Owls and September

September has arrived kissing the Currant Farm with her cool nights and teasing us with the last few warm days of the year. I’ve always loved the Autumn and I find it more poignant living on the farm than anywhere else. The work on the farm has transitioned from planting and nurturing to preparing for winter ahead and spring thereafter. Great piles of split firewood fill the barnyard, the vegetable garden is squeezing out its last course of tomatoes, peppers and beans and apples take center stage.

The sun now leaves the farm almost 2 hours earlier than the end of June and the joyful chorus of the evening songbirds of summer have been replaced by the plaintive honks of Canada geese flying south. The honey bees’ wildflower field boasts vast waves of goldenrod and the bees are frantically stuffing their hives with the last pollen and nectar of the year somehow knowing what lies ahead.

As I step out onto the front porch of the old 1794 farm house to take some cool air after dinner, I hear the familiar “Who-cooks-for-you—-who-cooks-for-you-all” hooting call of the barred owl from the woods at the top of the field.

The barred owl is the most common owl here on the farm. Like primates, owls have binocular vision, enabling them to pinpoint prey in a 3D field of vision, but unlike primates they can’t move their eyes. They move their heads instead and many owls can twist their heads more than 270 degrees. They also have extraordinary hearing which is the result of their unusual ear placement. While the ears of most animals are symmetrically positioned on the head, the ears of most owls are asymmetrical. One ear is actually lower that the other. Faint sounds, such as a mouse scurrying underneath the leaves on the forest floor, reaches each of the ears differently and the owl is able to pin point the location of the sound by triangulation and can accurately detect the exact location of the mouse from 60 feet away. The large ring of feathers around owls’ eyes, called facial discs, also aid in hearing by actually directing the sound in to its ear canals not unlike satellite dishes.

Another attribute which make owls excellent hunters are soft downy serrations on the wing tips which reduce turbulence and completely muffle the sound of their wing beats, allowing them to swoop down on prey in absolute silence. I remember one autumn afternoon many years ago as I was strolling through a patch of woods, an enormous great horned owl with a wing span of about 5 feet flew past me from behind and quite close to my right side. I didn’t hear a thing and only became aware of his presence when he approached my peripheral vision only a few feet away from my head. I’m pretty sure I lost 2 or 3 years of life at that moment.

The next best thing to living here on the Currant Farm is sharing it and I’m happy I can share the farm through my musings and our wonderful CurrantC™ currant products shipped right to your door.