The Owl

This past spring the snow melted earlier than normal.  This was great for me because we had so much work today for our back yard renovation and we got a head start.  When you consider that the children and I play out in the yard every day there is a limit to the amount of destruction and construction that can be going on out there.  The whole project had to be broken down into smaller jobs that could be completed on evenings and weekends.

One day as my husband and I were working on one of the phases of the renovation I noticed an unusual sound from somewhere in the neighbourhood.  At first I thought it was a child playing with some type of whistle.  Over the next few weeks the more often I heard the noise the more inquisitive I became as to what it was.  The children had heard it now too and were curious too.

I decided it was not a child with a toy – the sound was very rhythmical.  The tone and the repetition were precise.  I was certain now that it was some kind of bird but my knowledge of birds is limited so I didn’t have any idea what type of bird it could be.  Then, one night as I lay in bed with the window open I heard the sound again and thought ‘an owl’?

The children and I checked out the owls calls on the Nature North website. We didn’t know there were so many different kinds of owls in Manitoba.  The sound clip for the Burrowing Owl was a perfect match to the sound we had been hearing so we did some more research on Burrowing Owls.  They are one of the few species that are active both day and night – that explains why we hear it all the time.  They like to live in cemeteries and golf courses – we are one street over from the cemetery.  And, they are endangered!  How exciting would it be if the children and I found an endangered owl in our neighbourhood!!!

Armed with binoculars and pictures of owls we headed off to the cemetery.  We hiked and listened and looked.  We found many squirrels and crows and some nest boxes strategically placed throughout the cemetery.  Funny how we never noticed these nest boxes before, we had come here many times but now we were being more observant.  “Look, I see a bird” giggled one child pointing at a grave marker with “Byrd” engraved in the stone.  Great, now we’ve got a literacy component to our adventure.

We went to the cemetery several times over the next few weeks.  We even found one owl – an Eastern Screech Owl – in one of the next boxes with just its head sticking out of the hole.  That was very fascinating but didn’t explain the noise we had heard.  Interestingly, we also never heard the owl call when we were in the cemetery – only when we were in my yard.  Why?  Then one day, as I watched the children play in the yard I glanced across the lane at my neighbour’s garden and focused on the owl statue perched on the shed.  Just then, a car drove down the lane and I heard ‘the owl call’.   Motion sensitive garden statue – really?!?!  It’s not even the correct sound for the Great Horned Owl.  Somebody didn’t do their research.

So, we didn’t find an endangered owl.  Was our owl adventure a failure?  Certainly it was not.  We got to explore our neighbourhood and make discoveries.  We learned a lot about owls that we didn’t know before.  Most importantly we practiced following our curiosity, investigating and understanding the world around us.

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