On Owls

This has been one of my best years for seeing owls.  With the exception of 2017, when I saw a dozen Snowy Owls, I've seen an owl two or three times a week during the pandemic.  A big part of this is the family of Great Horned owls that moved into our woods.  We're sure there are at least 4, and possibly 5 of them.  They perch in trees all around our property and call to each other.  The young screech for food, and the parents fly around trying to catch enough to satisfy them.  It's never enough, and the calls echo around the woods all night long.  You think of owls "hooting" but that's not the main sound we've heard.

Yesterday I had a sighting of one of these Great Horned owls--at least I thought I did.  It flew into a tree just in front of my wife and I while we walked in the woods.  As it turned its head around to stare down at us, I was shocked to see its coal black eyes.  "That's not a Great Horned Owl!" I cried, as we both struggled for our cameras.  Before we could take a picture, it had flown soundlessly into the denser part of the wood.

When I got home I confirmed what I had thought: we'd seen my first Barred Owl!  The head was so much rounder (at least it looks that way without the "horns"), and the eyes are completely different: huge black circles.  Here are a couple of examples:

Barred owl (note the eyes, round head, breast feathers)
Great Horned owl (note the "horns" and yellow eyes)

I can't wait to see it again!  I suspect that I've actually seen it before but assumed it was one of the Great Horned owls.

What an amazing bird.

Photos by Dennis Buchner and Matthew Wyche on Unsplash.

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