Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Houlets






















And clear was the paley moon
When his shadow passed him by;
Below the hill was the brightest star
When he heard the houlet cry, saying

Why do you ride this way,
And wharfore cam' ye here?
I seek the Witch of the West-mer-lands
That dwells by the winding mere.


The call was like a high, soft whinny coming from high up in the trees. As if someone were calling without wanting to be heard. A quiet, cascade of notes that floated out on the evening air.

I swiveled, trying to locate the new sound's source, and narrowed it to the thick of the locust tree about thirty feet overhead, right near my front door. I scanned the leaves, looking for interruptions in patterns of color or form. Locust leaves are small and make distinctive, fan-like silhouettes against a bright sky. Nothing seemed to break their symmetries. My eyes shifted to the bark, where rivulets of black shadow carve through the brown.

Suddenly, there against the trunk I noticed two yellow eyes, luminous and round, looking directly into mine. With ear tufts pricked up and small head bobbing to follow movements, it looked much like a grey kitten. There were four of them.

















Over several days, I watched them watching me come and go from the house. Watched the first fluttering moves from one branch to another. Watched the big one urp an owl pellet, and feed something fluffy in bits to the others. Found the fallen, still-damp pellet full of beetle bits. Heard the big one call sharply from the power line through darkest dusk to bring the other three back after the day's adventures. Another evening: suspiciously raucous activity high in the box elder where the starlings nest.

Haven't seen them at all the last few days. They've left a song running in my head.

And she's bound his wound with the golden rod;
Full fast in her arms he lay,
And he has risen hale and soond
Wi' the sun high in the day. She said:

Ride with you brindled hounds at heel
And your good grey hawk in hand.
There's nane can harm a knight wha's lain
With the Witch of the West-mer-land.

—Archie Fisher


16 Comments:

Blogger Zhoen said...

A grand lilting poem for such fluffballs who will fly silently through the night.

7/09/2008 5:19 PM  
Blogger Ruahines said...

Kia ora MB,
The call of the Morepork, Kuru, or New Zealands only native owl, heard outside one's door is good luck. lovely lyrics, puts me in the mind of a wee dram! Cheers MB.
Rangimarie,
Robb

7/09/2008 10:43 PM  
Blogger Mireille said...

It's wonderful to have the chance to see 4 owls!
Two years ago, in the neighbour's garden, in the big pine tree, we heard in first some strange cryes and after, we saw 4 owls, exactly 2 babies (with grey down) and 2 adults...
I like these animals...thy are so beautiful and mysterious...and also rare and precious
Have a nice day

7/10/2008 3:33 AM  
Blogger Sky said...

what a thrill!

7/10/2008 9:28 PM  
Blogger robin andrea said...

How lucky to see these owls, mb.

7/12/2008 8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you.

7/12/2008 9:28 AM  
Anonymous rr said...

Wonderful! Must have been very difficult to photograph them deep in the shadow like that. I love the song.

7/12/2008 11:23 AM  
Blogger MB said...

Z, pretty fierce little fluffballs.

Robb, I'll hope the luck applies here, too.

Mireille, then you understand what a fascinating experience it was.

Sky, Robin, it was cool.

Anonymous, you are welcome. Thank you.

rr, I actually thought of you as I was photographing, wondering if you'd have insight on such lighting conditions. It was a huge challenge and these feeble shots were the best of the lot.

7/13/2008 5:09 PM  
Blogger Lucy said...

Owls are so magical. A few years back there was a short-eared owl that I often saw over the fields in the late afternoon, sometimes quite close, but I didn't have a camera then.

I love that lyric, sounds a bit Loreena McKennittish!

7/15/2008 3:08 AM  
Blogger firebird said...

Oooh--spooky! You are so lucky to have seen such sights! Thanks for sharing!

7/15/2008 8:48 PM  
Blogger mm said...

Oh, magical birds. Magical photos.

I've only seen a real live owl up close (a barn owl) once. It was smaller than I had imagined but I was reminded that they have a very wide wingspan so in flight they seem a lot larger.

7/27/2008 8:02 AM  
Blogger Pat Paulk said...

We have some Screech and Hoot owls living in the woods behind our house. I love to watch them fly. Not often I get to see that. Hope all is well.

8/26/2008 3:09 PM  
Blogger Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I have only seen one owl in my yard, ever. This is so cool!

9/21/2008 6:11 PM  
Blogger From This Moment to That said...

How magical you were blessed!! :)

10/23/2008 1:54 PM  
Blogger SweetAnnee said...

Oh I would have just been soooooo excited. I so love owls.. God visited you
with a gift of owls..FOUR no less.
thank you for sharing!!
Deena

6/05/2009 5:10 AM  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

This is a long time since you posted this, but I just stumbled over and met the beautiful owls. Thank you!

11/22/2009 8:33 AM  

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