I am slowly coming to the realization that my insomnia may not be so much a burden as an opportunity. When awake in the deep of night there are so many sights and sounds that pass unnoticed during slumber.
One such sound has been the frequent calls of owls in the trees on this side of our road and in the woods across it. Unless they are just outside the window owl calls are quiet enough not to disturb sleep. Being awake they are unmistakeable. The wonderful website of Cornell University has helped me to identify my night callers as Great Horned Owls. This autumn there have been frequent duets which caused me to hope there might soon be a family, and then perhaps a community of owls right here on my ridge.
Friday late morning, as the approaching storm was beginning to blow new snow across the gardens, I was called to the first floor porch by an agitated group of chickadees, flying in under the upper deck, hovering near the windows of the kitchen, dining room, and back door. Clearly behavior out of the ordinary.
A few feet from the back door we have a mobile of buffalo hanging. This is a favorite perch of barn swallows in the early summer as they search under the upstairs decking for a possible nesting site. From time to time other birds will perch there, but not often. Hmmm, something was going on. Then I noticed this little fellow ....
Each of these photos was taken through the kitchen window so not always very sharp. And as I didn't want to cause the little one any anxiety, I was trying to be stealthy with my camera.
After a time the chickadees gave up their warning tactics and moved on. And the little one remained.
Puffed up against the deepening cold, he was in no hurry to move along himself.
Since this is the most direct route out of the house to the chicken yard, we needed to go through it, but didn't want to disturb our guest. Very slowly, quietly, we slipped out and back in again and though he turned his head a bit, he did not move away.
By late afternoon he stretched and readjusted his hold on the lantern.
Here he is stretched to the max as I'm on the porch looking up to him.
And then, about 4:00, while moving out of the house with water for the chicks, he disappeared before either of us was able to see him take flight. He sat there about 5 hours. During that time I alternately looked for information about owls online and watched in awe from the window. I worried he may not be able to find his way back to his nest if this was one of his early sojourns on his own. I am not sure what type of owl this is, how old, how unusual such behavior might be. If you know, I'd appreciate your telling me.
Since then I've looked to the lantern several times a day, missing our little visitor and hoping for his safety.
This morning I heard the owls calling as I moved restlessly about the house hours before dawn. A deep warmth began to spread within. After climbing the stairs back to bed I stopped at the upstairs sliders and looked out at the night, stars brilliant, snow intensifying the brightness allowing me to see clearly across the landscape. I had received a benediction. And a reminder to accept the gifts as they present themselves.