That telltale hiss-whistle, a sound half whispered yet so insistent. Something easily ignored, yet once you hear it, it is everything.
Some of you might remember three years ago when I was lucky enough to spend some time with a family of barred owls in the wooded area near our house. The discovery of one barred owl led to the realization there was a pair, and finally the reveal that there were two adults and two owlets, fluffy bundles perched awkwardly in the trees issuing these begging calls to mom and dad.
Fast forward to now, where we live in a different (if adjacent) town, and I (now with dog) visit a different wooded area on my regular walks. We have been aware of a pair of barred owls that travel this creek corridor much like the other pair did, and spot one or the other on a semi-regular basis, especially when the light extends the evening well into “hunting” hours. At this time of year the songbirds help with spotting owls, their frantic alarm calls signalling a predator too close to a precious nest. But I haven’t noticed any sign of the owls having young themselves, until this week.
On a short wooded greenway that crests over a hill, separate but still nearly connected to the main park, that telltale noise broke through the other sounds I heard as the dog and I rambled along on our evening constitutional. We picked our way up a slender deer trail and there in a maple sat an owl. Nearly adult-size now, but still showing a bit of fluff around its head, which bobbed back and forth like someone asserting “oh no she didn’t”. My iPhone photo shows a dark shape amongst a halo of branches, weak proof at best.
Two days later in the same stretch of trees and there were two juveniles. One attempted to tell me off with a “who, who, who cooks for you all?” but it was much softer than an adult call and trailed off before finishing as the owlet flew further into the forest. Practice and it will come. Its sibling stayed near, allowing for the shots above with my telephoto lens.
Soon enough these not-so-littles will be off seeking out a territory to call their own, but I will continue to keep an eye for mom and pop who don’t migrate and make these woods their permanent home. Now that I have an idea where their nest is, I’ll be paying attention when late spring rolls around again, and listening for that urgent call.
Do you have barred or other owls where you live?