Great Horned Owl high in cedar trees, one eye open, then closed again

One Eye Open

From High in the Cedars, the Owl Watches Quietly

Eyes closed, one eye open, or both eyes open, the Great Horned Owl always knows who is around her and what they are doing, even when she shows little sign of any real concern.

Living next to this forest has taught me how important it is to walk quietly, listen, and pay attention to my surroundings. I just caught a glimpse of movement in my peripheral vision. The owl was huge, but silent. Last time this type of owl flew by me, it was much closer at first but then I never saw where it landed. This time I was luckier.

Perfect Match for her Surroundings

I saw the owl land softly on a branch. If I looked away it was difficult to know where to refocus my eyes and find her again. The camouflage of striped and speckled owl feathers was perfect and the tree was very very tall.

A  woodpecker made it a little easier to keep track of where to look. She sqwawked and kept flying up and around the owl, once or twice even landing on the same branch. The noisy bird seemed determined to claim her territory but the large owl was completely unimpressed.

Impressions

I watched the big bird perched on the branch for quite a long time before I dared to tiptoe home for a camera, but I made it there and back in time to get just a couple of photos. What I remember the best though, are the things not recorded by the camera. I remember the steady calm gaze and the eyes closing but then opening one at a time again just to watch for a minute if I moved or made a noise. I remember her watching and dipping her head forward when I walked closer, and there was a soft cloud of dust when she shook her feathers. Finally, when I came a little too close, there was just an elegant lift-off. Then it was almost impossible to find her again even though for a moment I could see that she was only a few trees away.

When I looked down and back, I lost track of the owl and could not find her again. The other bird was also quieter now. We all moved on, enjoying the rest of our warm August morning.

Susan

Canadian painter and mixed-media artist, Susan Neilson is fascinated by natural geometry in micro and macro worlds. Precise realism, calm energy and intuitive abstraction combine in her art. The Pacific Northwest and parks of the British Columbia Interior inspire her current work. She is interested in biomorphic forms and patterns connecting all living systems, as well as the interface between wild and cultivated environments.

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