I had finally discovered that the strange noise being made in the treetops was a juvenile barred owl. It was so strange to see how different yet similar they are to adults. I couldn't really tell any difference in the field markings but there was something about the way the owl looked that screamed "inexperienced animal."
It was really fun to watch how the birds responded to this predatory energy in the landscape.
When I first saw it up in the oak tree, all the woodpeckers that feed in our backyard were alarming and circling up to watch the owl. This was the first time I could ever truly confirm hairy woodpecker alarm calls and it was very instructive to learn about their behavior. They didn’t so much make any different calls than they usually do but their alarm calls were more frequent than usual and they hopped up the trees to make a big circle around the owl. Nuthatches were getting in on the alarms too. At one point the owl swooped in after one of the woodpeckers but missed. He seemed to accept defeat at that point because he flew off and the woodpeckers chilled out.
Over the next few days I saw the owl a few more times. Usually for a good part of every day I could go out and hear alarms coming from various parts of the landscape. It was obviously hanging out close by.
Then one evening I was sitting at my desk when at the window I caught some movement out of my eye and heard the thwap as a large wing hit my window! I was certain it was the barred owl and rushed to look out. It seemed to have pounced on something and then disappeared. I ran outside and looked out into the fading light over the lawn and sitting on top of our bean trellis was the Barred Owl.
It looked at me briefly & then swooped down into the garden. That’s when I heard the airy whistle sound again but it wasn’t coming from where I expected. I looked up and sitting on our pea trellis was a second Owl.
I couldn’t believe it. Now there were two of them. The first one flew up to a low perch and the newly located owl pounced down onto the lawn. I found a place to sit and watch. They did this sequence of behavior over and over again. Perching low for a bit and then diving down apparently attempting to catch something on the ground.
So what were they hunting? Can you guess what it was?
I was in utter amazement of what I was seeing and as the light faded the cricket chorus was incredible. The scene seemed like something out of a fantasy. It’s not every day you get to watch the synchronized hunting patterns of two Juvenile Barred owls. It seemed too good to be true.
But I still had this question of what the owls were hunting. Why do they keep pouncing down like that? Are they missing their target? Maybe they’re hunting something that’s very abundant.
I watched one dive down and then like a vacuum of silence where it had pounced the cricket chorus stopped and I suddenly realized what they were hunting. The cricket larder was on and they were having a feast on my lawn. What better way for Juvenile owls to hone their hunting skills than by practicing with large tasty insects that make a lot of noise?
As the last light waned from the sky I moved quietly back across the lawn trying to not disturb the crickets in their songs and slipped inside the house to leave the owls in their hunting.