It was real nice to have a full day of sunshine on Sunday. Heading in to the third week of November, 45 degrees and sunny is welcome weather indeed. An hour after sunrise I was outside doing my morning chores, when I heard swans. Looking straight up, I was treated to the sight and sounds of two flocks of Tundra swans, flying high and heading east. Their giant white bodies and wings reflected the early morning sunlight, giving them a white glow. From their long, graceful necks came their high-pitched calls, "Whoo-woo-ho, woo-ho." The swans' calls are not like the clamor of honking geese; they are softer and more musical. I watched them disappear over the ridge, but I stood and listened to them for another couple of minutes, until their calls finally faded away.
I've heard lots of owl stories lately from folks in the area. The little Screech owls have been seen or heard by several people in town the past couple of weeks. These special little owls of the night have a twilight song that is a single, long, trilling note. It sounds almost like a soft, low, warbling whistle. Screech owls prefer stands of large, mature trees or woods. Small towns in our area have lots of large old trees, the kind that suit screech owls fine. The limbs of older trees have holes and cavities that the robin-sized owls like to hide in. If people want to attract screech owls, I encourage them to put up an "owl nesting box." A wood duck or Kestrel box will do quite nicely, and the Screech owls may roost in them during the day.
The Barred owls have been like clockwork, honoring the setting sun with their calls each night: "Who-who-who-whoo-oaw." The male greets the female in song at the end of each day, and she sings back to him.
Several of my friends at Organic Valley have described to me a hoot they heard—the hoot of the Great horned owl. Like other owls, the Great horned are becoming more vocal as their territorial instincts begin to kick in. It's a couple of months before they begin courting, and they are finished with feeding last spring's begging Owlets. For most of a year these sub-adult young follow their parents around, begging for food and making this mysterious hunger call: "Reeep, Reeep." As they mature, they learn to hunt more successfully, and they no longer have a need for the Reep. Their voice begins to change, and for a while resembles both the vocal styles of a juvenile and an adult—Reep together with Hoot, comes out "Ruup!" This sound is rarely heard, as the young owls' transition lasts only a couple of weeks. However, last week, three different people offered me their renditions of these strange owl songs they heard in the night. They were all surprised when I told them they had heard a Great horned owl.
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