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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Out on the Hill


Back in the day, when we filled all the mows in all the barns with sweet-scented bales, and loaded two silos with fermented corn and grass, and spent most of the summer out on the hills, there were owls there.

There was a cherry tree back in the Sixty-acre Lot with a cavernous hollow half way up. We thought the big ones...the Great Horned Owls... nested there. We saw them there at half-dark sometimes.

When a mother skunk was hit down on the road and her litter of little stinkers paraded up and down the driveway preventing us from going out or getting home, Great-Horned Owls took care of that situation and quite quickly too, hooty, hoo, hoo.

We would hear them calling in the dusk, song of the wild, don't you know. 

And we took them for granted. 

Until they vanished.

In later years the only messages they shared with us were occasional feathers tangled in the wild roses out on the heifer pasture hill, marking where they had hunted for something that tried to hide there.

We didn't see them any more. Oh, we always had Barred Owls. Alan would see them out in daylight when he hunted, and if I walked back on the hill before the sun came up I would hear them haunting the old pastures.

But no Tiger Owls were heard or seen.

They may have been there all along. We don't make hay or grow corn any more, and if I walk out on the hills it is usually in daylight. 

Then the other night I went forth at dusk to bring the dog on down to dinner. The mosquitoes were out, as was a waxing gibbous moon. I was glad only one of them wanted to bite me.

As the dog dragged me up the step I heard a thrush calling. I went back out to see if it was a Hermit Thrush (it was),

There in the dead tree up by the old spring was a thick spot in its shrouded silhouette...just a tiny anomaly in the outline of the branches.

I know that tree as well as I know the painting across from my chair in the living room.

That spot was something.

The camera with its extra zoom showed me what.

A Great Horned Owl, just beginning his night hunt. As I watched through the screen he lifted off on heavy wings and floated off to the east, seeking skunks maybe or perhaps just gleaning field mice from the tangled woodland there..

It made my night and maybe even my year.

One of those best birds you sometimes find but never often enough.


Rev. Paul said...

We have Great Horned owls up here, in abundance. I hadn't ever seen one before we moved to Alaska, having mostly barn owls back in Missouri. I'm glad you got to see one again. :)

Shirley said...

Ah owls- they are special- except when they are hunting your cats.
We had barn owls in Creston, and the Great Horned owls attacked one and ripped its head off. Fierce hunters, they are.

threecollie said...

Rev. Paul, You have all sorts of exciting critters up there! Down here Moose Quest took years! And thanks!

Shirley, everything hunts outdoor cats here, owls, Bald Eagles, coyotes. We haven't had a cat around in years even though people drop them off out front all the time. How awful about your Barn Owls. That may be the answer to a puzzle here! When Ralph and I were kids, living right down the road from one another, although we never met until we were in our thirties, both of our barns had Barn Owls. (Much to my 8-year-old delight!!!) Now they are totally gone. If one is found anywhere in NYS it makes the state rare bird report. Climate change is the official reason but I wonder...