Before this past month, all of my encounters with Great Horned Owls, true to their reputation, were mysterious. I awoke from a dream once to a sound of what I thought was a slightly demonic dove cooing. As I awoke more fully, I realized it had to be the hoot of an owl. It seemed so close that I looked out the window at all the treetops. But I couldn't see anything beyond dark, twisting leaves. Later, I learned that the calling of an owl can carry over great distances, much like the sounds of deeply swimming whales.
Then once I thought I saw a nighttime-flying Great Horned Owl. It was dusk and we were traveling fast on a freeway along the foothills of the Sierra in California. I looked up at what I thought was a raptor, but then I realized the face was way too big and flat for any of California's hawks and falcons. I knew I had glimpsed an owl.
So these earlier, vague meetings did not prepare me for the sight a daytime Great Horned Owl roosting in an old cypress. The owl had chosen an unlikely but fortuitous place to take a daytime sleep. A number of children were attending a family birding day event in a conference room right next to the tree. So they all got to observe a hard-to-see bird. I have never seen so many different shades of brown, in delicate swirling patterns, on any bird. What made the owl's chosen tree an unlikely spot is that it hung out over the bright waters of Morro Bay on a warm day. The setting was a far cry from Halloween. But the tree was holding up many strands of eerie lichen, and the branches were twisted in such strange shapes that it was appropriately creepy for an owl.
Although it is hard to have such a close encounter with a Great Horned Owl, they are actually neighbors, though not often seen, to many of us in North America. The largest owl on our continent, they have figured out how to thrive in habitats from mountains to deserts, from forests to grasslands and chaparral. Each individual owl likes to carve out an individual territory of a few hundred acres to several miles. In all this space, each owl usually chooses a set daytime roosting tree or rocky alcove (such as the cypress of the Morro Bay resident).
In Ancient Greece, owls were a symbol of wi/home/users/web/b1160/apo.sherr2/ntom, an apt quality for a bird that flies confidently through the dark. The beauty and mystery of owls have been expressed in art, at some of my favorite links:
An ancient cave artwork shows that owls have always haunted people's dreams.
This Egyptian amulet is in honor of the brave people fighting for freedom in that country.
This inkwell nicely connects to the idea of owls as sharers of wi/home/users/web/b1160/apo.sherr2/ntom.
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