There is nothing quite so eerie as the cry of a screech owl. My ancestors are Irish, and Granny used to tell of her grandmother swearing that every time she heard a screech owl, it was really a banshee crying out for the soul of someone destined to die. When Granny was little, the sound would cause her to hide under the covers and tremble. But when she grew older and found out what it really was, she became rather fond of the unearthly cry.
For several generations now, a family of screech owls have lived deep in our woods. Granny taught me at a very early age what the cry was, so I would not live the terrors of her childhood. And Daddy passed on his love of all nature, so I have loved this wild sound all my life. When I lived away from here in the many different cities where Greg was stationed, I missed three things most of all. The call of the whip-o-wheel, the sound of cicadas (i.e. jar flies) and the scream of the screech owl.
Until tonight, I had only seen pictures of the screech owl in books, or on nature shows. I've been privileged to see a 'hoot' owl close up (actually trying to get into the chicken pen), a great horned owl in the zoo, and a beautiful little barn owl who visited my yard one wintry day and sat shivering in the tree closest to the house. Daddy put on gloves and took him to the barn where he lived for quite a long time.
So you can imagine my delight when Greg called me to "Come see!" after going out to fasten the chicken house. I ran out barefooted, and looked up into the cedar to see a tiny little owl gazing at us with his huge eyes. Of course I knew right away what it was and sent Greg for the camera.
I am one of those people who talk to everything, so I said, "Well, hello there! I've known your family all my life. It's so nice to finally meet you."
The little guy swiveled his head as only owls can and replied with a sound very much like my hens when they are content and puttering about. Greg arrived and my little owl sat very still while he took a picture. When it flashed, I expected him to fly away, but he simply blinked and turned his back on us. So Greg took a second shot for good measure. Then we said good night and left him perched above my bird feeder, which he was eyeing with great interest. It makes me wonder if perhaps he comes here sometimes for a snack on his usual rounds as he looks for mice and insects. I hope so. I'd like to think he will become a friend and visit more often.
I have always loved this farm of ours. And with every passing year, and each new adventure, it becomes even more dear to me. There is nothing like being a country girl and living on the land of your ancestors. And there is nothing quite like meeting old friends for the first time.
Photos property of Leah McAllister.