Originally published in October of 2009 as the first half of a two-part column. Look for Part Two next Tuesday!
Thanks to the Internet, a lot of us have friends whom we’ve never met. I’m lucky enough to have several of these long-distance friends, and I’m going to introduce you to one right now. Louise Leblanc-Mazur, the stage is yours.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and where you live.
I am an elementary teacher who is a great fan of the outdoors. We live in the rural area of the Ottawa Valley in Ontario. We are completely off grid and rely on solar and wind energy to power our farm. We have two very happy pups and two very happy retired horses that spend their days lollygagging in the fields grazing in the company of cowbirds and a couple of confused wild turkeys. My husband is retired but has enough to keep him busy on the farm.
2. Who are the special guests you've been hosting this summer?
This summer we had the incredible experience of watching a pair of Barred Owls raise their young in our backyard. They have been on the farm we think for about 4 years but never this close to the house. We could often hear them at night all through the year. This spring, my husband was on a walk with the dogs and he spotted one of them near the house in a tree. It sat there as he circled the tree to have a better look at it. The owl twisted its head and stared at him also. Probably sizing him up as a prospective landlord!
In mid-July, we were outside at dusk and could hear a soft whistle and purr in the trees and we could not figure out what it was. A week later, there was something big on the rail fence behind the house and it was moving! We could hear the purring sound followed by chirps and in the distance, the call of the barred owl. “Who cooks for you?” We went out on the deck and pulled out the binoculars. It was dusk but we were able to see an owl with tuffs of fluff on its head. We were thrilled. We had a baby barred owl preening on our back rail fence not 50 feet from the house. He just looked up and stared at us for a while and continued grooming. Then, down comes another fledgling to sit beside its sibling. Unfortunately it was too dark to take any pictures. They stayed all evening and every evening after that for about 2 weeks. We could hear the adults call out to them and they would try to answer in their high pitch whistle.
As the weeks went by they would get better and better at the "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" and we could hear the four of them calling to each other. When the adults came with food, the whistling quickly changed to a sharp bark and there would be total pandemonium on the fence as they shared their evening meal. We can still hear them this fall around the house at night. We were surprised at how comfortable they were with our presence and didn't even bother with the dogs. They are incredibly beautiful birds.
Will Louise have a close encounter with the owls? Will the owls decide to bother with the dogs? Who DOES cook for you? Tune in next Tuesday...
Oh, and before then, if you've a mind to!