Where to begin . . .
probably best to begin on that Thanksgiving Weekend Night in 1990
when I was startled awake by the very loud "HOO-HOO" sound
coming from, I thought, my headboard, right under the window!

I got out of bed, put on bathrobe & slippers,
quietly opened the front door, and walked down the driveway,
while imitating the sound I had heard.
THERE! On the tv antenna across the street!
Unbelieving, I watched him/her sitting motionless, watching me.
I HOO-HOOed some more; s/he responded in kind.
I thought I was dreaming, but the cold of the night told me otherwise.
The owl and I continued our dialogue for some time,
before s/he swooped over my head and flew away.
The sound of its silent flight right above my head
is something I will always remember;
a faint "whoosh" of air through its wingfeathers.

The owl returned every night, and every night I walked the neighborhood
(in robe and slippers . . . probably not a good idea,
but I was too enthralled to think about my safety . . .
or what any neighbors who might look outside at 2:00 a.m.
and see and hear me might think). We continued our dialogue,
and s/he swooped over my head several times.
(I read later that Great Horned Owls are known as "Flying Tigers"
because they have been known to swoop and grab
a person's hair and scalp with their talons.
Oh well - I guess that is just a risk birders take.)

One night, when the moon was quite bright,
I watched from our deck as the two owls mated
on the tv antenna of the house behind ours.
Whoever was watching television must have thought there was interference,
or bad reception; it was a rotor antenna and in the middle of the mating act,
the antenna started rotating. The owls flew off.


The first photograph taken of
one of the Great Horned Owls

December 1990

By January 1991, many in the neighborhood were aware
that we had a pair of Great Horned Owls in residence.
During the previous summer, a wooded area behind the houses
across the street from ours had been torn down
to become a housing development,
so we were sure the pair had moved from that area into ours.


Great Horned Owl at dusk

January 1991

We soon tracked down their nest to a large pine tree
next to our neighbor's house!
This meant that we had a front-row seat from our bedroom window
for watching the owls' activities.
(We also assured our neighbors that we were NOT watching THEM,
in case they looked over and saw us poised with our binoculars,
staring at their house.)


Great Horned Owl sitting next to its nest
April 1991