Life on the Edge of the Forest is a Hoot

It’s a cold morning. While I’m writing, the twin deer are in the yard — last year’s fawns, without their mother now. May was full of summer weather and I often had breakfast outside. Yet, a deer never walked up to me during those quiet morning times.

However, on one lovely morning in May, suddenly, appearing in front of me was a large brown ball with wings — that is all I can think to call it. The ball flew seemingly out of nowhere, and continued without making a sound, into the trees.

An owl.

I remained motionless as it perched in a tree. The owl looked at me, and then its yellow eyes followed the unaware cat that was moving near me.

It was a very large owl, but I didn’t see ear tufts. Great horned owls lived in our old growth poplar forest before we moved and I thought, perhaps, it was one of them.

My husband was vacuuming in the house, such is our routine. I waited, what seemed like ages, for the vacuum cleaner to go silent. Unidentified small birds fluttered around the owl, although the owl remained undisturbed. Later Mary Whitley confirmed that the birds possibly felt threatened by the owl and were trying to scare it away. Finally the vacuum noise stopped and I called, increasing the volume as I remained motionless: “Don! Come outside! Carefully! Bring the camera! Bring the bird book!” “An owl,” I whispered and pointed carefully.

The owl, friendly enough, seemed unalarmed and spread its gigantic wings and moved to an even closer tree. From there, it moved to the west side of the house, where the compost is. This all probably took half an hour, after which the owl circled around again and disappeared back into the forest.

I learned that it was a great grey owl, possibly 27 inches (70 cm) tall, with a wingspan of 55 inches (140 cm), and weighing surprisingly little for such a large bird.

Later that day, I searched the forest for a possible nest. Yet would we have seen such a nest if it was there? Presumably, it would have been a large stick structure located high in a tree. I did find a beautiful cluster of mushrooms in a broken poplar; they smelled delicious. I identified them as oyster mushrooms. We ate them and they were delicious. And the owl did not come back for the cat.

There is always something new and exciting at Mendenhall subdivision.

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