While I was downstairs at my computer this morning I received a photo message from my wife (who was upstairs). It was a photo of a Northern Cardinal bird hanging out in the neighbour’s tree. Kelly was excited because I had excitedly relayed sightings of this bird to her on several occasions, and this was the first time she’d seen one with her own eyeballs. I was excited because I love animals, particularly furry woodland creatures, ducks, dogs, and polar bears.
She came downstairs seconds after I received the message to make sure I had seen it, and to make sure I took the chance to see it with my eyeballs. I quickly but quietly moved to the front door to catch a glimpse of it, when we were pleasantly surprised to see the back of an Eastern Screech Owl resting — roosting? — in the Hibiscus plant right at our front door! It was pretty small, maybe 20cm/8in tall, but we could clearly see it was an owl from the shape of it’s head and external ears.
We stared at it through the glass for a while but as we were looking at the back of it (it was facing out towards the street) Kelly lost interest and headed upstairs again. I grabbed my camera to get some proof. I zoomed, focused, composed, and fired a shot. The owl immediately turned its head 180º (!) and presented it’s giant beautiful eyes!
I froze — I didn’t want to scare it away before I got some more shots, and Kelly could come down and see for herself. After a minute or so I slowly lifted the camera up a took some more photos and to my delight the owl remained in the tree staring at me. I quietly yelled1 up at Kelly to quickly come downstairs as slow as possible2 and she got to see the owls eyes. It was pretty amazing.
After we’d had our fill from behind the glass, I tried to get a closer look. Unfortunately the owl flew away at the sound of the front door unlocking.
…but not very far! It perched in a nearby tree where I was able to get more time photographing and observing. It was a pretty cold and windy day but I’m happy the owl was able to hang around long enough for a couple of human beings to admire him.
Say hello to Terry the Eastern Screech Owl.
In light of today’s experience, and the other times I’ve spotted interesting birds perching in the few trees surrounding our house here in Houston, we popped into the local used bookstore and picked up a hardcover copy of Birds of Houston. Are we old yet?