June 11, 2007
For years, I've heard — and, rarely, seen — shadowy, large fowl in the woods between our house and Brainerd Road, without knowing their exact identities.
First came the call. Early one morning, about four years ago, I woke to the strangest bird call I had ever heard. It sounded robotic, mechanical, and hollow. I asked my dad, who was an avid amateur birder, what it could be, and his guess (without hearing it) was the Cuckoo.
Well, a couple of years went by, and I periodically heard the haunting call in the wee hours. Somewhere along the way, I left the Cuckoo idea behind, and later ascribed the sound to a Great Horned Owl, as I thought that's what I saw perched on a nearby hickory branch one morning.
Then one day, as I gazed at an early dawn, I witnessed a remarkable event: a Red-tailed Hawk was chasing my owl friend through the woods. Holy smokes, I thought: this is warfare among birds of prey. (I've watched a local pair of hawks for several years here.)
A couple of weeks back, I saw a pair of owls moving through the trees in the evening hours. I only got a good view of one of them, and it didn't seem to have the tufts or "horns" common to the Great Horned. Whatever they are, they're large, and mostly dark brown (unlike the Barred Owl or other possible candidates), so the final answer isn't yet known. I have heard the call enough to be able to imitate it, so surely someday I'll find out.
In addition to the occasional rivalry from hawks, these mostly silent hunters get a raw deal from the local crow and jay contingent, but I hope they weather the swooping, squawking loudmouths and stick around. They sound so cool in the middle of the night.
Nature | By joe lance | 11:50 PM