Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Eve with the owls

It was the eve of a new year. As tradition would have it, a small group of owl worshippers gathered a little before fly-out time to raise a glass of champagne to the Central Park owls. And as tradition would have it, the bottle was Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin, the very champagne we drank at the first fledge party for Pale Male and family in 1995. Jim Lewis brought eight plastic flutes and our glasses were full and raised at the moment the owl flew. It was five minutes before five and snowing gently at the moment of fly-out.

What about the little screech owls? The day before, December 30, the budding screech -owl romance seemed to have hit a snag. Observers at the fly-out on Friday night saw each one of the "pair" emerge from separate holes.

While the champagne revelry went on at the Great Horned Owl tree, Lincoln Karim was monitoring the grey screech-owl's roost hole just a little to the west. We had just watched the big one fly to the north west, towards the upper part of the rowboat lake, when Lincoln arrived with the news we'd been hoping for. Reconciliation! Both owls flew out of the grey's roost hole. Hurray.

A gift to a small group of us heading home for a special dinner before the Central Park midnight fireworks: a rare post-fly-out sighting of the Great Horned Owl. The bird was on a bare, witchy-looking tree near Bow Bridge. It looked enormous. Its ear-tufts were raised. Its head was scrunched forward, alert. Obviously it too was looking forward to its New Year's Eve dinner.