We have lived in our house for 23 years. It is in the middle of a city, though our neighborhood is park-like, and over 100 years old. We have tall trees and small lots, but my garden and those of my neighbors are a decent size, ranging from one quarter of an acre to a full acre.
Tonight, for the first time in those 23 years, we distinctly heard an owl calling. More than once — in fact, for several minutes. I think it was a barred owl; it had the distinctive rhythm sometimes described as “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?”. And it sounded just like my father.
My father was a bird lover and bird-watcher. During my childhood, he developed a fascination with owls of all kinds, and he learned how to call them from the elevated deck on the back of our house, which faced several acres of New England woods. Hoo hoo hoo-hoo, he would call; and the owls would call back to him.
I taught my youngest child this trick some years ago, when we spent a week in Yorkshire at a wonderful, isolated location surrounded by woods on two sides and looking out over the moors on another. I cherish the memories of playing on a swingset with my little boy, stopping to listen to owls calling to each other in the woods, and teaching him to call back to them from the old walled garden, across an ancient ha-ha.
Although my father never took me out into the woods at night to call owls, I used to read the book “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen to my children. So in honor of tonight’s owl, here is a video snippet from that lovely book: Owl Moon.
Illustrations by John Schoenherr.