Goodbye Old Friend

Howdy Owl.. I mean All. This was one of those Saturdays where I get up before the crack of dawn, down a lot of carbs and ions hoping to make it through another race. The fact I am around to type this means I passed the challenge. There will be more on that in an upcoming post, but it did leave me exhausted enough to plop myself down in front of the old computer and bang out another post. This post comes with a heavy heart (and not just due to the run) and one I’ve been repeatedly delaying for a long time now. Figured it was time to free myself from the burden of guilt.

This is my friend Hootie. It is a wonderful specimen of the Barred Owl.  This one decided to grace us by taking up residence in our local woods.

This is not the first time the Barred Owl has appeared on the pages of LifeIntrigued (link here and here). In fact, I am pretty sure the one featured in the second link is the exact same one you are looking at today.. just a little older (Not so sure about the first one – looks and mannerisms were pretty different). Truth be told, I actually thought this was a “Bard” Owl – named because of the wise old tales they used to say … wrong!

At first this one would only show up every once in awhile and usually hanging out on a farm fence pole or sitting off the road near the treeline. Just sitting there minding its own business surveying the kill zone. Birds of prey know they are cool and don’t need to go about flapping their wings and chirping like crazy to get attention. Nope, just an occasional hoot. Let me clarify that a bit based on some reading at AllAboutBirds and Wikipedia. Both those sites claim the Barred Owl’s hoot is a “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all” (note, Wikipedia added the ‘all’ part of that line). Not sure I have ever made that association when experiencing the nightly calls (and we’ve heard them plenty of times). Will have to take note of that the next time we are out after dusk. Can’t say I have ever heard them that much during the day – normally early morning, sunset and later.

Hit the jump to see some more pictures of Hootie

You do not always get to see their coloring from the back because they tend to keep their eye on you if you enter their territory. Did capture this shot as it was preparing to seek safety in another location. Guessing the pattern is why it was named, but none of the searches on my reference sites could confirm it.

Slowly Hootie started showing up more and more in the area to the point that it became an odd occurrence if it wasn’t spotted either going to work or coming home – in some cases both. If lucky enough to spot it while still enough sunlight out, a quick trip to the house to grab The Beast was in order. It would usually stay in the area long enough to get off a few good shots. Linda knew a lady that wanted to purchase a picture of an Owl so started to carry a camera in the car with me in hopes of getting some morning light shots to offer. The first shots above (although not in the morning sun) were taken specifically for her. Those two shots are by far my favorite of Hootie. So that is how it went for months. I would go to work, if spotted I’d pull over and snap a few shots, offer best wishes for a successful hunt and then went on my way with a big smile on my face. We were buds. The camera kept in the car was one of our lesser ones (D70) with our older 80-200 glass on it. Didn’t want to risk having anything happen to The Beast but this rig was adequate for what I wanted to do – lost too many bird shots by spotting them on the drive and not having any way to capture them besides a crappy camera phone.  As a result, the images are not at the best level for printing, however, just fine for web viewing.  Here is a shot as Hootie flies toward the golden morning sun.

AllAboutBirds confirmed my experience that these Barred Owl’s really do not travel far from their home turf.  Think that site mentioned a sampling only moved about 6 miles.  I also knew that the federal government planned to start killing the Barred Owl back in April 2007 because of their impact on the Northern Spotted Owl.  They were going to establish areas in the Spotted Owls territory where they were going to take 12-32 Barred Owls.  I have mixed feelings about this but not educated enough yet to really comment on it – just a fact I am passing along.  A couple of things I didn’t know about the Barred Owl is that their greatest nemesis is the Great Horned Owl – don’t blame them for moving out of the area when one of those come in – they are downright mean birds and will even take down Eagles if they look at them the wrong way.

Now, this Owl may look innocent and cute and all but it is still a top echelon killer when it comes to birds.  As probably expected, these creatures are quite deft at taking down chipmunks, squirrels,  rabbits, other birds,  snakes (Linda just cheered) and according to AllAboutBirds even plucking fish out of the water.  The next shot is a little soft on the head, but adding it to this set because it shows off those weapons of war – you can kind of see them in the first shots, but this one gives a better view of their spread.

Okay, time to get this over with.  You may have noticed that I started writing this post after my race on Saturday – it is now Sunday and still not done with it.  Some of the delay has been due to other tasks that have cropped up, but a large chunk of it is the guilt that creeps up when staring too long at these pictures.  There is a sad ending to this story.  My friend Hootie is no longer with us.  I know this because I was the cause of its demise.  One morning soon after the one’s taken in the last several pictures, I was heading to work noting that Hootie wasn’t in the usual places.  Figured at the time it was simply resting after a successful night of hunting.  About a quarter mile down the road a shape flew out of the woods from my right directly towards the front of the truck.  Although the tires were literally skidding on the road, Hootie couldn’t get enough lift under the wings and slammed into my bumper.  The thud came with sickening reality since by then the brain had figured out what flashed before it.  With what was left of the momentum of the truck, pulled it to the side of the road and took a couple of deep breaths before stepping out to verify what had happened.  With a little bit of hope it occurred to me that our local Wildlife Prairie Park nurses injured animals back to health – if Hootie suffered a broken wing or something less severe I would take it there.  This was the least I could do having to put up with all my picture taking over the many months.

Unfortunately, it was something much worse – Hootie was no longer with us … and at least it didn’t suffer.  Hootie has flown off into the golden sunrise.

I miss him.

2 thoughts on “Goodbye Old Friend”

  1. Well, that must have been heartbreaking. It looks like a very cute and relatively social bird, and a cool one at that. I wonder why it decided to fly so low out of the woods at your truck. Maybe he had seen some wild driver up ahead while flying around and decided to stop you somehow–that would be a great story, anyway. Or maybe he was sick and wasn’t flying right, in which case he wouldn’t have lasted anyway. What can you do.

    Ron

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  2. My suspicion is that it spotted a rodent across the road in a ditch and was so fixed on that meal that it took off for it without noticing the speed/proximity of my truck. They naturally dip down when they take off due to their weight and getting air under those big wings. That dip is what took it out otherwise it would have likely made it over the roof. I doubt there is any feel good angle to this story – or at least any one that makes me feel any better – still sick about it and staring at the fair picture isn’t helping matters any. The disheartening part is I was just reading that they tend to hunt more often during the day when they are feeding newborns so now I have that hanging over my head. I even tried to make amends by protecting the babies of a stupid mother Cardinal that made a nest in a bush just off my porch. She had laid two eggs which were basically easily seen from the porch. I was doing my best to keep cats and other predators from the eggs, and then watched over them when the first and then the second one hatched about two days later. All of a sudden the youngest one was gone about a week later – looks like it was thrown out of the nest so it might have died. We went on vacation for a week and all there was left was an empty nest – didn’t see any signs of trauma but didn’t think they could learn to fly that quick – may have perished as well but I gave it my best shot.

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