This Week in the Woods: The Search for the Great Horned Owl

this week inthe woods

A Friday feature that chronicles our nature study adventures.

The setting sun filters through tall trees. Only patches of its light reach the forest floor. My friend and I are softly walking through the forest, scanning the canopy, searching but seeing nothing. A great horned owl lives here. I saw it last week. But this evening, there is no sign of it.

We shrug and move on, slightly disappointed. Perhaps it has moved on too.

On the boardwalk stretching across the marsh, everything is bathed in gold and we stop to soak it in. The wetlands quiver with movement. Below us, two muskrats play, chasing each other through water and reeds. A painted turtle paddles up to the surface and then disappears again beneath the murky water. A pair of trumpeter swans glide noiselessly beneath the boardwalk, looking for a handout. A little farther away where the water widens into a pool, we spot a pair of wood ducks, looking for all the world like painted toys.

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We make our way around the marsh, laughing as we fight off hissing geese (it’s nesting time) and chatting easily, as good friends do. Night is falling. I haven’t given up on the owl, but still, there is no sign of it.

As we near the end of the trail loop, we hear it. Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo. It’s far enough away that I doubt we’ll catch sight of it. We stop to watch a raccoon foraging in the reeds, still listening intently.

And then, we see a large shape glide towards a nearby tree.

Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo.

It’s near us now. Perfectly camouflaged but close. We strain our eyes against dim light for just one more glimpse.

And then suddenly, from the top of a tall pine, a shadow takes off.

We watch for a few breathless seconds.

And then it’s gone.

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