The first time we saw an owl in the wild, we went ballistic. It was late dusk- practically dark. It was a little barn owl perched on a gate. We were driving in the bird refuge and pulled as close to it as we could in our cars, took completely horrible pictures, and left feeling like our lives were complete.
Fast forward three years, we’ve now seen glimpses of more owls here and there, their silhouettes on top of light poles or flying against the sky. One day my uncle tells me that there is a family of owls who have nested just outside of the bird refuge. There were three baby great horned owls!! We immediately set out to try and see them. They were adorable and very curious about us as well.
On our way out we stopped to see the babies again, but it was getting too dark to see them very well. Our windows were rolled down, and early spring sounds of birds and trickling water twinkled through the air. Then there was an ugly sound. A loud, screeching, squeaky gate was trying to make my ear drums bleed.
Me: “What the heck was that?”
Colton: “Pretty sure that was a barn owl.”
Me: “Pretty sure that was a pterodactyl.”
There were indeed abandoned barns and small shacks scattered through some empty fields in the neighborhoods, so it wasn’t entirely impossible there were barn owls hiding all around us that we couldn’t see. Colton told me that a lot of haunted houses were actually ‘haunted’ by barn owls. Youtube barn owls screeching. It sounds absolutely terrifying.
I have to now pause for a minute to speak about modern technology. Specifically as it pertains to eyes. I’m very near-sighted. Like without glasses or contacts everything farther out than a foot becomes a blurry kaleidoscope. But, fortunately, I live in a time of laser eye surgery, glasses that can be tailored to meet your needs of nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatisms, bifocals, trifocals, prescription sunglasses, and all manner of contact lenses as well. With my contacts, I have eagle eyes. Or sometimes, Colton will ask, “What do your elf eyes see?” Don’t get that reference? Get a life. I can spot movement in a sea of patterns and, relevantly, birds from what feels like miles away. Getting back to owls, as we were driving back onto the main road in the near darkness, I saw a tiny little shape in a tree 200 yards away and said, “Owl.” Colton looked, and looked, and said I was seeing the trunk of a tree. So I took a picture, zoomed waaaaay in. And lo and behold:
Owl parent #2. This picture has been heavily edited, because it was not this light, nor were we this close. I basically just saw the silhouette in the crotch (haha) of the tree, and there was a whole alfalfa field between us and the tree. Don’t the seeds on the trees look like some old wallpaper you’d find at your great aunt’s house?
Someday I will make a resume for myself that has nothing to do with getting a job, but entirely to do with useless things I’m proud of in life. Having eagle eyes will definitely be on the list.
The next day we went to The Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve. It was cold, so I was bundled up.
If you haven’t been there, you should definitely make a trip out. There is a wooden walkway all the way around, and you’re completely in the middle of nature. You also have some of the best views of the Salt Lake Valley ever. I blogged about it a few posts back. As we were walking up to the Robin Hood’s castle/lookout thingy, we scared a barn owl out from the stairs!! It was really surreal watching it fly around in the day. It took us a few minutes to realize that the barn owl had nested right below the stairs, and we were keeping it from going back to its nest. It was impossible to see into the nest, so we couldn’t tell if there were any babies, but we did quickly realize that having people tromp up and down the stairs every day probably wasn’t good for the owls. We enjoyed the rare sight of an owl in the day for a while, then walked back down so it could return to its nest.
The next day I called someone who referred me to someone who referred me to someone else who was a lady who oversees the birds at the refuge (or something, it was unclear) and told her about the owl nest. She hadn’t known about it yet, and when I described the nest to her, she got super excited (like I’ve never talked to another fellow birder before who is actually a professional and who took my excitement in stride and was somehow more excited than me) and told me that the nest was actually a crow’s nest from the year before, and it seems the owls had appropriated it for themselves. She said that they would most likely block off that portion of the path until nesting season was over. I never followed up with her, and we didn’t visit again that spring, but I felt very good about helping some little owlets hopefully get more peace and quiet. I think I sometimes feel better about helping animals than I do about helping people… I don’t know what that says about me.