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.
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.
"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.
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 ...