Mother Nature is a talented artist. With vibrant colors and peaceful landscapes she lures us to the window to admire her artistry, but the pictures she paints are often camouflage for the savagery of her world. She holds no regard for strength, youth, age, or beauty. She gives life to whomever she chooses, and she takes life without prejudice. As my father, an avid birdwatcher, often says, “It’s a war zone out there.”
With the Arctic winds sweeping around the world with the help of the polar vortex, the Northeastern United States has again become a major battle ground between life and death for local wildlife, and amongst the latest casualties in this war, is a creature I have often heard yet never seen.
She lives in the misty realms between reality and irrational fear. Her spine chilling screams bring back memories of October nights, jack-o-lanterns, and Ichabod Crane. When she raises her voice in the night, we imagine the rush of feathered wings, talons descending in the darkness, and death. We think of her as frightening, powerful, ghostly, and wise, but seldom do we think of the eastern screech owl as being extremely vulnerable.
Measuring in at less than a foot, the eastern screech owl is a surprisingly small bird when compared to the volume of sound her tiny lungs can produce. Her meager wingspan stretches 18 to 24 inches from wingtip to lacy wingtip. Those beautiful wing feathers are so uniquely constructed that she can drop silently upon her prey of insects and small mammals. So acute is her hearing that she can locate a mouse beneath dense foliage or snow, but the plunging temperatures have been keeping the creatures of the night safely tucked in their dens, making food scarce and survival difficult for our late night aerial predators. This exquisite screech owl was found by the bird feeder. Overtaken by hypothermia and starvation this beautiful predator joined the multitude of nature’s victims. Somedays, my love affair with Mother Nature leaves me overwhelmed with awe and admiration, and yet others, I despise her for her unbiased cruelty. Today, I hate her, but tomorrow starts another day.