Hidden Picture

GHO hiding in plain sight

GHO hiding in plain sight

Young great horned owl

Young great horned owl at Liberty Wildlife

I love it that wild predators carry on their business right under our noses. The other day I was sitting outside with the dog – both of us looking around aimlessly – when I noticed an unusual blob, a bulky profile, in the neighbor’s acacia willow tree. Only with binoculars could I confirm my suspicion, it was indeed an owl.

Great horned owls are impressive hunters, superbly adapted with special feathers for silent flight and acute hearing that pinpoints rodents and other prey in near darkness. They rest in trees right around our homes during the day, hidden by first-rate camouflage. The owls’ feathers are matte, not shiny, so no sunlight reflects. They squint or close their large golden eyes so no glow emits. The cryptic coloring of their feathers imitates tree bark and usually owls blend in even more by hunkering down near the tree trunk.

This time of year, youngsters fledge from nests and establish territories of their own, often showing up where a more experienced bird wouldn’t. My husband was sitting outside at dusk, when a great horned owl came sweeping in just over his head and crashed into the spindly palm tree that shades our house. Again a youngster. Maybe the same one.

I hope he or she sets up shop around here. There’s nothing so evocative as the eerie hoot of a great horned owl at dusk. And how thrilling to spot an owl flying silent on outspread wings, intent on some mysterious errand. These birds of prey keep a check on the rodent population, for which we never really thank them. If this owl could nab that pesky rock squirrel that’s been eating my plants, I’d be forever grateful.

Note: Click on the top picture to enlarge it and see how she squints her eyes closed. If I can’t see you, you can’t see me!

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2 responses to “Hidden Picture

  1. Lovely piece of writing. I really enjoyed the images you conjured of this fantastic bird. Thanks!

  2. So cool….I invite owls into my yard for the very reason you suggest. More owls, less rodents, less need for unnatural predators like poison….a more healthy environment….and oh, yes, more vegetables in the garden and plants in the beds….a win-win for everyone…except the rodents. Thanks for bringing the beauty and value of the great horned owl to the attention of all of your readers!

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