NATURE WALK: SOMETHING TO HOOT ABOUT
Happy Holidays! We have entered into the season of thankfulness and lots of sweet treats; which means I need to get out more. Not just because being outdoors is amazing but if I want to be able to stay healthy and enjoy the winter wildlife I need to make an effort to be outdoors. Thanksgiving was wonderful but with all the heavy and delicious food eaten I really needed to get outside and walk some of those calories off.
A good friend of mine (who also loves getting outdoors) joined me for a late night nature walk. We started out sometime after 7 pm for a night walk in the neighborhoods near the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. It was quite dark and damp–the air was misty and cold from the ocean and the oncoming winter, as we walked we kept an eye out for nocturnal animals. Most of the nocturnal creatures I’ve seen lately have been spiders but we saw none that evening as we walked. Occasionally we have seen a racoon or a coyote on this same walk, but they must have been nice and warm inside sleeping off their Thanksgiving left-overs because we didn’t see any. Not even a single rabbit was out on their front porches. . . It seemed like we were in for a quiet and uneventful nature walk.
We were chatting away when we were interrupted by a call. Four who who whoooos and then silence. We froze and looked at each other grinning. . . Had we imagined it? Just when we were beginning to think we were hearing things we heard it again! And looking up on the top of a chimney three stories up we saw a silhouette of an owl. We called back to it. “Whoo whoo whoo whooooo!”
The bird turned its flat round white face toward us inquisitively and replied: whoo whoo who whoooo. We continued whooing back and forth for several minutes until (much to my surprise) the massive bird silently took flight. Its flight was even quieter than a whisper of wind.
I have seen owls before but I never remember how silent they are. For such a massive bird they cut through the air noiselessly. It is jaw-dropping to see how quickly and gracefully this massive bird of prey flies. The wings and feathers on an owl help them to fly silently and stealthily to catch their prey. They have comb like feathers which help them cut through the air, other feathers act in a noise canceling fashion and still other feathers are so soft they absorb most of the sounds that the bird would make as it glides through the air. The incredible detail and design of this amazing bird’s flight even to the feather structure level is impressive. I hope sometime in the upcoming weeks leading up to the holidays and in between all the festivities and feasts (maybe even when you are out looking at the lights) you can get a glimpse of this silent and majestic nocturnal neighbor.
Check out some more details on the mechanics of owl flight: