The owl call reverberated in my quiet library. Dozing dogs looked up at me, startled. The hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo came again. The great horned owl was outside the window, in a cherry tree. No more than ten feet away though too dark in late evening to see.
A second bird answered from the hillside. This hoot was higher-pitched, so likely a female. Female great horned owls are larger than their mates, but males have deeper voices.
(This links to a brief recording of an owl duet: http://www.xeno-canto.org/7728/embed?simple=1)
January had settled in. Leftover wrapping paper, candy and light sets were dumped in final clearance bins. Greeting card racks already stuffed with red and pink hearts. No holidays between Christmas and Valentine’s Day to brighten dreary weeks.
That makes January wildlife particularly welcome. Even familiar creatures, black-capped chickadees and downy woodpeckers, animate winter landscapes. Great horned owls in the yard are a gift of a different distinction.
The male hooted again. The female responded, sounding closer this time. The pair may have been drawn to open water in the yard. There is a Japanese-style water basin fountain built into my patio. It runs all year when possible. Not much clean, free-flowing water around otherwise in frigid weather.
Reliable websites give differing estimates on the size of great horned owls’ territories. One calculated owl real estate at three-and-a-half square miles, another at only a square mile. These owls are monogamous and vigorously defend their homesteads.
Great horned owls have nested in the graveyard for several years. Old spruces and pines fill the cemetery, perfect highrise owl accommodations.
My water basin and little pool are less than an aerial mile away from Owl Acres. A neighborhood watering hole in summer’s heat and winter’s ice, it lures a parade of furry and feathery creatures. No surprise if owls joined the troupe.
The owl duet, the recognized name for their performance, lasted several minutes, though faded toward the end. The pair was moving farther east, back toward the graveyard. Then all was quiet again.
Dogs drifted back to sleep, I picked up my book. A pair of great horned owls transformed a bleak winter’s night into a memorable moment.