Rain, Snow, Owl, Flower – 1

Part 1 – The Owl

Across the world, few birds are as culturally symbolic – and contradictory – as owls. ‘It was the owl that shrieked, the fatal bellman,’ cried Lady Macbeth as her husband slew Duncan, King of Scotland, in Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth. These mysterious night predators have long been thought of as evil omens. The sight or sound of an owl was linked to death in ancient Egypt and desolation in the Bible. Babylon, predicts the Book of Isaiah, ‘. . .shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. . . owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.’ . .  .Fear and dread of the birds is similarly deep-rooted in Native American, African and many Asian cultures. . .Yet in Ancient Greece, subverting this sinister trend, the Little Owl (Athene noctua) represented or accompanied Athene, the much-loved goddess of wisdom.

Owl (Strigidae, Tytonidae, Birds: Myth, Lore & Legend, Rachel Warren Chadd & Marianne Taylor

The owl first appeared in the garden in September of 2015, taking up a position on a high branch of a pine tree. It was a grey, rainy day and in the low light the owl was well camouflaged against the branches of the tree.

[click on any photo to enlarge]

Not that the owl needed camouflage. I’m pretty sure this is a Barred owl (please correct me if I’m wrong) and they are aggressive predators, preying upon meadow voles, mice and shrews of various species, rats, squirrels, rabbits, bats, moles, opossums, mink, and weasels. Apparently, these owls can hear the squeak of a mouse from 150 feet away. A barred owl was photographed in Minnesota in 2012 grabbing and flying off with a full-grown domestic cat [Wikipedia]. Here in British Columbia, the government has approved the shooting of Barred owls because they have invaded the territory of Northern spotted owls, which are in danger of extinction.

In spite of this fearsome reputation, our resident squirrels didn’t seem too alarmed by the owl; in fact, one squirrel in particular seemed to be taunting the owl (see photo).

The Barred owl (Stryx varia)[1] is known as the hoot owl for its distinctive call, but it goes by many other names, including eight hooter, rain owl, wood owl, and striped owl.

This year, the owl showed up a little over a week ago, just before our weather turned cold (below zero C) and snow began falling. He (or she) took up a perch on the same branch as last year. I haven’t seen the owl in a few days now, but I hope he (or she) will return  next year, like a migrating butterfly[2].

[1]Strix (pl. striges or strixes), in the Ancient Roman and Greek legends was a bird of ill omen, product of metamorphosis, that fed on human flesh and blood. The name, in Greek, means “owl”. [Wikipedia]

[2] Unless this owl is a cat-eating owl. In that case, he (or she) can just go perch in someone else’s pine tree.

[Next post: Part 2 – The Flower]

 

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15 thoughts on “Rain, Snow, Owl, Flower – 1

    • The barred owl isn’t in residence right now, but there are two fat raccoons climbing up and down the same pine tree the owl was inhabiting. The raccoons are having trouble climbing up and down because it’s very snowy here right now and the trunk and branches are slippery. I have no idea what is enticing them to climb so far up into this tall tree.

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  1. I’ve always been delighted at any owl sighting; no sinister overtones for me (but I never thought to worry for cats!).
    You mentioned Cornell Ornithology, so maybe you saw their recent video of the burrowing owls? one of the best jobs I’ve seen of coordinating music to wildlife video, impossible to watch without smiling. this video (not sure that html is working?)

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  2. What a beauty! Is he very big? We don’ t have them here, but we do have beautiful barn owls and tawny owls patrolling the garden at night. The barn owls have a screech but the tawnies go ‘two, wit, to woo’. Apparently the females do the ‘ two -wit’ and the males answer ‘ two -woo’.
    A lovely post and how nice to hear from you Mrs.Daffodil.

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    • Thank you. I don’t know how to describe his size – fairly large, I think. He’s bigger than a full grown hen but smaller than an eagle (ha ha, not much help). I haven’t heard his call, but read that “[t]he Barred Owl’s hooting call, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” is a classic sound of old forests. . .” [Cornell Lab of Ornithology]

      Yes, my New Year’s resolution is to pay more attention to my blog!

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