All year long, we’re treated to their calls, and it’s fun to listen to their conversations and know what they’re doing in any season. The barred owl’s call is quite complex and drawn out, a two phrase set of notes, that sound something like, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-alllllllll?”
That long last southern drawl note is pulled out, and varies for different birds. That’s the standard call, and often we’ll hear it right out our door, and answered by another owl a quarter mile away. Sometimes they call back and forth all night long.
In early spring, in the urgency of the mating season, they’ll start with the standard call, and it’ll rise in speed until it degenerates into a rapid confused hoot-hooting. Sounds sort of like teenagers, getting all excited and noisy. Later, we’ll hear the owlets, practicing their calls, clumsily slipping in their syntax and slowly getting it together. We laugh when we hear a baby muffing his lines, and a prissy elder answering back in stern tones. Sounds like, “Get it right, you young punk!”
With all this activity, we seldom see the owls, and if we do, it’s usually just a huge shape as it glides across the open space and disappears into the dense pines. This week, we had a magical thing happen. Our 3 ½ year old granddaughter was with us, and we were sitting outside, close to dusk, just relaxing and talking. The owls were calling around us.
Suddenly one called really loud, and close to the house. It was so loud that it scared Anna and she cowered down with her hands over her ears, very afraid. We always want to teach her about the natural world, so we told her what it was and we decided to call back to it. So we did. All three of us made owl calls into the evening air—and it worked!
We fooled the owl, and it came gliding out of the pines, flew right over us and landed in a tree about 30 feet away, in plain sight! It was cold, so we wrapped a blanket around Anna, and went to sit on the ground a little closer to the owl sitting there to watch it. Soon it called again, and another answered from nearby. It called again, and here came the second owl, landed in a tree about 10 feet away from the first one.
They sat there sort of calling softly to each other and watching each other while we greedily soaked up the sight of these two magnificent birds, so intent on each other that they didn’t even notice us. We were able to talk to our Anna about these birds, and she was so excited about seeing them that she was trembling with excitement. What a night!
Just that quickly, she went from fear of the unknown mysterious spooky creature, to knowing what made it and appreciating how special it was. The next day, while we were outdoors working around the place and walking our path, she insisted we stop frequently to call the owls again. So we did-and I’m sure we’ll do it again!
We enjoy the natural world around us so very much, and it just triples our joy to be able to share it with one who will be responsible to protect these wild parts of tomorrow’s world. I think it’ll be in safe hands.