One of the things I love about our little corner of the world
is that once the leaves come off the trees,
we can hear distant sounds that are less apparent otherwise.
I've mentioned before the blast of tugboat horns in the distance
as they push freight upriver
and the low whistle of a train as it traverses the night.
One thing I don't think I've mentioned before
is the sound of an owl at night fall.
Yesterday my husband heard an owl hooting
from one of the trees behind our house.
We were curious about exactly what species of owl it was,
so we consulted the website allaboutbirds.org
sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Here is the sound of the owl, which turned out to be the most common owl
in this part of the USA, the Great Horned Owl:
photo courtesy of morguefile.com
We also listened to the sound of the Eastern Screech Owl,
which is a pint-sized owl common to suburban areas and woodlands.
My husband said he hears this owl's call frequently
in the early morning, right before sunrise.
It's an odd call, one that sounds like what the Cornell Lab
describes as a "descending whinny":
I didn't realize until I read the descriptions in allaboutbirds.org
that songbirds and starlings will actually gang up on owls
in an attempt to drive them away.
The site says that when one hears a cacophony of blue jay shrieks, for example,
it may be a good sign that they are "mobbing" the owl.
And as well they should, I suppose,
since owls are known to eat the occasional songbird.
But primarily, they eat mice, which are loathsome creatures,
so I will have to forgive them their occasional choice of a feathered appetizer.
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