When we first moved into our house in November of 2007, it was still warm enough to sleep with the windows open. After years of living in apartments, I was thankful for the semi-woodland that filled our backyard, and the sounds of the birds in the trees. I was especially excited, though, when we started hearing the owl.
Into the blue night and the lacework of tree branches we would hear him, not long after retiring, letting out one solitary Whooo that would echo through our open window. He would call a few times, then fall silent, and we would fall asleep. After about a month he disappeared–or rather, his sound did, since we never saw him–we did not hear him again for more than a year.
I had tried to do research, to find what kind of owl it could have been, listening to calls and looking up what kinds of owls lived here in our area. My search was mostly fruitless. While I did find a list of owls inhabiting central Georgia, none of their calls matched that lone hoot we had heard so many times.
It did occur to me, once, that we might have only heard a neighbor, similarly owl-obsessed, trying in vain to mimic an owl call in hopes of raising one, and then stopping when they realized how useless it was. I tried not to dwell on the possibility.
Then, after thirteen months of silence, Jeremy called me outside one night, saying he had heard it again; same sound, just like before. I sat outside for forty-five minutes and didn’t hear anything but some strange clacking-cawing noise, and went back inside rather cold and disappointed.
Three weeks or so ago, I had just arrived home from the grocery store and stepped out of the car when I heard the faint echoes of an owl, way off down the hill towards the middle our subdivision. I was beside myself! I stood outside for a while, listening, grinning, much to the interest, I am sure, of my neighbor, who is given to watching our cul-de-sac from her window.
We’ve heard the owl (I always say “the”, though it is hardly likely that it is the same one) several times, now, in the morning before the sun comes out. (We are teachers, you know.) This evening, while eating dinner, we were actually d iscussing hearing the owl in the mornings when a movement in the trees caught my eye. I looked outside to see a huge bird–our resident hawk, I assumed–flying towards and landing in a tree standing the yard behind ours. Then the bird turned its head, which was larger than a hawk’s, and a flat face…
“That’s the owl!” I said, and jumped out of my seat, running to the window. “It’s him! It’s him! Whooooo!!“
“Well, don’t freak out about it,” said Jeremy, which was a reminder I no doubt needed.
He sat there for a while, the owl, looking here and there, then up and down. He was quite dark, with a bit of white on his face. After a while I went outside, taking a blanket with me (for it was cold and raining.) When I wrapped the blanket around me, showing its white underside, he stopped his gazing about and looked straight at me, a fact I joyously gestured about to Jeremy, who had come to the window to watch.
He looked at me for a bit, then around, then at me, and after a few minutes flew off into the trees.
I’ll call him Bubo. I’ll be watching for you, sir.