Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Screech Owls- Fond Memories

Photo by nebirdsplus via Flickr

I've been hearing them again.


Eastern Screech Owls. My little night-time friends aren't very big- just 6 to 10 inches tall. They are red (rufus) or gray in coloring but either way they're just about impossible to see in the wild, even when perched at the opening of the tree cavity where they live.

Photo by nebirdsplus via Flickr

I've seen them a couple of times, flying at dusk, out for the evening's hunt. These little guys are wide-spread east of the Rockies and  live year-round in my part of the world and while I do hear them at other times of the year, I hear them the most in late summer. The windows are open and I stay up later this time of year. So I hear them, their soft whinny trill or steady tremolo, calling to their families.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has great information about the Screech Owl and some excellent recordings.

Photo by Jennifer via Flickr

So why do I get sentimental about these tiny little owls? Well, when my Zippy was a newborn, I used to snuggle with her in the un-named hours of night. Big 'Un and I had decided before The Zipster was even born that she was not going to sleep in bed with us, and she never did, not one night. But her room had the extra full-sized bed. We would put her to bed in her crib and I would get up to nurse her when she roused during the night. Then she and I would snuggle in the spare bed until dawn.

Photo via Wikipedia Commons

That's when I first heard them, those gentle shrill calls that are the owl's defense call, or the steady tremolo of the mommy talking to her babies. I was still on maternity leave and half delirius with fatigue and uncertainty at finding myself responsible for this mysterious little person. I would curl up there with my little Zippy and listen to her breathing into the quiet darkness, crickets chirping, horses stomping their feet in the field, a distant dog barking. Those were special quiet moments with my girl and I usually didn't go back to sleep. I never knew what time it was, just that it was "our" night time. And then I would hear them start to call. Sometimes they were close, maybe just out in the field, once in the peach tree right outside the window. Sometimes they were barely audible, way down in the woods below our house, but they were there with us every night. We had never heard them around before that late summer and in my mind I think that she brought them, though that would be ridiculous to believe as true. But they've been here ever since. When I hear them calling I am transported back to those quiet calm nights that seemed, even then, like special moments from God- a time of wordless bonding and rest with this little girl who was such a puzzle to me at times. Listening to those owls in the dark was a special thing we did together though she of course has no memory of it. 


My Zippy has grown to be her own kind of girl. She is a quirky, funny, creative, and amazing teenager now.

And I love her with all my heart.

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