Monday, June 30, 2008

I visited my old friend up Echo Canyon again last night. I heard him call immediately, and found him shortly thereafter on a tree branch. He stared at me with those dark, intense eyes...eyes that seem to contain the whole universe. "Where's your kiddos?" I ask him (since I am looking for juveniles on this trip). He answers me with silence and a stare. I am overcome by a sudden, saddening thought. I think he is alone in this canyon...I have never heard or seen his mate (for the past four times I have visited). It's almost like I could see the loneliness in his eyes. Every time I visit, I always see or hear him immediately...almost like he is waiting and calling for a companion...but she never shows. Is he sad about this? Is he emotional distraught over the absence of his mate? Spotted Owls tend to have the same partner, occupying the same canyon year after year. Has she died? I wonder if I am his only visitor.
Ok...enough anthropomorphism. I could be wrong anyways...maybe she never leaves the nest, or maybe she is just a silent owl (some pairs are very vocal, some you only hear occasionally).

It is fun to watch the owls wake. It was still early in the evening (around 8:30pm) when I found him. Other owls we have observed typically start their night after 930. He yawned, stretched his wings, both at the same time and then individually, scratched his face madly with his foot...just like I do when I wake up in the morning. He then went about cleaning himself...puffing up and ruffling about...twisting his head in all sorts of awkward directions to preen his feathers with his beak. For each of his primaries and tail feathers, he would draw each feather individually through his beak, realigning the bristles. After a good, assertive hoot, he flew away to begin his night of hunting.

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