On top of the raspberry trellis (click to enlarge)

Owlet on the raspberry trellis (click to enlarge)

When you live on the Gulf Islands, you get used to having summer visitors, usually family members or old friends. But every once in awhile, unexpected characters drop by.

Such was the case one evening last summer when we heard an unusual sound outside: a series of drawn-out whistling hisses, slightly ascending in pitch. It was late, but there was just enough light to make out a pair of Barred owls: one on each end of our raspberry trellis, just 15 feet from the back door.

Trying not to spook them, we slipped out the door as quietly as we could. Rather than mess around with a tripod (which I figured they wouldn’t tolerate), I cranked up my camera’s ISO in the hope of getting at least one steady image before they flew off.

Imagine our surprise when a third, significantly larger owl landed atop a nearby ladder, appeared to hold a brief conversation with the pair on the trellis, then took off again. We figured this was likely their mom, instructing the owlets to stay put while she fit in a bit of hunting. (Perhaps we looked like reasonably safe baby-sitters.)

They remained on the trellis, checking us out, swaying back and forth, bobbing their heads and whistle-hissing all the while. Soon it grew too dark for human eyes, so we went back inside, hearing their sibilant calls through our open window for a while longer. I imagine that around the time we went to bed, their mom returned, bringing a tasty breakfast of mouse or songbird for the youngsters, whose day was just beginning as ours was ending.

About Laurie MacBride, Eye on Environment

Photographer and writer focusing on nature and the environment

6 responses »

  1. Oh, I love these owls SO much, I wish we’d have some visit us! What a delightful portrait, Laurie!

  2. Such a good surprise! Thanks for the great story, Laurie.

  3. Sherry Galey says:

    What a beautiful and captivating image and stunning owl. Imagine being visited by not one but three! What a thrill you had.

    • It was thrilling for sure. And comical, with all the head-bobbing and hissing. I only wish I’d been able to get a photo of the two owlets together – they were side by side, very briefly…moved too quickly for me in the dim light of late evening! Fun experience though. Thanks for the comment, glad you like the image. Barred owls really are beautiful (even if scary for smaller birds).

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