April 8, 2014

The circle of life

Several weeks ago, just days after my dad had died, our neighbors found a dead barred owl in our yard. From what they witnessed, it seems a murder of crows had killed it. Whether they had physically attacked it or harassed it to the point it flew into something, we do not know.

But it was bloodied and on the ground at the foot of a tree. Our neighbors lovingly took it and buried it in their back yard. We never saw it, for which I am grateful. It would have been too upsetting, especially for SB. And particularly in the state we were all already in.

Everyone on our street was saddened by the loss. For years we have delighted in the owls that call the woods behind our homes theirs. We loved the sounds they made, and any time we were fortunate enough to see one, it was magical. Especially if you caught one in flight.

One summer's evening a few years ago, an owl was perched in a tree in our yard. We took SB out to see it. The owl simply stood and looked down at us as we looked up at it. It did not fly away. I only had my phone with me, but managed to get a halfway decent shot:

It was a beautiful creature. I do not know if this was the owl that died, but the dead one was found at the base of the same tree by our neighbors. Barred owls usually mate for life, so we were not sure what would happen to the other owl, or any owlets they may have been raising at the time.

The woods fell silent, and we mourned.

Then, a few days ago, we began to hear owls day and night. Two of them (and more answering their calls off in the distance). Whether a lone owl has come to try to mate with the survivor, or a new pair has decided to make this territory its home, I can only speculate. But they have been vocalizing around the clock.

Including in the middle of the night last night. I heard them when I woke to use the restroom, and stepped out our deck to try to capture their late night chat...

The noises in the video are pretty tame. Many nights, the owls sound like monkeys howling. For a long time, my husband and I wondered what in the heck we were hearing. It was our neighbors, strong bird enthusiasts, who explained it was a mating pair of barred owls. They have a wide range of fascinating vocalizations.

And I am thrilled to hear them once again, as the circle of life goes on...

UPDATE: The owls were still chatting hours later. I went out this afternoon and captured some more of their conversation. And had the privilege of seeing one, though I did not capture it on camera:

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