Monday, November 26, 2012

Owls at Dusk and Dawn

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
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

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
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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