Stephenson Holt Author

Tawny Owl Cries Through Fog.

It was the coldest of times, it was the snuggliest of times. The dense November fog did not dare try to penetrate my wide-open bedroom window. My half asleep self, in sheets warmed by internal body heat under the duvet, told me I was winning the temperature battle. My nose, probably reddening, told me the battle, but not the war. It was a familiar Autumn screech that woke me from drowsiness.


She always sounded desperate, the female Tawny Owl in the trees behind the houses opposite. Kee-wick, she called out. Not hunting, not swooping down from her branch onto an unsuspecting mouse, no, hunger was no more and territory more important. This is my hunting ground she cried. Keek, keek, kee-wick. I imagined her slight head movement as the sounds emerged, never having seen her in the dark of the night, the dark of the trees, away from humans.


When I'd first heard her cry, five years ago, I read that the typical lifespan of a Tawny Owl was five years. Was this the same owl, or a daughter of the original? The year before last, my owl was kidnapped by a male. Panic, was this a daughter that had been looked after since hatching and was now being kicked out of the area to find a new home, or maybe this was her new home.


That's different. Hoo. Hoo-whoo. The kidnapping male is back. Surely though, they wouldn't split up and then pair again? My waking brain is confused. Brother and sister? A daughter of the original female owl that has attracted a male from outside the area? Isn't it the male that does the attracting? I'm forced to rise and stand still at my window, concerned now that this could be Dad telling her to go and find her own patch to hunt. Father tawny owls can be vicious in persuading a daughter that it’s time to leave.


The fog is thick. Two street lights are out, the rest are dimmed to save energy, to reduce light pollution, let's face it - it's a money saver. The fog has made the Autumn silhouettes of the trees two dimensional, no chance of seeing an owl, no chance of hunting unless sound only is used. Then I hear my prey. Male and female calling together, close to each other and close to me, still invisible. Is he saying "I have a great voice, hence good food, so come to my area" or is it all down to an urge to mate in Spring? Do their territories meet and will it become one area? It sounds sweet coupling, not aggression.


As I'm thinking, and listening to their calls, I realise my female owl has much better hearing than me, and it was probably a distant male calling that she heard, long before I did. It was the fact that it was her answer to his question that I was oblivious to, the female kee-wik that woke me from sleep. Has she been kidnapped? Will I hear her again or do I have to wait for possible offspring to claim these trees? The night is silent. The fog suppresses sound. Cars drift out of the street from those who go off to work the early hours, their red brake-lights illuminating the slow bend. I climb into bed, looking for the lost warmth. My nest is still warm and I drift back to sleep.