Low: -7I caught a glance of the barred owl (Strix varia) by accident. The phone rang and, as I raced past the window to answer it, something caught my eye: large, white, bobbing in the very chilly wind. I stared for an hour, looking for identifying markings that might distinguish her and confirm my identification. At least 20 inches long and nearly all white, save for a few pale brown markings, she was striking. I was transfixed, watching her perched, eyes closed, thick belly feathers draped over her feet.
Conditions: sunny with blustery winds
The cats sat opposite me, looking out another window for signs of nuthatches and chickadees. There were none, of course—these birds are far too smart to dally when a giant predator has decided to come out for an unexpected morning visit. I tried to stir the cats, to show them what I was watching outside my window. But they weren’t interested.
I took my camera and the caninaturalist outside where we could get a better look. The owl continued to sway on the branch of a mature ash (Fraximus pennsylvanica). She saw us, and sat watching us watch her. Or rather, watching me watch her. Ari had no idea someone else was there: no movement, no smell, no sound. Instead, she nosed around the snow—perhaps looking for the same rodent population as the owl. More often than not, caninaturalism requires movement—or at least a lot more than a still visual image.
I pointed and cooed and tried to gently coax Ari’s head up in the direction of the owl. Nothing. After fifteen minutes, I was defeated: my fingers went numb and we went back inside. Ari returned to her bed upstairs; the cats continued to pine for bird t.v.; and I wished that some other creature could witness this scene with me.
I called upstairs to Ari. “Don’t you know what you’re missing? There’s an owl. . . outside. Right outside our window!!”
She pretended to snore. I was certain we had to watch--at least one of us had to follow this owl.
I gathered my laptop and set up shop next to the window, where I could study the bird between paragraphs. She remained still, just giving a slight swivel of her head now and then. I noticed each time. We sat like that, alone, for nearly three hours. I began to wonder if we could sit together all day. Sometime later I got up to brush my teeth, certain the owl would wait. But when I returned, she was gone.