As I went out to replace the yard-bird water-dish (I bring it in at night so I won’t have a frozen block to deal with first thing in the morning) and fill it up with clean water, I heard an owl. Its “who who whoooo” was slightly higher pitched than I’ve heard in the past…I assumed I’d just learned the difference in a male and a female’s call; the male has a higher voice. I wonder if that’s because he’s the smaller of the two.
At any rate, I was still in my jammies and it was almost up to twenty degrees outside…so I didn’t spend time looking for him…until about an hour later when I heard a bunch of crows going nuts.
Okay, I haven’t heard many crows of late, and I know from experience when I hear many of them together, there is often an owl or a hawk at the center of their attention. I grabbed my binos and headed out to the enclosed front porch. I saw 22 American Crows amassed on a couple branches in the same part of a leafless tree; two Black-billed Magpies had joined them. While their bodies were not all facing in the same direction, they were all looking in the same direction; at a nearby evergreen tree.
I’m getting better about looking for what doesn’t fit…I scanned the tree; nothing on the outer branches. I began the rather difficult task of peering deep into this very dense tree, starting a bit low and slowly looking for lumps and bumps that were in places they didn’t belong; a thickening of the trunk, a mass on the topside of an inside limb. And there he was; a Great Horned Owl.
The above video sounds exactly like what I heard...but my owl was safely snuggled deep within the evergreen tree and the 24 large, mobbing birds screamed from a nearby bare-branched tree. They all eventually left and I presume the owl enjoyed a nap.
It didn’t help that when I found him, all I could see were his belly feathers…no tell-tale face or ears. But as I watched, trying to determine if this was a bunch of twigs or leaves playing tricks on my eyes…he scratched! Ha, I spy!!!
His movement set off another round of raucous cawing, as well as a strange rattle-sound I’ve never heard before. Of course I headed to Cornell’s site, where I discovered a different crow-call. Wild! You can hear the sound here.
I was tickled pink, invited a neighbor to come see the pretty boy as I headed off to work and just generally reveled in my accomplishment. I found the bird because I paid attention to the early morning call, the behavior of mobbing crows and how to find a bird hiding deep within a very dense tree; and I learned all that in books…reading about birds and bird behavior.
I wish I’d had time to grab my camera too; but I was already late to work! I’ve included a photo of a couple American Crows mobbing a Bald Eagle. Read more about mobbing behavior here.
Photo from Wikipedia