We are up early and out the door before 6 a.m. this morning. I have Gus drop me at the bottom of the road on his way to work. I need the exercise since I spend so much time at the computer blogging. Now it’s a 2 mile hike back home and all uphill! It is my intention to walk as fast as I can and I even have my stop watch to time my trek, but I also have my binoculars with me—just in case!
While the sun is above the horizon, its searing rays are veiled by a thin layer of clouds left over from last night’s storms. The air is still cool with a soft breeze caressing my face as I head up the mountainside. I breathe deeply of this coolness, for I know it won’t last long, but for now long shadows spill across my path interspersed with gold. I gaze around me at the lushness of this green desert. It seems an oxymoron to say that, but right now during the monsoon the desert is flush with color. Mt. Fagan looks positively verdant in this light as the desert grasses have grown thick on his slopes. All around me the drought deciduous plants have put forth their leaves in the presence of the abundant monsoon rains. Ocotillos branches are thick with leaves, saguaros and barrel cactus positively bulge with their uptake of water, and every tree and bush is lush with leaves. Desert grasses sway in the wind dotted once again with desert wildflowers. I picked a perfect morning for a walk.
As I near my favorite wash with my favorite net leaf hackberry tree I am striding up the road at a swift pace. I pass the tree, but then decide to go back and look closer, mostly because we are considering planting one of these in our yard and I want to look at the tree’s leaves and structure. I turn and walk back down into the wash and walk across the sandy bottom where fence meets tree. Suddenly a large bird lifts silently from the branches and flies further into the pasture up the wash. I grab my bins and try to focus and just in time I see enough of the bird to know I am seeing an owl. My first impression is a short-eared owl but I have never seen one here and I don’t even know if this is part of their range. I know what I saw was light colored with more pointed wings than a Great-horned owl. Then, when I think about it, I realize it had fairly long legs.
I consider crossing the barbed wire fence to enter the pasture and find the bird. I saw which tree it landed in, but, I know there are cattle in this pasture and I don’t know if any of them are bulls, so, I fight my inclination and walk further up the road. I keep glancing back and finally see the owl in the top of the Palo Verde tree I saw it land in. I am higher in elevation now and I fix my binoculars on the bird. Now I see the white heart-shaped facial disc and the dark eyes staring at me as I stare at it. This makes the owl uncomfortable, and though I am quite far away with the fence and the wash between us, it flies off. This is my first time seeing a barn owl here in Sycamore Canyon and I am thrilled. I head home to enter this observation into eBird and add it to my life list for Sycamore Canyon as bird number 65. Do I have any pictures you ask? No! I was out trying to get exercise, so I didn’t bring my camera along. But, now that I know it is there I may have to see if I can find it again, and this time I will go prepared!
A great-horned owl! Who me?