October 23, 2013 —
Late one recent afternoon, while I was driving slowly down a dirt road in Pike County, a large bird suddenly swooped just in front of my car’s windshield. I braked and watched as it perched in a tree just overhead. Turning off the motor, I slowly exited with camera in tow, certain that the bird would immediately fly off.
Surprisingly, it remained where it had landed, then proceeded to quietly observe me as I snapped away. The encounter was thrilling, as the bird turned out to be a barred owl, a personal favorite of mine and one I have never encountered in the wild before.
I have, however, met a magnificent barred owl that thrived for many years at the Delaware Valley Raptor Center in Milford, PA. “Miles” was one of the dependable and delightful education birds that often accompanied Bill Streeter to shows throughout the region. Visit www.dvrconline.org/raptorprof.html#barred%20owl  to learn more about this gentle species.
Owls are nocturnal, so seeing one in daylight is a special treat. You are more likely to identify an owl with your ears as they call during the night. To that end, and just in time for Halloween, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is offering a free download of spine-tingling owl sounds from its Macaulay Library at www.birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx?pid=1478 .
Train your ear to recognize the calls of great horned owls, Eastern and Western screech owls, barn owls, barred owls, long-eared and short-eared owls and snowy owls by listening to the download.
And please consider membership in both organizations for the excellent work they do on behalf of birds.