When I first moved in I noticed pretty quickly that their hoots were a common feature of our nighttime sound-scape. At certain times of year I would be awakened by whole groups of them in close proximity to the house all calling to each other and causing a raucous.
I would hear bird alarms coming from particular trees during the daytime and often wondered if there was barred owl hiding out in the cedars or in amongst some dark spot. I tried many times to go into those places and see them but I always met with failure. Until one day something changed on the landscape that cause one barred owl to suddenly become very conspicuous and observable.
The house had a couple of grassy paddocks that had probably held sheep at one time and the front lawn had been left unmowed all summer so that all around the house and in the meadows there were tall grasses that had gone to seed and moving through there were deer trails, snakes, and tons of vole activity. There was so much vole activity in these grasses that when I would sit at my sit spot in the pasture I could hear little movements and rustling all around me almost non stop some days.
It was at this time when the grasses had almost completed their yearly cycle but well before they died off that my landlord decided to mow the lawn. He left the grasses in the two paddocks but everything close to the house was cut to within a couple inches of the ground.
In the following days after the grass was cut my housemates and I started having numerous close encounters with a Barred Owl that had suddenly taken up residence in our yard. It was also at this time that I started noticing the Jays acting differently. They seemed a lot more active on our property than they had been and robin alarms became a more regular feature around the house. It didn't take me long to figure out that the shift in the bird behavior was linked to the barred owl and within a couple days I had figured out that I could easily find the location of the Owl on our property by following the alarms from the Jays, Robins, Chickadees, Sparrows, Towhees and Flickers.
Sometimes it would sit on top of an old metal play swing that we had in the yard. Other times it would hang out in the alders behind the house. It was always close by and didn't seem too concerned that we were watching it from close range.
I started to wonder about this. Why did this Owl suddenly change it's behavior and start sitting out the open? This normally shy bird was being ultra conspicuous and it was a mystery to me.
A couple weeks went by and the barred owl continued to stay close. I would watch it hunt voles in the paddock and one day I saw it kill and eat a garter snake under the big leaf maple beside my sit spot.
Then just as soon as it had arrived, the owl seemed to abandon our yard. The jays calmed down, and the alarms stopped happening in the pattern that had been like the norm for so many days.
I don't know for certain why that owl decided to stay so close for those couple weeks but I do see a pretty strong connection between the time when the lawn was mowed and when the owl showed up. My theory is that the lawn mower displaced a lot of voles into a much more vulnerable position than they're used to. It "blew their cover". All the voles that had lost their homes moved in to unfamiliar crowded territory & it created an amazing vole Larder for owls.
Whatever the reason, I'm really grateful to have gotten such a close time of connection with the barred owls & whenever I hear owls calling to each other in the night I always remember the one that stayed close to our house feeding off the fruits of our landlord's lawnmower.