeared to be a valid target.

If you want to make sure you don't fall asleep, have a barn owl bounce off the windshield in full wing-spread at 1 in the morning.

This happened dozens of times. Never found a body on the road.


Mark Philip Alger said...

There's a magic at that hour you don't get in any of the other twenty-odd. Back when I could, I'd get up at 5:30-ish and go for a walk/run up on millionaire's row up top the hill. Owls were always about. They hunted the golf course at Cincinnati Country Club. Also encountered deer, foxen, and other assorted and somewhat startling-to-encounter wildlife in an inner ring suburb.