Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Owl Mornings

My days start early.
Most mornings I am up by 5:30, showered and out to the barn by 6:15.  
I love this time of day...
the quiet stillness, the muffled chewing as the horses eat their hay.
And best of all, I have the opportunity to watch the sun rise...
a treat that so many miss.

Some mornings the sun fills the horizon with the colors and glow of fiery, molten ore...scattering its orange flames along the edge of the earth.  I consider these mornings my prize for leaving my warm, peaceful slumber and venturing out into the freezing pre-dawn.

The molten lava is quickly replaced by soft grey cloud puffs...
the show over, no encores, leaving this audience of one
overwhelmed and grateful.

It is on mornings like this that I often hear the call of owls in the woods near our pasture. 

 From late autumn through early January, the Great Horned owls call to each other in this pre-dawn... an eerie "screech" answered by a gentle "Who-Whoooooooo".   These owls (who supposedly mate for life) have become squatters in a nearby squirrel or hawk nest, high in the tree tops; having re-modelled their new home with a layer of soft downy feathers.  Mating season is coming to a close and a new owl brood will be born this winter.

Yesterday morning's owl calls intrigued the dogs, who sat gazing at the woods from where the sounds came.

That is, until Scarlett interrupted their moment of curiosity.

But, back to the owls....

We have several varieties of owls in our woods.  The Great Horned owl is the largest of them, and perhaps the most vocal...especially at this time of year.  Being the "wise old owls" that they are, they raise their young earlier in the year so that their young are of hunting age when the local mammals are raising their own young.
photo courtesy of

After doing a little research, I learned that owls have eyes that are fixed in their skulls.  Their sight is not limited by this, however, because their neck muscles give them enough flexibility to be able to turn their heads almost the entire way around.  They have a 270 degree range of motion with their head.  

picture courtesy of

Their eyesight is 50 to 100 times better than that of humans in dim light.  What is even more remarkable, though, is their hearing.  This keen sense allows them to catch prey in the dark without the use of their sight.  They devour their prey whole and subsequently regurgitate pellets of undigestible bone, feather, and fur.

At dusk, we occasionally see great horned owls flying through our woods,  however capturing them on film is most difficult in that lighting.  They are quite silent flyers and usually take us quite by surprise.

Thinking of owls reminds me of a young musician named Adam Young.  He is known in the music world as Owl City.  Listen HERE to what happens when you combine a boy, a keyboard, a computer and a whole lot of inspiration.  I hope you enjoy his music as much as I do!
Oh, and he wrote this song for the Warner Bros. film Legend of the Guardians...
which was all about
of course.


  1. I am also hearing the great horned owls in their early winter mating songs when I walk the dogs at 5 am--great music to arise to. Thanks for sharing!

  2. How lucky you are you hear the owls so often. I bet one of your favorite children's book has to be Owl Moon.

  3. A very informative and beautifully written post. I love the sunrise pics. We never hear owls here. I know they must be near. I remember awaking late one night to the chatter of owls while I lived in Florida. It was a gift. Happy morning.

  4. Beautifully written as always..loved the video..occasionally I witness the sunrise..prettiest this time of year..must by the cold and the clearness of the sky

  5. Oh how I love my GHOs, too. I have a pair that call to each other every day.
    I had no idea they'd nest out in the open like that. I thought they were cavity nesters. What good news for me. Now maybe, if I'm looking up instead of down, I can find their nesting spot.

  6. Wonderful post, I always love learning new things! Those owls are amazing. I don't hear them in the morning but every night when I go to bed I am seranaded by an owl across the street. He is not a great horned.
    A couple years ago, there was one on my property and I must admit, somewhat ashamedly that I hooted back at him for sometime and he answered me every time! I was so amazed! Thanks for the info!

  7. Each school day I drive the boys to the main road to meet their school bus. The sun is still in the rising. The colors are breath taking. It is amazing what beauty God has given us. I have wanted so long for some owls to make the homestead grounds their home. I guess it is not in the cards of yet. I & Sam enjoy reading about owls. Birds & Bloom magazine featured an article about them a few months back. I enjoyed your post. Blessings!


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