Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - June 1, 2006)
A treasured guest
We discovered a gift in our garden early today. While pulling weeds and watering
irises the sun shown upon a small patch of rusty feathers high upon a live oak
|Drawing by Karen Mitchell TremmelL
|An Eastern screech
An Eastern screech owl snoozed in solitude in the sanctuary of our garden
For the past couple of weeks wed heard its call from the orchard behind our
home at dusk and attempted to locate the owl by morning light, to no avail. But
there he was taking a nap right in front of us. The little owl fluffed his feathers
and stretched his legs seemingly unaware of our whispered oooohhhs and ahhhhs. But
we decided if we wanted our treasured guest to stay wed best not disturb him
and let him get some beauty sleep.
Pretending to not notice him we puttered around the garden until it became too
warm to work. But later as evening approached we couldnt resist carefully
tiptoeing to the tree to sneak just one more peek. As we stood looking up at the
tree, the screech owl spread his wings with a little shake. He then looked directly
at us with his large yellow eyes, as if to say, Arent you supposed to
be asleep? He was right! This was his time to go to work. It is the owl that
owns the night.
Screech owls prefer dense oak and pine woodlands near streams but can often be
seen in suburban woodlands, forests, swamps, orchards and gardens. The most readily
visible markings are the ear tufts that are prominent when raised.
A small owl of between 8 to 10 inches, the Eastern screech owl weighs
approximately 7 ounces. This owl has large yellow eyes, a yellow-gray bill, white
fluff (facial disk) between eyes and bill with a gray to black fringe. The chest of
the screech owl has mottled brown to dark brown streaks extending from the chest
along sides and flanks.
Screech owls choose to nest in old tree cavities or the abandoned nest holes of
other birds such as woodpecker holes and are resident throughout the year. The
clutch size is three to seven with incubation taking approximately 26 days. Young
fledge out at approximately 30 days.
The Eastern screech owl in Florida often has a rufous-rusty brown coloring
referred to as the red phase. No other eared owl is this color. Further north the
Eastern screech owl is shades of darker grays without the rusty overtones. As well
a similar species is the Western screech owl that is slightly larger with
black-gray bill and overall gray plumage.
The most common way to tell you have an owl in your garden is by their calls.
These are in two parts: quavering, mournful, drawn out descending whistles,
Whooeeeee... and a single vibrating low whistle,
Weve decided to install an owl house next weekend in hopes our treasured
guest will decide to stay in our garden year-round and become part of our family
back to nature.
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.