I cannot show you pictures of this event. Nor can I reveal its location. And if I had an infra-red camera I might just be able to give you an inkling of what I saw. So instead you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you that sane people go owl spotting at night, in the pitch black of darkness, with only their ears and eyes to trust. And a torch. Oh, and a couple of pre-recorded owl sounds. And an expert in the field, don’t forget this!
We are in the middle of a field on a crisp night. The moon manages a frosty glare. My field guides – let’s just call them Bird Expert and his Accomplice – begin with a series of owl calls. Bird Expert actually uses his own voice to make the sounds. Accomplice refers to a pre-recorded owl sound which she says sounds like horses neighing (it’s true – it does!). The dark patches of tree rise up like grand owls themselves. Suddenly, a response. A real owl, livid that its territory has been infringed upon, comes down for a better viewing. We can’t see it but certainly it is one responding with a haunting call. Flashlight on, Bird Expert shines the beam of light into the trees. Accomplice sees it! An owl, small, glowing white in the light, swivels its head from left to right. I blink. The owl is gone.
Apparently, owls are silent in flight. That night I dream of owl sounds like my head has been invaded by them.