Whistler: The Barred Owl

Massive, magical, mythical wings beat silently through crisp winter air. I feel the atmosphere shift, even from within the house. Suddenly, a blurred flurry of motion. My eyes see what I had only sensed. A barred owl flaps past my window then glides upward with graceful lift, landing softly in our dormant Maple. Downy feathers fluff against the brisk chill, shrouding a pair of massive feet. The hard stare of two big, black eyes softens as they close, slowly. Mine are wide with wonder, consuming the majesty of this magnificent being napping before me.


Three times in a week, the owl returns, cozying up to our feeders for several hours before sunset. The head slowly turns. Facial feathers hone in, gathering sounds of scrambling squirrels and curious cardinals. Interest takes hold but the mood is fleeting, set adrift like a feather on a gentle breeze as sleep settles in.

With each visit, the owl lingers longer, closer, allowing me to open the window, to speak, to photograph. My unyeilding attention is ignored but for my disruption of dinner, when I startle a curious chipmunk back into his snowbank – on purpose.


More than an occasional guest, we name the owl Whistler, welcoming this wise, beautiful spirit to sit in our Maple, always. Whistler’s visits are a tremendous gift and the extension of our invitation is a gift in its own right.

We aren’t always so eager to accommodate.



  1. Wow Kim. Beautiful photos! Beautiful animal. Talk about "this one wild life." I like that you included an over-the-shoulder shot with your cat in the foreground to give us a sense of the owl's proximity to your house (and your cat's fascination).

    • Kathy,

      Thanks for the kind words. I give all the credit to the owl. I just snapped a shutter.

      And I would love to have captured the interaction between Whistler and our cat. They certainly share mutual interest and drive. Jed stands on hind legs at the window, pawing at the glass while staring the owl down. As his tail flicks with excitement, the owl stares the cat down in return like prey. Good thing Jed is an indoor critter or he'd likely be lunch.

  2. Gosh, what wonderful pictures – of a wonderful (and beautiful) animal!!

    Rudy's Raiser

    • Thanks for stopping by, Rudy! I can't believe the camera captured those minuscule water droplets at the end of Whistler's facial feathers. Blew me away. You never know what you've got until you get the images into the computer.

  3. These photos are wonderful. I love owls, and all birds. If I didn't have a cat, I would want to live with a bird. I envy you for being so close to nature.

    • Thanks, Michele. I've had birds and cats in the same household for 18 years. It's just a matter of balancing their interaction. Jed sits on top of the cage and I allow it as long as he's well behaved. Once a paw reaches through the bars, he gets a blast from the squirt gun. My former cat, Kringle, used to love the birds preening his ears as he napped. He'd kill anything outside but knew inside was off limits. There are a couple of photos here: http://thisonewildlife.com/cat-rescue/ashes-ashes….

  4. Absolutely gorgeous.

  5. Wow, how beautiful, the photos and your words. I have always been fascinated by owls. They have such capacity for viciousness and yet they are so calm, so above the nattering birds. They are definitely mysterious in many ways.

    • It's tough to navigate prey drive that feels unjust in human terms. I don't know that viscous is a word I'd use to describe it though. My husband and I have this conversation at times. I struggle to watch the hunt, compassionate for the sake of the prey, yet I marvel at the tools, skill and precision with which raptors hunt. Often, we can only shrug saying, "They have to eat too."

  6. Looks like the neighbor's cat has found a perfect perch. That owl is beautiful.

  7. You’re right Kim. One of your most beautiful posts. I had not read this one before, but I really loved your description. And, of course, the photos were amazing. So jealous you had the opportunity to see this.

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