Is it a bird? Is it a …?

Does a sound ever wake you up in the middle of the night?  I don’t mean your kids or the sump pump kicking in, but an unfamiliar sound that niggles at your brain and brings you into half consciousness? I had that experience last night around 2:30 am. I had read until 1am so I probably wasn’t into a deep sleep yet but I was groggy enough that I wasn’t sure if it was a real sound or part of a dream. But there it was again. First thought was, my son is still up and I am hearing the TV or his computer. But as I cleared my head and tried to zero in on the sound, I realized it was much closer. So I figured it was my husband. He snores, or according to him, breathes heavy, but sometimes there are high notes combined with low notes. It can be quite an evening event. So I raised my head and listened. No, not Curt. But there it was a again. Focus. It was coming from outside and it was close. Hoo-hoo-hoooo-hoo-hoo!

Yes, a Great Horned Owl.

Okay, where is he? We have two really large pines in the front of our house where owls have sat before so I left the bed and headed for the hall where I  thought the best window for viewing was located. As I passed the dark cavern of my son’s room I heard him mumble, “great horned owl.”  I can always count on him to confirm my sightings. The hall window was a bust so back to the bedroom. Craning my neck (damn those trees have gotten tall) and peering out of the dirty, frosty windows I thought I could see a shape at the top of the nearest pine which didn’t look like the tree. Curt, awakened by my moving around and hearing the calling as well, had joined me by then but he couldn’t confirm that the shape I was looking at was anything more than a lumpy branch. So we both headed downstairs. In the cold and the dark we tried to see out the side windows in our dining area but those trees are even taller from the lower level of the house. Meanwhile the owl continued to hoot away. Back upstairs, and I try one more time but the sounds have ceased and I fear we may have spooked our nocturnal friend and he has flown away. This morning my son confirms that while we were on our way back he heard the owl abruptly stop and then all was quiet. Oh well, time to take my cold feet back to bed.

But that was fun. As a sound birder I am terrible however this is one call that is unmistakable. So, Great Horned Owl gets put into the yearly bird list. A fine end-0f-March nature moment. Hope he comes back tonight.

Great Horned Owl


One thought on “Is it a bird? Is it a …?

  1. I was thrilled a few years ago to encounter a juvenile barred owl a few years ago while I was on the way to get the kids at day care (about 5 in the afternoon). It was sitting in a small tree not four feet above my head, and didn’t move…it was still there when I walked by with the kids fifteen minutes later. I never saw it again after that day though.

    We’ve heard owls here, but have yet to see one…


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