James has a habit of going out on the back porch for one last cigarette of the night, which I disapprove of, but he also has a habit of calling me out if anything interesting pops up–flying squirrels, interesting bugs, lovelorn mockingbirds–which I very much appreciate.

Last night he worked late, with the end result that the last cigarette of the night came around 1:30 am.

A few minutes later, he pounded into the house, yelling “Hon! Hon! OWL!”

Few things will get me out of bed at that hour, but that’s one of ’em.

I tore out of bed and found my shoes. As an afterthought, I grabbed a towel off the dryer. Birds are important, clothing less so, but in case any giant bugs were leaping around the porch light, some psychological armor was in order. (Mostly psychological…)

It was in the 40s in my area last night. James and I stood outside, heads cocked, him with his cigarette and me in my towel–and then we heard it, a faint hooting from the direction of the lake.

Ironically, it was yesterday afternoon that I dragged my Peterson’s bird call CDs out of the studio and played one, and with those sorts of coincidences you couldn’t write in a book, I had listened to the owl section. So there were three owls I could have ID’d by call last night, and one of them was the Great Horned Owl.

Once we’d listened for a few minutes–and I pestered James going “Does that sound like “Whooo’s awake? Me toooo!” to you?” I went in and actually played the relevant section of the CD to double check. And there it was, a perfect match. I was right–Great Horned Owl.

So that’s a lifer, and my second owl ever.

(Note for non-birders: So many birds are impossible to spot, but vocal singers, that you can add a bird “sighting” based on IDing the vocalization. Because audio memory is so fallible, however, there are stricter rules than with actually seeing the bird. One can ID a bird based on observed field marks after the fact, but you–or somebody with you–needs to ID the bird call at the time it occurs. I’m so bad with sounds that I generally stick to sightings, but with owls, you’re lucky to get what you can!)

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