A Three-Owl Night
Last night, as the full moon cast an icing of silver light across the meadow, and the cardinals let the day's final chip notes loose from the honeysuckle tangle, the birds of the night-shift took over.
First to perform was an eastern screech-owl, its frail whinny wafting from somewhere along the edge of the woods below the house. Its long, monotone tremolo note was nearly lost amidst the insect noises that are the soundtrack to these autumn evenings--tree and field crickets, tree, meadow, and oblong-winged katydids, and countless others.
About an hour after it was completely dark, the barred owls bark-hooted from the western slope of our wooded valley. These birds are our most regularly heard owls which is not surprising given the species' well-known tendency to inquire almost nightly (and sometimes even during the day) about who is doing the cooking for us. First the male called, then the female, slightly higher in pitch. Perhaps he was calling her to check on how the kids were doing--a few weeks ago we heard the rasping, food-begging calls of hungry young barred owls. No doubt they were branching out, having fledged from the nest cavity, and were making it easier for their parents to relocate them at feeding time.
Then, just as I was drifting off to the Land of the Sandman, I heard the big daddy of our owls--the great horned owl. But this one did not possess the booming basso-profundo voice I've heard in deep winter here at the farm. Instead, it was higher-pitched and a bit unstable--maybe a bird of the year trying out its hooting chops? The pattern was totally GHO, but the quality of the call reminded me of Peter Brady trying to sing "Time to Change" on that cheezy episode of The Brady Bunch where, in the manic throes of puberty, his voice cracked and squeaked.
A three-owl night. Somehow perfectly complete, with a full moon and a gentle, slightly chilly breeze carrying the owls' messages far and wide, along with our dreams.