It’s a Sunday morning, a very still, quiet morning–the morning after the New Orleans Saints won a playoff victory while tens of thousands of Who Dat Nationals chanted and cheer them on. They must have chanted well into the night, as indicated by the absence of Who Datters posting on the ever-popular social networking web site, Facebook.
So, in the quiet morning, I find myself trying to sort through all the mental confetti that floated down through my brain while on my sick bed this past week. But I’m tired of thinking, and I don’t want to reflect any more. An urging deeper than the silent reflections prompted me to take my camera and go to Camp Dularge and spend some time up there, while the Who Dat Nation was still fast asleep, visions of touchdowns dancing in their football heads.
What awaited me was something I could never have predicted–not if I lived to be a hundred.
As I sat in down in my deck chair to listen to the little pop-chock birds chip away in the trees, I heard, “Who? Who? Whoooooooo?” I answered while visually scanning the branches of the ancient oak. “It’s just me. I own this place. Whooo are you? I think I’ve heard your voice before at night. What are you doing talking to me in the morning?” Then my eyes spied what looked like big furry ears sticking out above what I have been calling a squirrel’s nest all these months. The morning sun shone through individual tufts of fur. Is that a squirrel? A cat? What IS that?
No, it can’t be, I thought, eyes squinting for better focus. Barred owls don’t have cat-like ears. I arose slowly and tip-toed across the deck, trying to get a better look at this curious creature, which sat stock still, not even batting an eyelid. No view was better than the one from my deck chair, so I sat back down. Binoculars. I need binoculars. I found a cheap pair inside the camp that wouldn’t focus worth a flip and only served to further frustrate my efforts to identify the nesting resident.
Ah, I’ll put the zoom lens on my camera! Where’s my camera bag? Regretfully, I had only obeyed half the order given me by my prompter. I spoke to my guest, “Please stay right there. I have to go home, but I’ll be right back.” Down at the house, I grabbed a good pair of binoculars, my Sibley Field Guide, and camera bag.
The zoom lens still didn’t give me quite a close enough look at the animal’s face. It appeared to have white eyes that never blinked. White eyes? I quickly swapped camera for binoculars. Sure enough, those were big furry ears. But the two white things I thought were eyes appeared to be the equivalent of eyebrows on a human and actually sat above closed eyes.
So, maybe, just maybe in about five weeks, Camp Dularge will have its own Who Dat Nation residing in the back yard. Great horned owls have only one clutch each year, with 1-4 eggs per clutch. Incubation takes between 26-35 days, and within a month after the hatch, the new owls will learn to fly.
It is my hope that Who Dat (now her official name) will take to this nest, lay her eggs there (if she hasn’t already), and raise her young while I observe ‘neath the old oak tree.
And in the words of my dear departed father,
“Who dat say who dat when I say who dat?”
And dat my friends, is the end of one and the beginning of another story!
To be continued . . .