Turkey quintet

Last night while I was writing postcards for the Georgia Senate runoff in December, I heard a great-horned owl hooting in the darkness outside. Long winter nights are the domain of owls and other nocturnal creatures, and this one was intent on reclaiming his own.

This morning after I’d finished my morning kitchen tasks and before I ventured out to walk the dog, I heard the cluck and clatter of one or more wild turkeys flying from our yard into a neighbor’s tree. It’s their neighborhood: we just live here.

Pines with sky

Late last night, after J and I walked home from another Boston College hockey game and as I stood by the the backyard dog-pen waiting for Reggie to finish sniffing and peeing before we all turned in for the night, I heard a great horned owl hooting low and near in the fringe of tall pines separating J’s house from our neighbors: a sound deep and throaty, like the night’s own purr.

Tall pines

It’s not uncommon to see red-tailed hawks in Newton, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear their nocturnal counterpart. If there are enough squirrels in the Boston suburbs to feed red-tails, surely there are enough skunks, squirrels, and other edible things to feed great horned owls. But still, the sound of deep woods in one’s own backyard seems uncanny and odd: where is it, I wonder, that I’ve been living, and who’s been living alongside me, unseen? If I were superstitious, I’d wonder what sort of omen an owl offers when he calls late at night on Friday the 13th at a house with three black cats, but fortunately the naturalist in me triumphs over the triskaidekaphobe.

This morning, I could find no owls in the towering pines that fringe the dog-pen, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t (or haven’t been) there. Now that I know Reggie and I aren’t necessarily alone when I take him outside for one last sniff-and-pee before bed, I’ll be more aware of my surroundings, on alert for the things that go wooooooh in the night.