Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Mighty Owls

I have always thought that Owls were awesome creatures. In my life time I have seen them swoop down and catch mice without really missing a beat of their wings. They are magestic birds that are equal to other predator birds and only surpassed by maybe Hawks, Falcons or Eagles. When I was in High School, our school mascot was the Owl. As a student I just didn't quit understand why a school would call themselves the fighting owls. After all, didn't owls just sit up in the tree tops and Hoot? It wasn't until I was much older before I realized that Owls were truely magnificent predators. Yesterday, Eric and I went out to the Ranch to burn some brush. Before we started we hiked out to Todd's Shed to check on it. Todd didn't have time to finish it or seal it up from the weather and the past few weeks had been pretty rainy and cold. I wanted to make sure that it had held up. When we opened the door and walked in, it was obvious that some birds had been enjoying having a roof overhead. There were dropping all over the place. There were also some Gray balls about the size of golf balls or a little smaller. I wondered out loud, "What in the heck are these?" Eric stopped to take a better look, pulled out his knife and cut one open and found some small bones and a skull. "I know what these are." Eric exclaimed. "These are owl droppings." I was facinated because I had never seen anything like it. The large amount of them got me to wondering where they could be nesting. I looked around and after ruling out most places, I moved over to where a couple of sheets of OSB plyboards were stacked up against the wall. I leaned them out away from the wall, looked down at the floor and saw a fairly large owl sitting there. I leaned the boards back and said to Eric, "I think I found out where the owl is." At that instant a large barn owl came flying out of his hiding place and flew up to the rafter peak, (where I imagine he had been getting in), and in a panicked state, couldn't get out. So, he started circling the room just over our heads and landing at every window. It was an awesome site to see a bird with a 4 foot wingspan circling inside a 14 foot square building but at the same time. I knew that its beak and talons could tear up my flesh with little effort. I was not in any hurry to see how badly it could hurt us. I used my walking staff to reach over and push the door open. After a couple of circles around in the shed, the owl noticed the opening and flew off. I was so overwhelmed at the silence of the great bird. How huge it was. How close we had been to it and how surreal the whole experience was. I wished that I had had my camera with me but in afterthought, I'm not sure I would have had the presence of mind to get it out and record anything let alone get a picture. The whole thing was over in about 30 seconds. This particular owl was absolutely beautiful. I would say that it's body was about the size of an average house cat. I'm guessing at it's wingspan but I would have to estimate that it was somewhere between 4 and 5 feet. Upon further inspection, we fould another smaller owl hiding in the same spot but she was not interested in moving from her hiding place. I suppose that we experienced natural behavior in the fact that the male flew off as a distraction to protect the female. I assume that the male flew off because it had such beautiful coloring and the other one looks more like it was camouflaged in the same pattern as the woods. After this experience, we sat down for a quick lunch and then propped open the door and went and burned brush for the next several hours. Upon returning to the shed, we noticed that the female had left. It was quit an interesting day at the ranch. It all goes to show you that if you put a shed out in the middle of nowhere and don't live in it, wildlife will move in. Honestly, I was expecting mice. However, with owls living there, mice won't be an issue. I did some research online and found a picture of a typical Texas Barn Owl that looks pretty close to the one that flew around inside Todd's shed. The next time I go out to the ranch, I'm going to have my camera at the ready.

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