Yesterday, during the early moments of blue grey daylight I heard the young owls cry from the branches of a cedar tree just outside the window. These are the owlets that I have photographed and been listening to for several weeks. One of my wonderful neighbors invited me to see them in her back yard. It has taken me a while to understand their behavior, and there is so much to learn that it may take me a very long time to completely absorb their elusive habits.
In years past, I have only ever heard them, never saw them in the wild. It has been a wonderful and incredible experience. The first time that I saw them, they were together on a branch at the edge of the woods. They were so well camouflaged that it took my eyes a moment to refocus.
In the blink of an eye, they were gone. Their wide and impressive wingspan took me by surprise. They are magnificent. They are elegant and have the capacity to vanish into a tree canopy as if they are performing magic.
They have been coming out of the woods at dusk and visible at first light with the little ones. The first good image that I took was when it appeared on a branch from what seems like thin air.
It took my breath away, its yellow eyes and strong body. It sat on a branch and stared directly at us. My friend sat next to me, and I said to her,
"I can't believe what we are seeing right now."
My friend is much better at staying still than I am and we both has a silent giggle under our breath. I was so excited that I could hardly stand it, as my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. Holding a heavy camera with a long lens was very difficult, the excitement made my arms and hands shaky. I was in complete awe. It was love at first sight.
Since that encounter, I have seen them a few times and when my hopes were the highest, they hid from me, or flew over my head in the depth of the dark woods. I have been learning a lot about these Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus). The greatest lesson that they have taught me is how to see in the dark. This is a literal lesson, although it might also be interpreted as a shamanic teaching, I am learning how to see the unseen. They blend into their environment so well that one has to really adjust to a new way of seeing the woods.
The second lesson that they have taught me is how to hear differently. I have learned what their wake up call is like and how they communicate with one another. One night, I was in the woods and I heard the owlets waking up and talking with one another, it was as if they were checking in with one another to say hello and also search out one of the parents. We believe that there are four owls.
Lastly, they have taught me how to be more curious. To learn more about owls all over the world and to read about the history of owls from different resources. The owl below is young, it bobbed and danced while looking at me. The feathers are more fluffy and soft than the adults.
The author Desmon Morris has written a book, the title is Owl.
In the introduction to his book he writes:
"When we examine the history of our relationship with owls we find that they have, indeed, frequently been a symbol of both wisdom and evil. Wise or wicked, wicked or wise, the image of the owl keeps altering. For several thouand years these two iconic values have kept swapping and changing. Another of the contradictory qualities of the much misunderstood owl."
According to Morris, there are fossil remains of owls that have existed for at far back as 60 million years. When I did a little research of my own, I found images of ancient fossils and cave paintings in Europe.
When I look at the images that I have taken, I can hardly believe that they incredible creatures have been on the planet for so many millions of years. It is like having an encounter with a modern day dinosaur, literally from my back door and I did not have to travel half way across the world to see them in all of their glory!
These elusive creatures have been with us, woven into our psyche and our cultures for so many centuries.
The owl graced Grecian coins, were made into gold beads by the Mochica in Northern Peru and revered for their magical and healing powers by many cultures all over the world.
The goddess Lakshmi is often depicted riding on the back of a white owl when she enters the earth plane to visit the poor and bless them with her presence. The owl accompanies her in the dark as it knows how to travel well at night with its extraordinary night vision. In Minorca owls are painted on ceramics for good luck. Amulets of owls are also worn for protection.
There are so many interesting facts about owls in cultures from all over the world that it could take a lifetime to read about how we as humans have lived with these magical beings. Desmond Morris did a beautiful job exploring their vast and meaningful relationships with humans throughout the centuries.
Last week, I saw one of the owls fly through the back of the property. It took my breath away, again, as it was almost dusk, the crows were making a lot of noise chasing it away and it flew so fast, it was a brief but amazing sight.
I hope that this is just the beginning of my time with the owls. I love them so much, their yellow and black eyes, intense stare, silent flight and curious calls. They are mysterious and generous. My neighbour has been gifted many feathers from them and they love her sanctuary where they sleep, drink water and rest in the safety of her magical realm.
Hopefully they will visit me again soon and I will have another story and new images to share with everyone. They are year round residents and hopefully that have found their forever home here in the woods of Springs.