Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Low: -7
High: 12
Conditions: sunny with blustery winds
I 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.

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.


Nature Reader said...

I really like reading your blog -- I always learn something!

Jan said...

Thanks for dropping by and leaving me a nice note. It is too tempting to see an ooey, gooey batter just sitting around calling my name. Jan doesn't understand but at least my friends do.


PS - We all enjoyed reading about the owl. We've never seen one.

jans funny farm

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Oh wow, Kathryn...how beautiful. Owls are so mysterious to me. Why was she awake? Why did she sit there so long? And how'd you know she was a she? What a treat and a gift to be able to observe her for so long. Great post.

Kathryn and Ari said...

I think she's a she because of her size: female barreds are bigger than the males, and this owl was enormous. As for her daylight activity, that actually has me a little worried: the sources I checked yesterday said that diurnal hunting is often an indication of food stress. Apparently, (and this may be a lot more information than you want), there was a crash of the vole population up in Canada last year, so a large number of owls migrated down to New England. They could be competing more than ususal for food.

I'll keep you posted!

Marigold said...

Hi! Marigold here! Your caninaturalist is pretty awesome (for a dog). Our Mighty Quinn likes to shred paper and other things too. Luckily this does not include goats. By the way, we, here, would rather watch the storms too. :) This does entail holding on to your ears quite a bit of the time, however, lest one should take off into the wild blue yonder on occasion.

Gus and Louie said...

That owl is just magnificent. We have never seen one of those in our neighborhood. We did have a roadrunner one day. He just stayed in the backyard and let Dad take pictures of him...

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus and Louie

Gus and Louie said...

That owl is just magnificent. We have never seen one of those in our neighborhood. We did have a roadrunner one day. He just stayed in the backyard and let Dad take pictures of him...

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus and Louie

Khyra The Siberian Husky said...

My mom says BIG KHOOL!

Our last name is 'wise' so we like owl things!!

PLUS, she's big into hawk birdies - she khan be driving down the road and spot them without even looking for them!!!

She gets all excited when a redtail or a khoopers buzzes through the yard!!!!

Wags and Wuv,

Fay said...

Hi Kathryn,

Farmgirl_dk took the words from my fingertips! They are such incredible animals, yet you have to wonder why she was about during the day. I would think your explanation about the vole population is the answer. In the summertime we can hear a screech owl in the woods across the dirt road. We laugh every time she screeches! It sounds like she is yelling "Quit!"

Thanks for sharing this!

powder-puff said...

Hey Ari!!

Your blog is just so interesting, i really enjoy reading it everyday!!!

WOW an owl, thats so cool that she let you observe her!!

Lots of love

peace out

sharkgila said...

Such a majestic owl. Great picture, and great write up.


Guinness & Shiloh's Family said...

thanks for stopping by our blog. Ari is very lucky to have a cool mommy too. The owl was really neat to read about

Maverick the Pirate said...

Harrrr Ari
Cool owl we have seen owls around and we get to hear them at night Harrrr.
Cap'n Maverick the Pirate

Dog-girl said...

This is a great story!

GottabeMe said...

Great pictures! I like to go for nature walks with my dad, he takes his camera. Yesterday we got some pictures of woodpeckers!

Orion Count Drulzelot said...

What a great blog! I've thoroughly enjoyed reading it. May I link it to mine?
Ari is a beautiful dog, and it is obvious you both have a great bond!