December 4, 2006


I'd been wondering what happened to the owl who had guided me back to camp in October while returning from truck repairs.

Monday, after returning late from shopping and picking up my new contact lenses, I started whistling as I unloaded the truck, as I sometimes do. I whistled for quite some time as I moved packages and propane tanks from the truck to the trailer. (I generally don't drive down to the trailer to avoid leaving auto exhaust, and for the difficulty in backing out of the area.)

It was a while before I noticed the owls were hooting off in the distance, loosely keeping time with the rhythms of my whistles. Not the tones, just the rhythm.

As is often the case, new things are lead by children, less adapted to the specifics of their society and more willing to try something new. An owlet would often hoot first, giving a short, faint, hissy hoot; then the parent would hoot a clear louder hoot, and more owlets would try their hissy hoots just after the parent. There were multiple families out there hooting in the mountainside above.

A little later, some came down to the trees near my cabin.

It felt as though they accepted me as a member of their community. After the owl guide, I certainly accepted them as members of my community.

I went a few days later, not whistling, and heard no owls. After whistling a little while, some owls picked up; but not enough to follow a rhythm. For that, I think it takes a bit longer than a few minutes. And slower tunes.

I've whistled with the owls many times since I first wrote this. It works this way: You whistle a catchy tune for a while. When you hear an owl keeping time with you, you stop on a common part of the tune, and let it whistle that part. Then you pick up where it left off. It's a game many birds play, not just owls. The owls prefer slower tunes than smaller birds.


Copyright (C) 2006, 2007 JVV