A few years ago, when we were still very new to Mockingbird Hill Cottage, my husband and I were sitting on the porch at dusk. At the edge of my awareness, I kept hearing a whinnying sound. It wasn’t coming from a horse. It was coming from the trees surrounding the front of MHC. We were fascinated by the sound – it was very distinctive – and it definitely involved more than one creature. I stood at the porch railing and noticed what I thought were rather large brown birds diving to the ground. They were calling back and forth to each other.
We stood out there a long time, silently, trying to see these birds in the increasing darkness. As we were about to go in the house, one of them landed on a branch of our Maple tree – a few feet away from the porch. I found myself staring into large, beautiful eyes. It was an owl. Not the large creature one usually thinks of, but a little owl no more than 8 or 9 inches in height. We stared at each other for a magical minute and then the owl flew off. I was completely entranced.
I ran inside to do some research and found out they are Eastern Screech Owls. What makes this all the more special is that while they live in many parts of the country, they are rarely seen. They have a whinnying call and they live and nest in tree cavities or nest boxes. We have at least 2 or more who live in our trees and fly back and forth, calling to each other.
When I returned home from San Diego, I asked my husband about the owls – had he heard them yet? No. A few nights ago, Don was upstairs doing some work and he came down and said “I think I heard our friends.” We quietly moved onto the porch, and spent about a half-hour listening to our friends call to each other, watched them swoop from tree to tree, whinnying, hooting, and silently flying, while all around us lightning bugs glowed in the dark.
Our Weeping Willow is huge and overgrown – it most likely needs trimming of some sort. We’ve had all sorts of opinions as to whether it should be trimmed at the top or whether that would be bad for the tree. But since I think the owls nest there, we will be leaving it alone. After all, the tree is their home.