There is something very soothing in the call of owls at dusk, the long, smooth vowels like the flight of the owls themselves.
It’s not so soothing to be awakened at 5 a.m. by these same calls right outside the bedroom window. I don’t get out of bed at 5 a.m. to look, so I can only identify them by their voices. There are two voices, having a conversation. Their calls overlap a bit, as conversations may. Not speaking owl, I don’t know if they’re saying “how was your hunt?” or “let’s go to bed now, sweetheart,” or “this is my tree, get out.” My neighbor tells me it’s owl mating season, so probably one of the last two.
Doug found a nest of birdcalls to listen to on the internet some hours later, and reported back. Definitely Great Horned Owls, he said. None of the other owl files sounded anything like our morning owl alarm.
I wondered why owls are considered wise. In ancient Greece they were the symbol of Athena, goddess of wisdom; but are they wise through association with her, or are they associated with her because they were already considered wise? The internet was less help with this than it was with birdcalls. It offered circular arguments, and a claim that owls are assumed to be wise because they look old. But really, with those big, round eyes they look very child-like. And feathers don’t wrinkle. You want to see an old-looking bird, try a buzzard. No one claims buzzards are wise.
And now it strikes me, thinking of those big eyes, that owls are like cats. They can see at night; they will clear vermin from granaries without having to be trained or asked; and, apparently, they are noisy during mating season. Flying cats. Maybe not wise, but definitely cool.