As previously reported, I first spotted the barred owl in late December during a freakishly warm spell, in a heavy rainstorm. He became a frequent visitor for almost three months. During that time I was surprised to learn that an almost supernatural creature of the night could bask in sunlight by day, arriving in the morning, and tucking into that favorite cozy spot to take advantage of the warmth of the rising sun. I was relieved but truly amazed that such a large bird of prey, in a winter season offering him very little food, would openly perch in a tree, over an active bird feeder but would still rather doze off than desperately hunt the songbirds or even the squirrels below. Then, at dusk, would fly away to hunt more favored but elusive prey.
I sorely missed him once he finally stopped coming. It was the beginning of March. Since his arrival, I’d read all I could get my hands on about the life cycle of the barred owl. I knew, or I hoped anyway, that Waldo had now reunited with his mate. They are monogamous, and so they seek each other out in late winter, early spring. Waldo was right on schedule. I expected it. I knew it was inevitable. Of course, I had hoped he and his mate would nest nearby but as days passed into weeks without a sound or a sighting, I began to give up any hope of that. Still, it was the way things should be.
But then, Waldo continues to surprise me. One evening, as always, I brought my dog out for the last call. The porch light cut through the darkness just barely enough to illuminate a nearby maple tree. There he was. That large, pale, familiar egg-shaped silhouette perched on a still bare, low branch, waiting for an opportunity. The wife and kids are waiting.