Through The Eyes Of An Owl

Owls are one of those most special animals. They carry meaning; I think in part because they sit on the edges – of night, of day, of wilderness, of awareness. More often heard than seen. Those unblinking wide-open eyes staring at you, pointing out that you aren’t the expert here. Owls seem to just serenely know. No wonder they’ve come to represent wisdom or otherworldly knowledge.

To me, it is always a gift, a little jolt of surprising luck, to see one.

Our city’s-edge neighbourhood has a healthy population of wild rabbits. And well-fed squirrels. An excellent place for owls to make a living. Through frequent walks with my daughter, it has become our quest: to see an owl. Our owl-spotting skills have grown; we see one probably once a month. Never feels like enough. I will always be looking!

Sometimes they are right there and yet it takes the wary scolding of a squirrel or robin to become alert to the owl’s location. The owl is usually sitting calmly, making eye contact as if to say “Yes, I was here all along. And, you are only seeing me because I’m okay with it”.

Finding an owl is less about looking and more about listening. If you want to know where an owl is, ask the other birds. Crows, in particular, seem to relish blabbing about an owl’s whereabouts. Do the crows want us to know, or do they want the owls to know that they know? Probably both. I suspect that crows like to play all the angles.

We’ve encountered barred, short-eared and great horned owls on our walks, and even once a majestic great grey owl who wasn’t supposed to be here. We’ve learned to identify owls by their calls too. Once we were treated to a parliament of barred and great horned owls at dusk, debating something obviously serious. Later that night there was a big storm. Were they arguing about who could use what tree, sharing survival tactics with whoever would listen, or just filibustering?

Another time we came across a baby owl, making quite an obnoxious noise and hopping along and back on a low branch, just above our heads. I think it had never seen a human up close before and was making a spectacle of itself. Uncertain how to handle the situation and choosing noise. The mother we met about 100 feet further along; I swear she was hiding, probably doing some deep breathing and waiting for the owlet freakout to be over. I’m pretty sure I saw her eyes roll heavenward in exasperation. I felt an immediate kinship. The drama of raising teenagers looks to be a cross-species experience 😉.

When I see an owl I feel like all can be right with the world.

They project an air of confidence and serenity in their knowledge of themselves and the world around them. Maybe that’s why I keep looking; I want to embody that too.

And to remember that these wild things flourish on the edge of awareness. We may not always see them, but ah, they are there. Behind the sounds of cars and sirens and televisions, an owl is hooting somewhere. Let your heart fly along with it on its silent wings.