Barred Owl

The velvety, expressive hoots of a Barred Owl ushered in the month of December this morning, in the dark before dawn. HOOooo-aawww. HOOooo-aaaww. The owl called several times from somewhere in the trees behind our house, with pauses of several seconds between each call. The HOOooo was a clear, full hoot, followed by a descending, quavering aaawww. Invisible in the darkness, the huge owl, a female, I think, sounded wonderfully ghostly and wild. Then it fell quiet. I could only hear one owl this morning, though recently I’ve often heard two calling around five in the morning. It was a very fine way to mark the arrival of December.

The day that followed was softly-clouded, gray and chilly. After last week’s heavy rains and wind, many trees now stand almost bare of leaves. The roadsides and yards were littered with leaves and small branches, all the colors look brown and gray and drab, and it’s beginning to look like winter.

Late in the morning, a big Red-shouldered Hawk sat in the top of a bare-limbed oak, preening, its reddish breast muted by the gray light of the day. Many small birds were active below, in the lower branches of the trees and on the ground – Eastern Bluebirds, House Finches, Chipping Sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and White-throated Sparrows among them. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker mewed, several Northern Flickers called kleer, Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers rattled. Blue Jays and American Crows were pretty much everywhere, as usual, and one Fish Crow called its nasal, two-syllable unh-unh as it flew over.

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