Eastern Screech Owls

Adult and fledgling

A family of Screech Owls has been visiting the back yard every evening all week. They come in from the woods as the fireflies rise from the grass, that brief crepuscular window between dusk and dark.

There are two adults and three fledglings. They are fearless. With full faith in their camouflage, which makes them nearly invisible, and pay me no mind as I stand nearby. They swoop overhead to low hanging branches, dive into the grass just a few feet away, then fly back up to feed whatever they’ve caught to the hungry youngsters. Sometimes so close I feel the wind from their wings.

I almost didn’t notice them. There is no sound when they fly. But sitting in the yard watching the fireflies, I kept seeing a random blur in my peripheral vision. It was only when the mockingbirds started raising a ruckus, mobbing something in a tree, that I went to investigate. I stared at the tree and saw nothing. Then one took flight and went over my head.

The name for these birds is a terrible disservice, and truly misleading. They don’t screech at all. There’s only a soft trilling as they chitter to each other. When one does call at night, it’s a musical mournful sound, more like a child lost in the woods, tired and weeping.

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