I keep hoping they will wake me up.
It’s getting to be time for owls to mate. The stream running through the farmer’s fields and the nearby patches of woods make for perfect roosting and hunting grounds.
The ones most likely to wake me are the barreds and great-horneds. The barreds are just loud, conversational.* The great-horneds are softer, and they awaken me more gently. I love the mnemonic used for their call: Who’s awake? Me too!
These first awakenings happen behind closed windows, as it’s far too cold to be sleeping with them open. It is almost always I who wake up, almost never Tim, as I am by far the lighter sleeper. At first suspicion that I may have really heard something, I get up, walk around the bed to the windows, and open the one closest to the stream. I stoop down and stick my face up to the screen. I listen as long as I can stand it.
The next-most-often-heard owl here is the eastern screech. I love its sound. It’s the spooky-owl one. Such complexities for such a little bird! Its vibrato is the essence of spring.
The one and only time I heard a saw-whet owl, it woke me up. The Cornell recording doesn’t sound exactly like what I heard, but friends have described the saw-whet’s call as “a spaceship backing up.” Just so you know, a spaceship backing up sounds a bit like whetting a saw. I so wish I could hear it again.
I think I have only heard a barn owl twice (and a barn owl has never woken me up). The first time was almost scripted. Tim and I were heading to Chincoteague to camp with some friends, one who’s practically an ornithologist. On the way, I wondered aloud what a barn owl sounded like, because it’s not included on the Peterson tapes. When we got to the campground, we asked Chuck, who became suddenly alert and said, “Kind of like that!” as a barn owl screamed above us. Chuck managed to get his megapowerful flashlight on the bird as it flew by, and we got a look. People have likened the cry of this owl to the scream of a child. It’s a frightening sound. The second time, I was walking along the rail trail after dark, by the farmer’s fields. This barn owl was also on the wing, its screams drawing close, then veering away.
Owls. It’s almost Equinox. It’s time for one of them to wake me up.
*Tim can do a pretty good imitation of a barred owl and can occasionally get an answer when he calls. But it’s an outdoor trick, not relevant to getting the wild ones to wake me as I’m sleeping indoors. Of course, if Tim was awake and I was asleep, he could possibly trick me.