… And An Old Friend

by Melanie and Jim

One morning in February we had an unexpected visitor. A great horned owl perched behind our house, fending off harassing crows with its dignified, quiet pose. Though we’ve lived in this house for almost 15 years, we’d never known a great horned to stop here before.

As excited as we were, we also were a bit concerned. I’d read that great horned owls and barred owls don’t share habitat. If the great horned was here, did that mean we’d no longer welcome our old friends, the barred owls? There was no need for concern. The next day, the great horned owl was nowhere to be seen. Within a couple of days, we heard barred owls in the woods again.

On March 2 I opened the garage door to ready trash for pickup. As I did so, I heard a barred owl. It was close and sounded like it was across the street. I stepped out into the cool morning air, sky brightening but still dark before sunrise. The owl loudly called again as I searched for it, and I realized it was behind the house rather than in front. The echo had fooled me. I hurried to the side yard in time to see one land in the neighbor’s tree.

I ran in to tell Jim, and he was able to see it, too, through the window. Well, no need to worry about the great horned owls chasing the barreds out of the neighborhood. We had one a few feet from our house.

The bigger treat came later that day, as the sun was low in the sky. A bird called again, just behind the house. “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?” came the characteristic hoot. (Listen to the recordings at All About Birds. Check the “Various hoots” first.)

We looked in the direction of the call. There on a branch, about 30 feet from the house, was this beautiful bird.

Barred Owl. Iowa, March 2, 2017. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Jim also got a few seconds of video.

Since then we’ve heard these wonderful birds nearby several times. We’re fortunate to share our yard and close green space with them, and with the occasional unexpected visitor.


14 thoughts on “… And An Old Friend

  1. shoreacres

    I’m thrilled for you — and for me, too, because I get to see the birds through your lens. Of course it’s always possible to follow the various owl cams online, but it’s much more fun when one visits some friends!

  2. Jim R

    That was a couple of fun visits. I hope we get more. Too bad I didn’t have a quicker camera when the Cooper’s Hawk was near. Thanks for the post.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Oh, Eliza, I feel just like that! Now and then I’ll be awake in the middle of the night, or much too early in the morning, and hear one in the distance. And it always makes me happy. 🙂

  3. melissabluefineart

    That is just so great that you have barred owls in your neighborhood, and right in your tree! Are there many trees in your neighborhood? I don’t believe we have owls in our neighborhood but we do have cooper’s hawks. And Turkey Vultures. This morning I watched a graceful dogfight between a crow and a vulture. Needless to say I held my puppy close! I’ve watched hawks take rabbits from my garden, so I’m trying to fatten up my little puppy so he grows too big to be taken.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Around here the puppies are in more danger from the coyotes, and they aren’t nearby very often. Vultures and crows are not likely to hurt him. But yes the hawks are swift and strong. Keep a good watch on the little guy!


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