13 April, 2001
Two song bouts in the night, riding atop increasing winds, have turned into much more. The male boreal owl indeed had company, and now, he has a willing partner in the courtship process. I have been a regular visitor to the pair over the past two weeks, often at the expense of other things that need to get done. I have become part of the landscape. The owls ignore me, but I cannot ignore them.
Since 4 April, nearly 20 hours of my life has been spent trying to comprehend the owl sounds and movements in the night. I have sat passively in driving rain and snow, warm and dry beneath a layer of Gore-tex, knowing that nature does not stop when nature becomes surly.
Over the years I have seen dozens of interactions between male and female boreal owls. From their perspective, most of those interactions were ephemeral. The female visited then left; fickle and noncommittal, leaving the male as a frustrated, yet hopeless romantic.
I know the vocalizations and interactions of that process well. I also know what life is like at a nest after the nest is initiated. But the gray area in between has tugged at me. I wanted to know the tangible events that signal the transition from "dating" to family-rearing. Now I know.
During the past two weeks, I have watched and listened as the male has promoted himself from singer to provider. I have watched the timid approaches of the female to the cavity tree, and listened as her vocalizations have changed from curious to solicitous. I have watched the transfer of lifeless voles from one owl to the other. I have watched quick and chaotic copulations, the male always willing, always chasing, the female receptive then proper, nonchalantly preening and rousing her feathers when he is done. I have watched as an empty cavity entrance now frames the female upon my daylight approach. I have listened as quiet returns to the night.