A Christmas Visitor

I read with great delight a recent story about a family who found  a live Eastern Screech Owl in their Christmas tree. The little owl had apparently been the tree in their living room for about a week. They didn’t notice it when they decorated the tree.  Many of their ornaments  were owl shaped, so the hitchhiker blended right in. I was surprised it didn’t hoot or move much.

The family contacted a rescue organization  that caught the owl and fed it up and got it back into the wild. The woman who found the owl in her tree was pretty delighted and said she felt a pretty special bond with the little owl.  The native people Husband works with believe owls are portents of death. We all have different relationships with animals.

Any good owl stories? What animals have you had special bonds with? Have you ever had unexpected visitors?

31 thoughts on “A Christmas Visitor”

  1. At our last house, we came home one evening and heard a curious clacking sound—like castanets—in our garage. Investigating, I discovered a baby owl, his beak making the clacking sound. In the morning, we called the Raptor Center and a woman came out. She identified the baby as a great horned owl and located the nest from which it had fallen in a pine tree next to the house. She explained that it was normal for owl babies to fall from the nest when they reached a certain size and that the parents then fed them on the ground until they fledged. She advised that we should try to keep the young owl off the ground for its protection from any dogs or cats that may roam the neighborhood and she showed us how to lift the baby, grasping its legs just above the already large and well-developed talons, up onto a low branch of the tree that held the nest. That branch was directly opposite and about ten feet away from thee picture window in our living room, so we had clear viewing of the little owl’s disposition.

    Naturally, we had to name him. From the fact that he had left the nest and that we often found him on the ground, we imputed an apparent boldness on the part of the owl and named him “Brody”, after Steve Brody, who claimed to have been the first person to leap from the Brooklyn Bridge. Later, as we were watching him, we saw him slowly sliding around the branch until he was hanging upside down. Then he dropped off. His grip wasn’t always enough to keep him upright on his perch.

    During the day, we could pick him up and return him to the branch undisturbed but once, when it was approaching dusk, we went out to lift him and the mother owl swooped just over her heads. The nighttime was her domain.

    A few days after Brody dropped from the nest, another smaller baby owl appeared on the ground below the tree. Owls, we learned, stagger the laying of their eggs so that their offspring mature sequentially. This new baby owl we named “Horton”, as in Horton Hears a Who. To imagine these little great horned owls, you have to picture that their beaks and feet and eyes were well-developed and disproportionate for their bodies. Since they hadn’t yet fledged, they were covered with downy fuzz.

    For a month or so that spring, we were able to watch them develop. They, in turn, watched us. When they finally grew some feathers and began to experiment with flight, their first attempts were upward to higher branches in the tree. By summer, they could glide to other trees in the yard, but they still were unable to feed themselves. By then, they were about the size of a cat and would sit in the trees squawking for their parents to come and feed them.

    Liked by 8 people

  2. Rise and Give a Hoot, Baboons,

    Long, long ago and far, far away…oh, wait, that is a different story. OK, In rural Grand Rapids, MN in 1978 I lived for 2 years when the wasband managed a large, beautiful church camp (2000 sq acres of wooded land) that abutted the Chippewa National Forest. It included parts of 2 lakes and the entire shore of one lake.

    A friend and I canoed across the lake to the stream that fed the lower lake. We hiked along the stream that connected the two, when we heard a “clacking” sound similar to the sound Bill described above. We looked up and there were 5 full sized owls, either Barred Owls or Great Snowy Owls, perched on lower branches. We stood still for a long time, just watching them watching us. They were so beautiful.

    I thought they were Great Snowy Owls. Local wildlife people swore this was outside of their range, but the pictures I looked up sure looked like them. They also thought it was outside the range of Barred Owls and that they must have been the “eared” owls and would not listen to my description of Having No Ears. But I was just a girl and what did I know. GRRRRR.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. When I view the on-line range maps posted today, the area would be within the range of that population. I saw these owls in 1978–41 years ago. We saw a few things that were supposedly out of range and some populations were coming back in those years: Bald Eagles, osprey and hawks that had been endangered, wolves were coming back, etc. When you live so remotely, you are gifted with some sights that are not “documented.” My most treasured sight was a hummingbird nest tucked into a bush branch. It was the size of my thumb. It was amazing.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. In the early 2000s, we were visiting some friends who live in a cabin outside of Ely. It was winter and we had skied for about an hour from the nearest road to reach their cabin. From the window of that cabin, I spotted a varied thrush, which we photographed and were able to positively identify. Varied Thrushes are western birds and their range is not supposed to extend east of the Rockies.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Decades ago, I was playing golf by myself at (I believe) Francis Gross golf course in Mpls. Standing on a tee box I heard a rustling-whooshing sound, turned, and saw a rather large owl (not sure what type) pounce on a squirrel. The squirrel shrieked, the owl took off with dinner firmly grasped in its claws, and the whole incident was over in about five seconds.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chris, the predator was almost certainly a great horned owl. A squirrel would probably be too much for a barred owl to take. Great horned owls are the only avian predator that can take a wild turkey and are the only predator that commonly takes skunks. Pound for pound, they’re the scariest predators on earth.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. We had several red-tailed hawks and Cooper’s hawks over the years roosting in our trees. During those periods the rodent activity in our garden and yard drops to complete stillness.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Here’s one I can tell. I used to hike two hours a day in the off-leash dog park between Minnehaha Falls and Fort Snelling. One day I noticed a barred owl on a branch right along my usual path. It became “a thing” to hike that path each day, looking for the owl. I decided it had to have a name. Since it was a barred owl, I decided to name it Shakespeare. You know: Shakespeare the bard.

    Word about the owl got out, and soon we had a regular troop of local bird watchers showing up in the park to check out our owl. Now each day I looked forward to seeing the owl and the birders. Now and then, one of the birders would say, “That’s Shakespeare up there! Get it? Shakespeare the bard!” And I’d say, “Oh, that’s really clever.”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Years ago we had a particularly severe early fall snow storm. Our cat at the time went out in the back yard and managed to get on the fence she often strolled on. Imagine her surprise when she came upon a somewhat disoriented owl perched on the fence. She skedaddled quickly back to the deck. The owl stayed on the fence for a while, the flew off. I think it was a great horned owl.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I have not had the up-close experiences you all have had. I do, however, have fond memories of a grandfather who loved them – I suspect because he grew up on a farm where they were a very welcome guest. When he moved into the house I remember as “Grandma and Grandpa’s house” near Powderhorn Park, he installed a cement “barn” owl on his deck. I am not entirely sure of the provenance of the owl (it may well have come from his family farm) – and I believe it now lives with a cousin in Duluth. This owl begat several other owls around their house – everything from pictures to (I kid you not) owls on their toilet seat (it was the 70s after all). When I was maybe 7 or 8 my mom and I found a cookie jar that looked like a tree stump with a couple of owls on the lid – one larger, one smaller. Clearly these owls were my grandparents (one larger, one smaller) – and they needed the cookie jar for Christmas. The cookie jar moved from the house to their apartment, and now lives at my house. A reminder of my grandfather and his love of owls.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Great stories people!

    Lately we’ve been hearing owls hooting. Usually late fall (I think it was late fall) I suspect it’s mating season and they’re really close and loud and calling each other. One over there and one over this way. Pretty neat.

    One year while hauling manure when I would pull into one field, way off in the distance I’d see an owl leave it’s nest. I was 1/3 mile away so it surprised me it would leave so soon. Taking no chances I guess. But that happen every day for a couple weeks.

    Back in February of 1996 when it was -42 a small owl moved into the garage for the night.

    Too many deer to count around our place and they’re not cute; they’re damn pests and they eat too much of my crops. Same with wild turkeys. Too many.
    Coyotes, possums are around. raccoons I have a personal vendetta against.
    I miss having cattle around. The nice friendly ones anyway. chickens aren’t friendly in the same way.

    It’s nice to see more bald eagles around these days. Herons sometimes fly over and I always like that.

    Christmas Eve always reminds me of the barn full of cattle and giving them extra hay at night and a scratch on the head. I miss that.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I just had a wildlife encounter on my way to Target. Wild turkeys hang out on the corner of Mitchell and Scenic Heights, obstructing traffic and creating drama. Three male turkeys decided to argue over a female standing near by, directly beneath the semi-four where all the traffic can rubberneck and stall.

    I am with Ben in his comment above—wild turkeys are getting too populous!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I like to imagine having a special bond with the bunny in our yard. I’ve started to get up earlier, and have watched him/her nibbling on what’s left of the garden – since it’s so warm, there are still some bits of onion and kale… This is about the only wildlife, besides squirrels, that I see on a regular basis.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Recently, maybe two or three months ago, I was working at the flower shop when I heard a scrabbling noise nearby. I looked in a wastebasket underneath the desk where I was sitting and saw a tiny mouse looking up at me. It had ventured into the wastebasket and couldn’t find a way to get out. At the time the weather outside was chilly, but not freezing. I figured the mouse stood a better chance of survival outside the shop. Inside the shop, it’s a mine field of glue traps and poison. So I took the wastebasket outside and tipped it on its side. The baby mouse ventured out of the wastebasket and came toward me, stopping between my feet. I suppose it was a little warmer there than the surrounding air.

    I always feel sort of sorry for mice. They are unwelcome indoors, for obvious reasons, but when released outdoors they’re probably pretty likely to become prey in short order. Mice don’t die peacefully in their sleep after a long lifespan, let’s face it.

    After a pause, the mouse skittered off and took shelter under a dumpster. Maybe it’s managed to survive, maybe not. In a perfect world, I’d have a little mouse retirement residence where I could release the little creatures.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Linda, let’s do it. I can’t resist mice either. When I worked for Mr. Armstrong at the base exchange at the F.E. Warren Air Base in Cheyenne, there was a little mouse that routinely made it’s appearance in the shop in the morning before the exchange opened. He’d sit on his hind legs and look at me, and I’d give him small chunks of cheese and crackers. Once the store opened and the hustle and bustle of commerce commenced, he’d disappear. The next morning he’d be back, and he and I had another pleasant visit. He was my secret pall, and I didn’t tell anyone about him.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. My sister used to work at a restaurant at the megamall, and she said there was a maintenance guy there that used to pick up the glue traps. He couldn’t bring himself to throw the traps away if there were living mice on them, so he’d soak the traps with vegetable oil and release the little guys. Of course, at the megamall, there was no place for them to go but back into the mall. So it was probably a revolving door for glue trap refugees.

        Liked by 1 person

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