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The Owls Are A Hoot

‘It sounded like a monkey was outside! What was making that sound? It was coming from the back bay very late at night.’

My late night 'Hooter,' a Barred Owl.

When I was very small there were several very strange sounds that happened in the night. My father, who liked us to sleep in a tent from a rather young age, always waved off the unusual sounds as “just being part of being in nature,” and to, “not worry about it.”That was generally his answer for a lot of things. At least we did have the library of books in the cabin on outdoor wildlife local to our area. We were often looking things up and learning new information about our lake world several times each summer. In those days there never was ‘an app for that.’ These days we have all the references we need for both reading information and hearing sound identification  in the form of apps. It was one thing to read about this or that animal, but the sounds were often a bit more tricky to identify. Even at home we had the World Book of Encyclopedias and other references, because there was no Google searching way back then.  The ‘monkey-like’ noises turned out to be an owl, specifically a Barred Owl. This species is typical to the West Coast of BC and our forests. All my life I have heard these owls around my cabin in the late night and early morning hours. Mostly, they are in the back bay area of my property.  Once we saw a Northern Spotted Owl, which was a rare sighting indeed. I was cautioned to not mention it to anyone, because I was told people would end up arriving and plan to float offshore in a boat with cameras and oversized large zoom lenses in order to catch a glimpse of the endangered species of owl. So we kept it secret that we had seen one on our property. There are a few other species of owl that are common to our lake environment, but one, in particular, has the creepiest call you will ever hear, and it resembles a scream or a screech. The sound is very loud, and ear piercing, and is in one long sound from a lower pitch to high, and we hear it less than the Barred Owl hoots. However, this owl vocalization is really unsettling and often will startle you immediately upon hearing it. The call comes from a Barn Owl, and I did see one once. About two years ago we were fast asleep in the middle of the night when one of these owls started screeching right outside the open kitchen window as it sat on the tree that is inches away from the cabin. Of course, I leap out of bed to catch a glimpse of it, and I can tell you, that was the only time in all these years I got a chance to see one in the dark early morning hours. The owl had a white face that was shaped like a heart. I would have loved to have taken a photo, but I would not have been able to capture it so quickly. My new phone camera this year would have done the job because it has a night photography capability. I actually caught a photo recently of the Big Dipper. How cool is that? There is one sound that has been part of the night sound scenery most of my life that I cannot identify. There is a rather strange long sound that appears to come from very far away to the right of my cabin, most likely from way up on the rocky cliffs. I really have no idea what makes that noise, and my dad did not know either. I have tried to research it and find out, but have not been successful to date.  It is a very deep quick low sound, and I have always thought it a little scary. However, it has sort of become another familiar part of my cabin life, even though it is a mystery. Do any you have any ideas what it could be? My father always thought it might be some sort of owl, I’m not so sure. I have only one photo to date of an owl that I captured in the middle of the night as it sat on a nearby branch after waking me up. It is not a great photo, and I apologize for that, but I have taken great lengths to only use my own captured photos on this website, and not use any stock photos.  I have another owl memory to share. I was quite startled by a rather large owl one night after dusk as I stepped out of the outhouse to return to the cabin. This large bird swooped by me, and I remember I ducked, purely out of instinct, as its wide wings flapped by my head. I am pretty sure I startled him more than he startled me, but, it was dark, and his presence was unexpected and his close-by swoop caught me off guard in the dark, wherein I immediately ducked, with my heart racing. You never know when you have your next story to share. Owls have had some significance for me over the years, and so I have enjoyed these unusual round-eyed birds. Firstly, in my own way I have honoured them by painting them on rocks, as they are a familiar neighbour as I live my lake life. I have not painted my rock owls in the true colours and patterns for any particular species, I have just painted them for the sake of art and expressing my creativity, and I’ve done several to date, including a Spirit Stone. Owls represent Wisdom in that interpretation.

My painted owl rock that was done from a split rock.

My painted owl rock.

My owl Spirit Stone that represents 'Wisdom'. (his other arm has worn off now).

My son made me a little pottery clay owl in one of his school projects one time, and I still bring it out in the Fall season at home in the city to appreciate it. That son is now in his 30’s and I am happy to be able to have kept the hand-made owl he made me, and to display and appreciate it.

My youngest son's adorable owl art class school project.

I also met a woman right after I lost my beautiful mother. She became a special person to me for many years. I sought her wisdom, support, and friendship until life took the two of us in different directions. She adored owls and I created a collection of owl images to have her view online as a connection to her that I still have to this day. I was very grateful for her strength, spirituality and support at a time when I felt such loss, and, at the time, I was also experiencing life-altering changes in my own life and in my marriage. I still think of her often and wish her nothing but good health and a happy life. I hope to see her again one day, but I no longer travel to her home area, which is thousands of miles and in a neighbouring country. I have always been a fan of so many birds, both in the city and the lake, but I never, ever have experienced a single owl in the city. Therefore, they are in a special place in my thoughts and experiences in relation to my lake life. Although there are several species of owls found in the forested areas of my lake neighbourhood, it is the Barred Owl and the Barn Owl that are the most commonly recognized birds for me.  Do you get the chance to enjoy the hoot of an owl now and then? Do you have any where you live or go on vacation? Have you see one in the wild? They are quite spectacular and unique, I think. Too bad they only seem to come out at night, I’d really like to get a good look at my feathered lake friends and enjoy them in daylight.

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