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Right in my Own Backyard - Encountering Wise Old Owls - by Brandt Carter
posted: Nov. 10, 2022

Right in my Own Backyard header

Encountering Wise Old Owls

Memorable experiences with four of the 19 kinds of owls that live in the US continue to dance in my mind. The first came in the second year we lived in our house. One gray morning, I spotted a Screech Owl family in an old silver maple tree. It was an astonishing sight, the young with their mother,
My neighborhood has continually provided a habitat for owls whose calls can frequently be heard on summer nights. I often answer with a throaty hooting that to my surprise they have answered. One evening some of my neighbors and I got a good look at a Great Horned Owl being chased by crows - a scene reminiscent of a WWII air "dog fight." A two-foot owl landed at the top of a pine tree. All of us below craned to see the magnificent creature. We suspected the owl lived on Northdale Lake (Bacon Swamp) and the crows knew it was an interloper in the neighborhood.
Another owl encounter happened when I was driving from Asheville, NC, to Gatlinburg, Tenn. Weaving through the mountains on an autumn evening, I heard a "Whoosh!, Whoosh!" and then - to my utter amazement - a Snowy Owl grazed my windshield. Startled by this creature diving for his evening dinner, I subsequently researched owls and found that auto collisions, chemical poisoning and loss of habitat are the greatest enemies of these grand birds.
Finally, just as seasons were changing this fall, my husband happened to be watching cardinals waiting their turn at our backyard birdfeeder when his eyes were drawn to the "Y" of the tree. There sat a Barred Owl eyes fixed on the birdfeeder. Because drought has affected many plants, this desperate hunter was poised for easy prey at our birdfeeder!
Owls are fascinating, probably because they are nocturnal. The subject of centuries of folklore and superstition, owls are frequently symbolic. Some associate owls with sorcerers, wizards and witches - omens of misfortune, sickness and death. Each culture has a meaning for the owl. Modern times have tended to cast new favor on these birds of prey and, thus, the owl's image seems to have become kinder and gentler. I like to think of owls as the symbol of wisdom and helpfulness with additional powers of prophecy.

Brandt Carter, artist, herbalist, and naturalist, owns Backyard Birds at 2374 E. 54th Street. Visit her web site Email your bird questions to
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