Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Voices in the dark

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


mon@rch said...

Love the screech owl poem! Finding the Great Horned Owl nest is as simple as following the upset crows! They can be found in an old hawk, squirrel or even crows nest. Screech owls can be found in a hole in a tree!! In the morning, many times you can find them peaking outside the hole!

Mary said...

I lean on my front porch rail late and night and can hear owls - I don't the sounds of each species, but I know they're owls out there. It would be a gift to see one. That's a great poem in their honor. But your commentary is better :o)

Susan Gets Native said...

Julie used that same poem in her talk at the Owl Symposium!

I was just outside, playing Barred Owl calls, hoping to get a response, but no luck.

Your GHO's: They may be doing territory calls, but if they nested early, it may be the male and female calling to each other while hunting. If the nestlings are at least 6 weeks old, they can be left in the nest, unbrooded, while the parents hunt. Or the female is incubating and talking to her honey.
Either way, it's cool as all get out to hear them, isn't it?

Cathy said...

Laura I'd not seen that Kooser poem and it's wonderful. Thanks for sharing it. How lucky you are to hear owls. It's magical. My closest encounter with a Screech Owl was the one that swooped over the dogs and me on a winter evening as it chased a Bluejay from it's night time roost.

Dave said...

Love those owls!

Floridacracker said...

Here, it's barred owls that I see and hear most.
Love having them around.

vicki said...

Owls are my favorites and I get very excited and pleased every time I hear one. We had an owl box in the woods at Wit's End and a pair of barred owls used it. I always thought it would be fun to set up a camera but I always ended up leaving well enough alone.

Redtails in Love was a wonderful book so I thank you for that link.

As for Spring- I was home in Chicago this past weekend and my daffodils planted last fall were up about 4 inches, budded and...frozen. Grrrr. I think they came up during that unusually warm January and now what? The buds didn't seem mushy frozen so perhaps, with a warm spell, they might still bloom. It is a time of hope!

Jayne said...

I know they are out there somewhere too, but either I am not tuned into hearing them, or they are not close by enough for me to hear them. I'd love to see one.

dguzman said...

I know there are owls out in my area but I've never heard them. I want to!

I like the idea of them out there "keeping watch over the night." Nice image.

Lynne said...

The GHO's often hoot in the trees outside our bedroom window. I love waking to hear them at night. I've only ever seen one of them. Ghostly.

Larry said...

My wife woke me up to tell me that she heard some owls hooting-I went out at 4a.m. to find them and did see them flying off-Great-Horned-In general, I've seen very few owls outside of captivity.

Laurie said...

There is a stretch of road that I often travel for work. At just the right time of the night, you have to be very careful or you will run into an owl. I'm not sure what it is about that stretch of asphalt, but the owls sure love it.

sarala said...

I've never heard the owls. I'd love to. I love the Kooser poem. I have one of his books sitting by me now. It's the first of his I've read. He writes such great poems.