The great horned owls in the neighborhood have been hooting a lot in the past few weeks. It seems sort of late in the season for them to be so noisy, but I don't guess they have to worry about attracting unwanted attention if they're nesting.
Most years the majority of their hooting is done in December and January, but this year they've been pretty silent, other than the occasional volley from our black locust to one of the evergreens across the street in the cemetery. I've always thought this to be territorial hooting between rival males working out the boundaries of their home turfs, but really, it's all a mystery to me. That's the thing about owls; who knows what they're up to in the dark?
I would love to be able to find their nest or a nest of the screech owls I hear once in a while. I don't go out looking for nests exactly, but like to keep my eyes open to the possibility of one nearby. I'm sure it's there, hidden in the sheltering branches of a pine or in the crotch of an old oak somewhere in the neighborhood. It's enough, really, to hear them in the middle of my suburban neighborhood. I like just knowing they're out there keeping watch over the night as I sleep.
"All night each reedy whinny
from a bird no bigger than a heart
flies out of a tall black pine
and, in a breath, is taken away
by the stars. Yet, with small hope
from the center of darkness
it calls out again and again."
--Screech Owl by Ted Kooser