Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Photo by Phil Jeffrey, December 30, 2005

Depression set in when Jack Meyer's morning walk report did not include a Great Horned Owl. Looked like it was gone at last after a record-breaking fifteen [15] day stay . The gloom lifted dramatically when the owl was found back on its usual willow limb that afternoon. Rumor has it that the owl was disturbed by a red-tail and a crow, took refuge elsewhere and then returned.

Talking about rumor, another one has been circulating about the provenance of this owl. A falconer in Massapequa, on Long Island, seems to be claiming that he has lost a Great Horned Owl. [Also a gyrfalcon, but that's a different story]. Meanwhile, John Blakeman answered a query about this odd possibility. He wrote:

"Virtually no one ever uses a great horned owl for falconry. The most obvious reason is what are you going to hunt with the bird, inasmuch as these great beasts hunt and kill only at night. Secondly, great horned owls are infamous for being untrainable after they leave the nest. Any owl used for falconry must necessarily be taken from the nest and raised by the falconer. And when this is done, all sorts of problems can occur with owls. The main thing (and this pretty much negates the fellow's contention that he lost an owl) is that owls quickly become imprinted or psychologically fixed or attached to the human "parent" that raises them. Many rural people over the years have raised "orphan" great horned owl nestlings and have recounted this intense attachment. These birds refuse to leave or get lost."

It was raining at fly-out time, but that didn't daunt three owl worshippers from arriving to witness the owl's exit. It did, however, daunt the owl. The large bird just sat and sat on its perch in the rain, showing no signs of leaving. By 5:30, about 30 minutes later than the owl's usual take-off, the three soaked-to-the skin stalwarts called it a day. "Maybe the owl just decided to sleep in," one of them observed the next day.