Owl Diary: Tuesday 1/22

Another clear, sunny day. The east owl, taking no chances, remained in its hideaway under the brush awning in the rip-rap, out of sight of park visitors on the paved trail. My brief video, below, catches it in a vigorous full-body feather fluff. After that, it resumed regular swiveling of the head, with the body remaining immobile.

The north owl, I was happy to see, had resumed its usual spot, and looked lovely in the early sunlight. My visit came shortly after nine in the morning. The bird seemed unconcerned at this moment about heavy raptors overhead; it kept its eyes almost closed much of the time. Perhaps the bird knows the raptors’ hunting schedule or temperature tolerance. Or a wider communication network may be at work. Big raptors like Northern Harriers, Red-tailed Hawks and White-tailed Kites pose a threat to all smaller avians as well as to little mammals. All of them need to watch the skies. Each species has its threat call, and they all listen. When the skies are clear, the earwaves fill with normal sounds of chirping, rustling, scurrying, crunching, and the like. Then all is well. But when a raptor appears, high-pitched shrieks and whistles fill the air, a quick rustle follows as creatures race to shelter, and then there is silence. The owls, with their super keen hearing, are finely tuned into the local creature community’s signal network. If the owl lets its eyes dim, it’s because its ears tell it that all is well at the moment.

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