Let me tell you about my recent owl (non-)experiences.
Spring (not that I really call it spring when there's still 2 feet of snow on the ground) has arrived. I'll call it late winter. With that, the owl breeding season is upon us. During that time, you are more likely to hear owls. True to form, the owls in my woods have been speaking up. I've got some barred owls out there, and also some great horned owls. I know this because I have studied various websites with samples of owl calls and have listened closely when I'm outside - they all have fairly distinct calls, so it's relatively easy to know what you're hearing. In sharp contrast to that point, it is NOT relatively easy to see what you're hearing.
Last week, in the late afternoon, when I was filling the bird feeder, I heard a barred owl. I quickly changed into woods walking clothes, grabbed the camera, and headed outside. I continued to hear the owl. My best guess was that it was maybe 100 feet into the woods, based on the sound and its direction. I quietly entered the forest and began walking towards the sound. Well, maybe not as quietly as I would have liked. I mean, there's still a lot of snow. It's snow with a crusty, breaking surface that sounds a bit like you're walking through a bowl of cornflakes with no milk. So when I say "I quietly entered the forest..." what I'm really saying is, I went galumphing through the forest sounding like a large herd of angry elephants.
The owl went quiet. It probably flew away, fearing the panicked pachyderms were about to enter its realm. I stood, for long, desperate moments, ears aching from the cold (no, I didn't have time to put a hat on, there was an owl, dang it!) I sent out secret ESP messages to the owl, asking it to hoot, even quietly, for me. The owl was not inclined to listen. I stood in place for ages, peering into trees. I'd move ten feet and peer some more. I
Twice more, since then, I have rushed to gear up for the woods, with camera, and cornflake walking gear, upon hearing my so-called friend, the owl. Twice more, I have been thwarted by silence. Silence so loud, I can hear the owl laughing at me. I have stood, leaning against tree trunks, begging the universe to let me catch a quick glimpse of a real, live owl in its natural habitat. I have sat on fallen tree trunks and breathed extremely quietly, focusing on the woods around me and the tiniest sound, which is usually a squirrel that gives me the hairy eyeball and says "Hey lady, that's MY tree trunk you're sitting on. Get lost!" I have had snow over my knees and down my boots. I've had branches dump a load of icy crystals on my head. I've come home with bits of spruce stuck in my hair and twigs adorning my ponytail. I have heard more owls than I care to count, and I have seen NONE of them! Not a single, solitary, stinking owl!
I've come home without a single shot on my camera memory stick. Every. Single. Time.
Tonight, I went to pick up a few groceries and came home just as it was turning dark. As I drove along our road to our driveway, that nefarious, phantom owl went gliding across the road, bold as you please, gliding to somewhere unseen in the middle of the woods. He mocks me. I feel it. I could sense his delight at my being stuck in the car without a camera, seeing him swoop by without a hope in heck of being able to find him again. I got out of the car and stood silently. He hooted. I hooted back. He hooted again. I scuffed the ground in frustration. That owl and I have a score to settle. One of these days, I will get my picture!