Yesterday the baby wrens in the nest in our night-blooming cereus fledged. There may be another baby still nearby because one of the adults was standing guard in the front yard, chirping encouragement. The feather coloring on the fledglings was so vibrant. We had two families of birds in the front yard this summer; the other nest was built and tended by blue jays. While those babies were fledging, the adults pecked Jim on the head whenever he came out or in by way of the front door. And I think there was a screech owl in the backyard before daybreak yesterday. I find that unsettling.
Truly, I am not a superstitious person, but we have screech owl history at this house; in the southern US, there is a superstition that the call of a screech owl foretells a coming death. Late in the summer of 2003, we began hearing the call of an eastern screech owl (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6N4C4U70Ajc) in the pre-dawn hours. I was up and about early Saturday morning of that Labor Day weekend when one of my son’s cats, Marley, began yowling loudly and fell over. I awakened my husband and we rushed him to the emergency veterinary hospital where we were advised that he had had a heart attack and had no chance of recovery. We had adopted him, as a kitten, from the Houston SPCA exactly three years before, so he was still a young cat; but, apparently, it is a common occurrence for American short hair male cats to have heart attacks around three years of age. We had him euthanized and went home to grieve.
The next morning, I again was awake in the predawn hours when I heard a loud screeching begin at the far end of our street, traveling down the length of the street, and stopping in my front yard. That evening as dusk fell, my husband went out into the front yard. He heard a quiet hooting trill; looking up into the large ash tree to the right of our front door, he saw a small screech owl which bobbed its head at him, swooped over to the tree on the other side of the walkway and then flew away.
We didn’t hear or see a screech owl again until November 20th, Thanksgiving Day. A group of family and friends were sitting on the patio drinking beer and wine, thankful for time spent with each other, when someone happened to notice a small screech owl sitting in hole in the siding of my garage. My son, who had been away at college in Ohio when Marley died and his father had had his moment with the owl, bobbed his head at that owl who bobbed his head back and gently hooted then flew away. My son came home the following spring, spent the summer digitizing well logs for his dad, and on the day he left to return to Wittenberg for his senior year of college, four screech owls were gathered in the trees outside our front door.
I am thinking that a screech owl just might be my patronus.