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Barred owls’ visit a real hoot

We have an owl in my neighborhood in Spencer. Actually, we have at least two of the creatures flapping about at night.
I’ve heard them numerous times over the past few weeks.
They’re barred owls and they have a distinctive hoot: “Hoo, hoo, too-hoo! Hoo, hoo, too-hoo!” (I checked and Google tells me this is the official means of spelling their call.)
I’ve heard one owl in the tree directly over my backyard clubhouse in which I sometimes sleep. He’s plenty loud, but his hoot isn’t annoying, just comforting.
As soon as he gives a hoot, his mate (or another barred owl, anyway, maybe it’s just a drinking buddy) answers from a few blocks away. It’s cool to lie back and listen to them converse.
I imagine they’re arranging to meet for a middle-of-the-night cocktail or snack. Or whatever it is that owls meet for in the middle of the night.
I’m familiar with barred owls because of my sons, Zachary and Will. When my boys were small, they idolized owls, one of a handful of creations ó dinosaurs, Power Rangers and Thomas the Tank Engine were among the others ó with which Zachary and Will were at various times enthralled.
We once went camping at Hanging Rock State Park and gathered at the amphitheater for one of those dusk-time ranger presentations. On that particular night, the ranger talked about owls.
He said the barred owl is also known as the “Who cooks for you? owl” because its hoot sounds as if that’s what the bird is saying.
After our visit to Hanging Rock, more than anything, Zachary and Will wanted to hear a barred owl. My parents live across from a nature park in Burlington and told us they often heard a barred owl there.
So the boys and I set up a tent in my parents’ front yard and camped one night in hopes of hearing the bird. We read books for awhile, but eventually everyone went to sleep.
About 2 a.m., I was awakened by one of the owls doing his hoot. It sounded like he was sitting on top of the tent. He was loud.
I shook Zachary, then I shook Will.
“Wake up, wake up!” I pleaded.
Neither of the boys ó who were at the time about 4 and 2 ó stirred. As rambunctious as toddlers can be, trying to wake one up from a dead sleep is nigh-on impossible.
Eventually the owl flapped his wings and sailed away. I told the boys the story the next day, but I’m not sure they believed me.
Zachary and Will both enjoyed birthdays in May. Zachary turned 21 and Will is 19.
They’re both in college and fine young men, each branching out and moving on with his life.
But there are times I wish they were toddlers who wanted nothing more than to hear the hoot of an owl.
And I thank the Spencer owls for reminding me of those days.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@ salisburypost.com.

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