Thursday, September 7, 2006

A Three-Owl Night

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Last night, as the full moon cast an icing of silver light across the meadow, and the cardinals let the day's final chip notes loose from the honeysuckle tangle, the birds of the night-shift took over.

First to perform was an eastern screech-owl, its frail whinny wafting from somewhere along the edge of the woods below the house. Its long, monotone tremolo note was nearly lost amidst the insect noises that are the soundtrack to these autumn evenings--tree and field crickets, tree, meadow, and oblong-winged katydids, and countless others.

About an hour after it was completely dark, the barred owls bark-hooted from the western slope of our wooded valley. These birds are our most regularly heard owls which is not surprising given the species' well-known tendency to inquire almost nightly (and sometimes even during the day) about who is doing the cooking for us. First the male called, then the female, slightly higher in pitch. Perhaps he was calling her to check on how the kids were doing--a few weeks ago we heard the rasping, food-begging calls of hungry young barred owls. No doubt they were branching out, having fledged from the nest cavity, and were making it easier for their parents to relocate them at feeding time.

Then, just as I was drifting off to the Land of the Sandman, I heard the big daddy of our owls--the great horned owl. But this one did not possess the booming basso-profundo voice I've heard in deep winter here at the farm. Instead, it was higher-pitched and a bit unstable--maybe a bird of the year trying out its hooting chops? The pattern was totally GHO, but the quality of the call reminded me of Peter Brady trying to sing "Time to Change" on that cheezy episode of The Brady Bunch where, in the manic throes of puberty, his voice cracked and squeaked.

A three-owl night. Somehow perfectly complete, with a full moon and a gentle, slightly chilly breeze carrying the owls' messages far and wide, along with our dreams.


On September 7, 2006 at 1:10 PM Rondeau Ric said...

I enjoy your writing.

On September 7, 2006 at 1:33 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Thanks Ric. And I always appreciate your comments (and invites to Rondeau).

On September 7, 2006 at 6:22 PM Anonymous said...

good stuff, I am blessed to live near one of north americas best owl watching spots, amherst island, where I have had a 6 owl day, however we didnt see or hear any of those 3 that you got.

On September 7, 2006 at 9:57 PM Susan Gets Native said...

Neat photo of the moon...I wasn't so successful last night or tonight.
Thanks for the words on owls. Tomorrow night, I have a Four Owl Night planned with a program at the nature center called "Planning for Night" and I will be taking our gray and red screech owls, our barred owl and GHO.
Your post got me in the mood to do some more studying.

On September 7, 2006 at 10:46 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

Shivery and delicious.

On September 7, 2006 at 10:52 PM LauraHinNJ said...

Best I can hope for is a two-owl night - no Barred Owls nearby.

On September 8, 2006 at 10:07 AM Anonymous said...

Hi Bill,
First time poster here. I absolutely love reading yours and Julie's blog! Living right on the border of Washington, DC, we don't get too many owls here but I do live in a "Tree City, USA" which means we have a lot of old woods still around. I've heard screech owls and this spring heard a distant hoot that I couldn't identify. I went online and listened to every owl I could imagine and when I clicked on the Great Grey Owl, that was the exact sound I heard!! I still can't believe it would be this far south, I heard it in March and April but not since then. Something also interesting,I was listening to the owls you marked in your blog and had the sound up high last night. My indoor cats all woke up in alarm and ran away to my bedroom! I never thought cats would think of owls as predators. Thanks for a great post.

Takoma Park, MD

On September 5, 2008 at 11:42 AM richard said...
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