Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The night visitor

Last night clouds moved across the sky, growing ever lower, and before morning drizzle began to fall. The spate of warm and lovely November weather is ended. When the storm clears, the weather will turn to late fall temperatures, and snow showers are even in the forecast for Thursday. Winter will soon be on its way.

When it’s cloudy at night and rain is due, the clouds actually make the forest lighter. The contrast between the gray clouds and the trees makes it easer to see further than does a clear, black sky against the dark trees.

After I turn the lights out at the cabin, the nighttime view from the window lets me see across the forest floor, until the slope of the mountain hides it. Last night, as I lay in bed, I saw the silhouette of an owl cross the view. It was a great horned owl, as nothing else is so large. It crossed my view heading diagonally across the window, heading towards the ground. No doubt a mouse, perhaps on its way to becoming dinner, attracted the night time predator.

I don’t often get to see the owls that live on Roundtop. I hear them frequently, often several times a week. The great horned is the most common, though I fairly often hear the eastern screech owl, too. Barred owls are rare up by the cabin, though are more common down in the swampy area at the base of the mountain. Anything else is very rare, possible only during migration. I’ve heard the saw whet owl a few times and heard rumors of long-eared owls, but have never seen one of those here.

Most often, when I do see an owl, it’s not long after dawn on a grey and rainy morning. I’ve always thought the owls simply hadn’t gone to roost yet because the morning was so dark. Seeing one of the silent predators of the night swoop across the forest in those few minutes when I lay waiting for sleep is the rarest of treats. I’m sure it happens much more often than I see it, perhaps many more times, but long after I have fallen asleep.


Woodswalker said...

A rare treat, to see an owl! One night many, many years ago, I was up in the night to feed the baby and saw a little Screech Owl on a hemlock bough just outside the window. Flying Squirrels are equally elusive, and probably just as common, we just don't ever see them in the dark.

Carolyn H said...

Flying squirrels --not sure that I agree they are elusive. Once I had one canping out in my dryer vent and that was no fun. So I'm happy if I don't see any evidence of those little devils.


Scott said...


An owl IS a rare treat; I probably only get to see one once or twice a year at my preserve, and I always come into the house and report the sighting excitedly.

A Long-eared Owl usually spends at least part of each winter in the evergreen plantation near our house, but I rely on the neighborhood's dedicated birders to show me the spot; I'm too lazy to try to find the elusive bird myself.

I had flying squirrels living in my attic. Every evening, I would hear the baffle on the bird feeder rattle, but I could never catch a glimpse of what was causing the noise. Each morning, the feeder was empty. When the scurrying of creatures in my attic finally drove me to distraction, I called a company to exclude the "little devils" two years ago. The company explained that I had flying squirrels. They closed-up the holes with stainless steel mesh. But, I'm starting to hear mid-night scurrying again...

Carolyn H said...

Scott, I covered my dryer vent with steel mesh--it's worked for many years now to keep the flying squirrels away. When I was a kid, one got into our house. Its noise woke up the entire family, and I can still remember getting up and seeing it fly off the top of my dad's gun cabinet. I'll never forget that!

Carolyn H.