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Owl Prowl

Eastern screech owl (Photographer unknown--stolen from Qoop)
     Last Friday evening should have been perfect for spotting owls (either visually or aurally): owl courting season, nearly cloudless sky, 3/4 of a waxing moon, and a windless night.  Unfortunately, for the fifteen or so of us, led by the incomparable naturalist Dorothy McCleer, we came up owl-less.
     It was a cold, late fall evening, the brief snowfall from Thursday evening was all but vanished except for the white shellacking on the fallen trees.  We met inside U of M-Dearborn's Environmental Interpretive Center for a briefing of the species we might encounter--the great-horned owl, the screech owl, and possibly a barred owl, one of which had been hanging out in the basement of a Presbyterian church on the other side of the Rouge River.  We headed out into the cold dark and stopped by some oaks near the entrance.  Ms. McCleer quieted us down and whistled the smooth sliding call of the screech owl.  We scanned the dark cracks in the sky that were the bare tree branches for several minutes: nothing.
     We headed into the woods walking on not-quite frozen mud, stopping several times, watching, listening.  One won't hear an owl approach as their wing feathers are designed for silent flight (the better to catch you, my dear), so one either scans for flight or listens for a possible amorous response.  We did hear Canada geese several times, honking in Lake Fairlane, but that was as close as we came to owls.
     Ms. McCleer, without the aid of recordings called for barred owls and the great-horned ones as well, to no avail.  The owls were out there in the trees, but for whatever reason chose to deny us their spooky calls.  Still, tromping through the woods at night, in the hopes of an avian thrill is not a bad way to spend a Friday evening. 


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