As my regular readers know, I love birds. I can’t help it. There’s something profoundly beautiful about birds. I love watching them maneuver in the sky completely denying gravity. I particularly admire birds of prey.
It only follows that I would end up volunteering for the Chattanooga Audubon Society. And, when they scheduled an owl prowl, that I would sign Pat and me up. (Unfortunately, Tisen is not welcome on the Audubon property–it’s a wildlife preserve and domestic animals and wildlife don’t mix well.)
Pat and I arrived just before 8PM, in time to deliver a load of bird seed I’d picked up for the feeders at the visitors’ center. Then, Kyle, the property manager, gave a presentation on owls including their “songs” to remind us what we were looking for.
Kyle had been hearing Barred Owls on the property even in the middle of the afternoon; we were confident we would at least hear one.
Kyle had also recruited an owl expert to lead the walk who was extremely good at calling the owls. Barred Owls are known for flying in to see who’s imitating them when called. I once went birding with a group of experts in Columbus. We started at 5:00AM. The leader called twice and had 4 Barred Owls show up within minutes. It was very cool. I think the owls were just as amused by us.
However, here, the Barred Owls must have been up too much during the day–they had no interest in checking us out although our leader called and called. Even in the area where they were most frequently seen, they remained silent. He also tried Screech Owls, but we were not rewarded. As our expert pointed out, it’s best to call Screech Owls first–they won’t go near Barred Owls (because Barred Owls will eat the much smaller Screech Owl).
While a Barn Owl might also find Audubon Acres a suitable place to live (especially if it could find a way into one of the many buildings), none had been spotted on the property, so we really didn’t expect to find any of those.
While the owls were not cooperative, we had started off the walk with an Indigo Bunting catching a late-night snack at the feeder. We also saw many spiders and bats. At one point, we were sure there was a silent owl in a tree, but it turned out to be a young opossum. It blinked in our bright flashlights and gradually decided to move. We watched it with fascination as it slowly made its way down the tree trunk. Every part of it was help perfectly straight, including its tail, as is calmly made it’s way head down the side of the tree.
At the end of the walk, the moon was shining and we stood outside chatting. While we talked, we heard a Barred Owl calling, “Who cooks for you all?” Or maybe it was saying, “Who are the fo-ols?”