owltalk 2000


10 March 2000


The owls were quiet last night. Stilled by the cold front that ran in from the north. Roads that a day ago were soft and unsteady, were as hard as concrete. Sixty degrees in 24 hours. Winter has returned. A brown winter.


I have always been curious about the effects of external factors on owl song. Does the moon phase matter? Or is it the wind? At what air temperature is the reproductive process replaced by the need for thermoregulation? Alone or combined, these factors change the night.


On an evening when my personal thermoregulation would be tested, I moved on the back roads, curious to see what the owls would tell me. On Tuesday, I had heard four boreals, six saw-whets, a great gray, and two barreds. It felt and sounded like spring.


I visited most of those same sites last night, my patience warmed by a down parka. Winds that were piercing at sunset, subsided as the high pressure system settled in. A waxing crescent moon announced two weeks of illumination.


For five hours, I existed in a vacuum. I defined my philosophy. Again. At 2300, a great gray vocalized twice by Kawishiwi Lake, and then went silent. Further south, a boreal sang lazily. Saw-whets were absent from the auditory landscape.  I had an observer's intuition there would not be a flurry of activities this evening.  


At 0130, a thin overcast moved in and pinetops whistled with the new breeze. The owls were quiet last night.  Sixty degrees in 24 hours.


Copyright W.H. Lane