16 April 2009
The Return of the Horns
The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
According to a website run by the National Park Service, their time for breeding runs from February until July. I saw my first Great Horned Owl right here in Ohio, when I was about 12 or 13. Maybe a little younger, the memories get fuzzy with the mists of time. It was at my parent's old house, which is across the street from a forest preserve.
The call of the Great Horned is a very particular ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo, which actually sounds like "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for yoooou?" Once heard, and identified, you would never mistake this giant for any other owl. As kids, my sisters and I would search the trees whenever we heard the call to spot the owl. The call is as loud as it is unmistakable.
I haven't heard it in years.
Last night, lying in my warm bed, just about my favorite place in the world, as I tried (unsuccessfully) to fall asleep around 8 PM, I heard the call plain as day. I was determined to try to get to sleep without any artificial aid, you see. No OTC sleeping pills. No chamomile, no melatonin, no valerian, no prescription! I was adamant.
Hearing the owl, I smiled, and turned over on my back, listening again to see if he or she was close. (n.b., I actually have no idea if it is the males or females or both that make the distinct call.) I heard it several more times before giving up on falling asleep on my own and dragging out a book after dosing myself with chamomile tea and melatonin tabs.
I have such good memories of looking for that owl with my parents and sisters, the excitement we felt when we spotted them during the day (a rarity) and the straining to see the owl in the falling darkness. Their silent flight, graceful as it is deadly, is a beautiful thing to watch.
I know they never left; I probably should say the return of my awareness of the Horns...but it is an unmistakable sign of spring to me to hear them ask, "Who cooks for you? Whooo cooks for yooooouuu?"