Wise As An Owl

“A wise old owl sat on an oak;
The more he saw, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard;
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?”
Author Unknown

My feather collection

Collecting bird feathers is a hobby that has been with me since my pre-teens. These feathers are placed gingerly in my antique hand-woven American Indian basket, and are treasured keepsakes. Gathered throughout my years of horseback riding and hiking, each feather is treasured for not only its beauty but for how it once adorned each and every bird.

The variety of feathers ranges from birds such as my pet Cockatiel Max, to majestic peacock feathers. Among the dozens of feathers in my basket, the most cherished feather is from a Great Horned Owl. This large flight feather is rich brown in color with tan highlights. The soft, comb-like feather enables the Great Horned Owl to fly silently while hunting its prey. Though this feather may appear dull in comparison to my peacock feathers, it’s the fact it’s from an owl and the owl character I cherish.

The Owls Have It

Great Horned Owl

We’ve all heard the saying, “wise as an owl”. The saying as well as his reputation goes back as far as Native American and Greek mythology. Maybe the owl got his well-known reputation because of his most famous feature. Those large golden eyes framed in black, as though he is wearing eyeglasses, and his stern stare gives one the idea of a wise old bird. There’s much more to this bird than meets the eye.

This cryptically colored stealth bomber of the night has proven his smarts and wisdom through his hunting technique of first listening, looking, and only then reacting to what he has learned.  Unlike his only predator, man, he listens, looks and learns. This technique has allowed the owl to survive for centuries and proves how smart he really is compared to man.

Listening – Looking – Learning. A concept most humans cannot afford to ignore. The owl is wiser than we ever believed possible. Maybe, just maybe, if man would follow this wise old birds listening, looking, and learning technique, man could be as wise as an owl.

Shine On

Our Red-Tailed Hawk

“A red-tailed hawk rose high on an air current,
calling out shrill, sequential rasps of raptor joy.”
Barbara Kingsolver
Red Tail Hawk

For the past few weeks I’ve experienced an unusual bird sighting here by the ocean. Unusual because seeing one of these birds by the ocean is rare. I would see red-tailed hawks daily on my trail rides with my horse Jimmy, but never at the beach.

I mentioned my sighting to my husband and he thought that a red-tailed hawk was not likely to be at the beach. I agreed with him, but I also told him that we haven’t seen one pigeon on our patio lately and that these hawks hunted the pigeons at the barn. My husband hates the pigeons, so he was hoping I was right.

After days of watching our new neighbor, the red-tailed hawk, I was able to get some video and still images of him perched on the light post outside our patio. My husband was pleasantly surprised to see the images and extremely glad that the hawk was hunting our pesky neighborhood pigeons.

The hawk usually comes by everyday around 5 or 6 in the evening. Magnificent to watch as he catches the ocean breeze and hovers without flapping, eyes fixed on the ground over the beach waiting to spring on any unlikely prey. I spring into action to capture images of him hovering in front of our patio.

The other thing I noticed since the hawk arrived in our neighborhood is that the Great Horned Owl that I would hear in the evening can no longer be heard. Red-Tailed Hawks are extremely territorial and will often chase away Great Horned Owls.

If you follow my blog you might remember my post about the owl on our roof, Hooting in the House. That post was about our new unusual neighbor the owl. Now we have a new and more powerful neighbor to keep our eyes on, our red-tailed hawk.

Shine On

Hooting in the House

“When cats run home and light is come,
And dew is cold upon the ground,

And the far-off stream is dumb,
And the whirring sail goes round,
And the whirring sail goes round;
Alone and warming his five wits,
The white owl in the belfry sits.”
Alfred Tennyson

California Great Horned Owl

The California Great Horned Owl

Late every evening, for the past two months I hear the sound of an owl hooting. To hear the owl clearly, you must be outside the front door. The calls from the owl are coming from the roof and echo and bounce off the outside walls of our nine story building.

Like a well tuned clock, the owls hooting begins at ten o’clock each night. Unfortunately, because I have night blindness and have no access to the roof, I have not actually seen this owl.

Being the owl fan I am, everyone I know has heard about this owl. They all look at me like I’m nuts and tell me “that’s nice.” My husband just thinks I have bats in my belfry. (That’s another post at another time.)

Last night when my owl buddy began to hoot, I turned to my husband and asked.

“Can you hear it? Can you hear it?”

“I don’t hear anything.” Said my husband.

I grabbed my husband by the hand, led him off the sofa, away from his car show to the front door and opened the door. We stood at the door for a few seconds, and then the owl gave his distinguished hoot. We both listened as the owl hooted several times.

I was excited as a school girl that my husband had finally witnessed the hoots from my visiting friend. Excited that we had shared the sounds from one of natures most majestic creatures. On the other hand, my husband didn’t share my excitement and just replied “that’s nice”, and returned to the sofa and his car show.

To me its the little things in life that make me happy and give me hope. I love nature and all its wonder. Why has this owl chose our building? Is it because it is the tallest spot facing the ocean? Is it because his hooting echo’s and carries farther for other owls to hear and find him?

I’d like to believe the arrival of this owl and his hooting every night is a sign. A sign of hope. A sign of all the good to come. A sign of wisdom and what knowledge can bring.

But, that is the never-ending romantic in me. For whatever the reason this owl arrived at our building, I’m enjoying all the hooting in the house.

Shine On