Friday, May 16, 2008

Barred Owl Duet

If you look back at yesterday's post, you'll find a little riddle at the end that pertains to today's topic.

A favorite Minnesotarctican blogger pal of mine, Deb of Sand Creek Almanac, successfully solved the puzzle.

Barred owls ...OWLS ... plural.

After fawning over the two young deer in the front yard Wednesday, I changed clothes and headed out to the garden. It's now sporting a 7 foot high fence to deter deer damage. Entering it is like entering the Octagon for an ultimate fighting match.
There's no more hopping over the hog panel fence for that tool you forgot. Now you have to go out the 7+ foot tall gate.

I planted my 4 little datil pepper plants with my camera hanging nearby on a fence post ... 'cause, you just never know.

Just as I finished watering in the pepper plants, a barred owl called from my southeast woods. Then, another called back.

"Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?"

I grabbed the camera off the post and crept into the woods, my neck craning up. There's been no rain for weeks, so the ground is dry and crunchy. I was trying to avoid noisy footfalls, but that's hard to do when you're looking up for owls, yet down for a quiet place to place your foot.

Walk, stop, listen.

Walk stop,listen.

No sign of them and they had stopped calling the moment I entered the woods, so that was no help.

It was late in the day and the upper canopy was lit by golden sun. Everything below was in deep shade.

I clicked on the flash for fill, not really expecting to get close to the owls. After all, they could be next door at my absentee neighbor's place.

Then suddenly, there he was.

I crept off the trail and into the thick brush beneath his tree. Every dry crunchy step drew his stare. In between he would turn and look away.

Owls always seem to do that. It reminds me of small children who think if they can't see you, you can't see them.

I banged off a few shots and then he flew silently to another oak ...where the second owl was waiting!!

Sweet Sara N. Dippity!

I backed out slowly the way I came and crept quietly towards the new tree where a brace of barred owls balanced on a branch.

Walk. Stop. Listen.

Listen ...

"Psssst ... There's a guy with a camera down there ... stalking us."

"I know. Whatever you do ... don't look at him. If you look at him, he's there. Just turn your back on him like me and he'll go away."

"Um, he's still there ... we need to abandon limb."

Shhhh, listen, I'll leave first, then you follow a few minutes later ... we'll meet down by the pond"

"You can't see me, you can't see me"

When the last owl lifted silently from the branch and swung out towards the pond, I followed.

I lost track of their landing zone among the oaks that ring the pond, but that was okay. I'd certainly gotten my money's worth of owl time. Barred owls here at PFHQ seem almost wren like in their tolerance of me. Search this blog for barred owls and you'll find a bunch of owl posts where they let me get right on top of them ... well, right beneath them anyway.

Last weekend, as I finished the bench project at twilight, one of them swooped past me, wings outstretched, silent ... so close that it would be tempting to say his wing tips brushed my nose, but they missed by a centimeter or two. Then he landed on a magnolia branch right next to me ... four feet off the ground and stared.

Just amazing.

After the owl duet, I was pretty stoked, but not ready to give up. My light was really going now, but I walked down to the pond and stretched out on the dock. With our severe drought, the pond has shrunk to a wading pool size puddle and I thought I might get some waterhole shots of the deer if I lay still.

The dock boards were warm from the day, surprisingly comfy, and a pair of cardinals were flitting about in the puddle. I took a few shots of them and then just lay there, listening to the breeze and the promising rustlings of something in the willowy brush.

What happened next was something I'd never seen before ...


Hurricane Teen said...

Something YOU'VE never seen before? It's a skunk ape isn't it?! I knew you had them out there!

Deb said...

Wow. What an amazing at-home adventure, and you told the story so well. I'm eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

Dani said...

Are they breeding in your woods FC??

Doug Taron said...

That's a great series of photos, but what I really liked was the writing. It felt like I was standing right next to you watching the owls.

Mark said...

What fun! We hear owls around the house, but only late when it's way too dark to see them.

debbie said...

What happened next? Don't leave us hanging like this! Great writing by the way.

tai haku said...

Ha! Hurricaneteen beat me to the skunk ape gag - I'm seriously intrigued too though!

Sharon said...

You are just the master of the cliffhanger this week! :) Love it, keep it up. Beautiful pics too.

Anonymous said...

You always have great posts, but this one is special even for you. What a great adventure!

Anonymous said...

Protect your waterfolly fish by submerging PVC Y-joint pipe sections in the pond. The owls can't get at the fish if the fish are fast enough to hide there. And believe me, Barred Owls LOVE fish! It's only a matter of time. Good Luck!

robin andrea said...

You are definitely on a roll, FC. It's been an abundance of creature delights here. The barred owls are beautiful, and I seriously can't imagine what comes next.

Susan said...

You really enjoy this, don't you? The Florida wildlife adventure... the challenge of writing... the thrill of photography... the sharing with people who care about this stuff... and today, you serve the element of suspense.

THANKS! Your blog is always fun.

Laura said...

Wow! I love these photos! I can't imaging how I'd feel if one landed just 4 feet away from me. I'd be stoked, too. What a feeling that must have been. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Ohhhhhh mannnn, when I heard that you might post a few nice pics of a pair of some crepuscular hooters, I was gonna run straight to Mrs. FC to talon you.
Owls? Yeah ok then. Was quite surprised to see datil pics of them as I hear them between 11 and 1 a.m. The critter pics are quite beakoming! But I do prey that you will someday consider publishing, dude. The narratives maks us all wanna go exploring again. I'd plunk down a Franklin.

Anonymous said...

Oh, most beautiful photos. The owls are lovely creatures! Thanks for capturing some wonderful shots of them.

Floridacracker said...

Not an X-File experience I fear, just something new for me.

Glad you came along. What happened next is not earthshaking, but I got a kick out of it.

Yes, at least in the immediate vicinity. Every year the adults bring a whiney chick or two to the yard to hunt.

Thanks. Wanna be writers like me really like it when that happens.

Ditto that. Usually it's at the very cusp of twilight and I can't shoot.

Thanks ... I hope I didn't build tomorrow's ending up too much.

Sorry, No Stinky Apes ... yet.

Thanks! I'll keep trying.

Thank you. I do visit your site by the way, but it doesn't like me ... I can almost never comment.

Excellent advice and I appreciate the reminder.

Thanks, Being there with the camera is half the game.I hope you like the finale too!

I gotta admit it, I do.
I look forward to each predawn ..."what am I going to write?" session.
It has become an addiction.

Well, when y'all return the owls and fawns will be waiting.
And the skunk apes.

I thought about titling this post, "A Fine Pair of Hooters" but, well I might reveal myself to be a typical male ...
Although that title might have cause my hit count to soar.

Thanks. They are pretty amazing birds.

Dr. Know said...

Great pictures, and you are right about having the camera at hand -- right at dusk or dawn. No telling how many telling shots I've missed -- even though I usually have a video camera imbedded somewhere. ;-) I've never quite gotten the "Who cooks for you" thing, however. A friend insists it sounds like that to her, but she is easily persuaded -- me, not so much. People and their tendancy to humanize everything -- except, ironically enough, other humans.

But of all the creepy things I've seen and heard in my life, juvenile Barred Owls just outside your window letting out with some otherworldly shreak at 3:00AM while you are writing some bean-counter-code amidst the midnight silence has got to be the most disconcerting. I first though aliens were abducting the household pets -- or that perhaps some local teens were performing some bizarre NeoCon ritual and sacrificing the neighbor's cat in order to reclaim the lost soul of Newt Gingrich. Somewhere around the third shreak, though, it became obvious.

I believe I've posted this before, but for those who missed it:
Owl Cam

SophieMae said...

I can hardly bear the wait for the next chapter. The critters are really coming out of the woodwork down your way. The skeeters are keeping my outdoor activities to a minimum lately. More rain today, more skeeters. I've heard Tom's lavendar deodorant works well. Worth a shot.

threecollie said...

I puzzled long and hard over that...wonderful owl pictures.

Anonymous said...

My wife introduced me to your blog,now you are a daily "dose". Had an four foot oak snake in my hen-house nest box this AM, three suspicious lumps, short on eggs yesterday. Took him down the pasture and turned him loose. I wonder how long before he's back.

Floridacracker said...

I know what you mean about very weird owl cackly sounds at night. Pretty strange stuff. The juvies are very whiney.

Almost no skeeters here with no rain ... well, a little last night, but that doesn't count.

They say that is good for our brains, right?

Welcome to Pure Florida!
Thank you for that act of snake kindness also. At many homes it would have had a bad ending for the snake.
Thank you for your tolerance.

Dr. Know said...

For those who might not know what kind of racket a couple of Barred Owls make, Click Here. The juveniles mentioned begin at :34.
Night Sounds