Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Living Off the Land on a Rainy Day

These eyes don't miss much.
I like rain. This is good because, if I didn't, I might be miserable. Still, yesterday's relentless downpour tested my patience. It was a good day for writing because what else could one do? We live off the beaten track anyway and few visitors show up here.

My first clue that we had company was a high-pitched squeal in the yard that translated roughly, "I'm being murdered." I've heard it before and it was likely a small rabbit. The perpetrator had to be a raptor, and when I slid open my window for a look, a Great-horned Owl (GHO) took flight from the ground just outside my office.

Yep, everything ok back there, too.
GHOs are common in our woods and I call them all Bubba. This one flew to a high branch of a nearby fir and waited for me to lose interest. I gave him plenty of space and he hung around all day, sometimes moving closer and other times pulling back to taller trees on the forest edge.

Last evening when it was almost too dark to take more pictures he moved to the very top of a flimsy, 20-foot fir, from which he could strike the ground fast. I hope he dined well last night on rodents, of which we have too many in our garden. In recent years voles have really tested our ability to grow vegetables.

Calculating the odds of a kill.
For years I lived here without seeing a Great-horned Owl. Now I see them all the time.  I don't think it's because they're doing anything differently; just that I've learned to pay better attention. They are silent and still. They favor specific trees with a nice view of open areas for hunting.

My best clue to their presence is the racket of other birds trying to drive them away or, as happened yesterday, the last cry of a rodent that was careless or oblivious.

The beauty of these birds never ceases to move me. They live alongside us mostly unseen, most of the time.  Yet whenever Bubba comes to visit for a day or to stay the night in our yard, he makes my heart glad.