After weeks of distance hooting, the two finally met.
by Kathy Reshetiloff
It started in February. Eerie, soulful sounds floated through my open window in the early morning hours.
In the tiny strip of woods that separates my back yard from other yards, barred owls were calling to each other. Peering into the murky forest, I strained to pinpoint the birds as the hoots drifted among the still bare trees.
Finally a few weeks later, something moved among the bare trees. A large bird swooped silently and lit upon the crook of an old beech. Even before grabbing my binoculars, I knew that this was one of the owl suitors on whom I had been eavesdropping.
A barred owl eagerly investigated a cavity in a tree trunk. A larger barred owl, the female, hopped along the branch of a nearby roost, acting rather aloof. He flew to her branch to meet her. After weeks of distance hooting, the two finally met. Immediately the birds became quite familiar, as they gently preened each other.
I put down the binoculars. Still visible, their preening now resembled kissing. I turned, wanting to give these morning lovers their privacy, and dashed off to work.
By April the pair set up house, possibly in that same old beech, though I hadnt seen them since the trees leafed out. But I heard them both day and night. They cackled at each other like newlyweds discovering each others bad habits. And like newlyweds, they gently hooted at each other at night.
As May progressed into June, the hooting became more infrequent. Soon I could only distinguish one owl calling. Now a solitary owl sounds much lonelier than, say, a solitary robin or cardinal or wood thrush. Songs of these birds, even if unanswered by a mate, at least have the company of other morning bird songs.
But one owl hooting into the empty night is a sad sound. And a barred owls call inflects at the end, like a question. This question seemed to go unanswered.
You know, I think there is only one owl out there now, my husband announced one morning over coffee.
I know. I noticed it, too. Maybe the male has left. Maybe male barred owls dont stay around long, I said matter-of-factly.
Secretly though, I hoped this was not the case. Unable to see the owls for the past few months, I got acquainted with them by their conversations. Like words on a page, their songs created a picture in my mind of a wild and romantic owl affair. Besides, its hard to screen oneself from the day-to-day ugliness this fast-paced world keeps dishing out. Coming home each night to listen to this simplistic relationship comforted me. I hated to think that one lover had deserted the other.
One week later and, as usual, Im awakened by a single eerie owl call.
I looked at the clock: 3:14am. I waited and then, as if on cue, another owl chimed in.
At first, one hoot gently overlaps the other, and then the conversation heats up with both birds breathlessly cooing and cackling apologies and affirmations.
Relieved, I drifted off to sleep. The lovers had reunited.