2018 hasn’t been completely owl-free. There’s been hooting, now and then, and it’s strange hooting — one of the hoots sounds familiar (it’s the gurgly one, not the “missed a syllable” one) and the other is totally new. But there is a story here and I am going to hypothesize.
My story is based largely on 2018 over at Barred Owls of Midtown Tulsa (BOOMT). These lovely people gave me a lot of help in setting up my camera and I’ve learned a ton about barred owls from their various videos and pages. The owls in question are (were!) Owlbert and Sofie, a happy pair in Tulsa, OK. This spring, Sofie laid two beautiful eggs. Then she vanished. A few days later her neighborhood humans found her body and decided to climb the tree and rescue the eggs, which have turned into beautiful, flufftacular babies in the care of some wonderful rehabbers.
This tragedy left Owlbert completely alone, however, with suddenly no mate and no eggs when the day before he’d had both. He gave it a solid 48 hours, but then he kicked in to a really solid attempt to reboot 2018. Within a few days he had recruited a pretty new mate and they did their level best to see about making some eggs. (It didn’t happen, but fingers crossed for next year, Lola!)
Then March 31st happened in my yard. I heard baby birds screaming for food, and in short order I found a nest of tiny something-or-others hidden in the railing of our garage. I wanted to grab a picture and realized my camera was inside, so I turned and ran for the house, and of course the one time I wasn’t looking THERE WAS AN OWL. In point of fact it was a hassled-looking owl sitting relatively out in the open and looking generally annoyed about everything, so I assumed it was Ecks and posted this to Facebook once I had stopped kermit-flailing. (Those are baby something-or-others in the top picture.)
I immediately texted my neighbors to let them know ZOMG OWL, and my text actually crossed mid-ether with a text from my neighbor: “I just saw two owls crash into each other and then one flew into your yard!” Heh, he said “crash into each other.” I sent him a link to the exciting owl-porn video I captured in 2016 and he replied “Yes! Exactly that!”
So now I had to reevaluate what I had just seen: a bird who looked sort of kerfluffled who flew into my yard immediately after an exciting round of bird sex and perched feet away from the nest tree.
And this is what I think. I think this is a picture of Henrietta. I think something happened to Ecks over the winter or in early spring. I think Henrietta, like Owlbert, did her level best and recruited a new mate and tried to see if she could make 2018 happen. And like Owlbert, she didn’t succeed.
But Owlbert and Lola have been hooting up a storm, out there in Tulsa, and they don’t appear to have given up. Owlbert likes to dip into the nest and make sure it’s all shiny and ready for next year. I haven’t seen Henrietta do that, but I know she likes that nest-hole, and I’m going to believe she wants to come back. So I’m hanging in there for 2019, y’all. And I hope you join me.