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Great horned owlets hanging in during a storm. — Photo by Pat Bean

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been spending an extra amount of time hanging out on my living room third-floor balcony, where I always see hummingbirds and often great horned owls during the day and a spectacular sunset almost every evening.

The views have become especially precious since I know I will be leaving them behind when I move to a new place mid-August. We humans are quite funny in that we tend to value more what we don’t have than what we do have. And that certainly includes more than just a pleasant view.

My new place offers me things I need, like a fenced patio for my dog, and it does have trees and birds and brilliant red and orange desert bird of paradise plants which make me happy. So, I will be receiving new gifts for my eyes, for which I’m thankful.

But in the meantime, I’m enjoying my tree-house view with more appreciation, knowing that I’m going to be leaving it behind. The attention I’ve given it let me take the owl photo above of this year’s great-horned owl siblings. During the 10 years I’ve spent in my apartment here, I’ve watched newly fledged owls learn their way around for seven.

I’ve also listened to their parents courting hoots early on in the year, but these more mature birds are more aloof and don’t hang around in full view as often as their young – who haven’t yet learned that man is the most dangerous beast on earth.

The favorite roosting spot of this year’s owlets is a tall Ponderosa Pine that stands in perfect view of my balcony They are a brother and sister, easily told apart because the female is quite a bit bigger than the male, a trait of just about all predator birds.

Recently I watched the pair during a rain and wind storm, one strong enough that it crashed down another large Ponderosa Pine here.  As I watched the owlets, the female actually seemed to hover over her brother as they stood high on a large branch right next to the tree trunk as smaller limbs and tree needles tossed to and fro around them. This was when I took the photo.

Last year, there were three owlets adjusting to the world here in Tucson’s Catalina Foothills. Their favorite hangout was usually the rooftops, and I usually only saw them when walking my canine companion, Scamp.

But for days and days, one of them spent many hours in what sounded like literal crying. It was quite an unpleasant screech. I suspect that it began after their parents stopped feeding them because it was time for them to be off on their own.

Shortly after this happens, the new crop of owls disappear, and the courting songs begin again soon after.

 I feel quite blessed to have had the past years with these owls. But it’s time for me to move on and start making new memories to cherish.  I can do that, too.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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Chitters in 2010 -- Photo by Pat Bean

Chitters in 2010 — Photo by Pat Bean

“Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open. You’re able to benefit for the unique viewpoints of others without being crippled by your own judgment.” — Ralph Marston

Chitters

Chitters is a great horned owl that I met back in the 1980s. And yes, he is unique. What other great horned owl twitters – as in chitters@ogdennaturecenter

He became the Ogden (Utah) Nature Center’s mascot when it was determined he couldn’t survive in the wild. But he did fly free for a short time, which is when I first learned about this magnificent bird.

A nature center worker called the newspaper where I was working after Chitters got loose. She was hoping for extra eyes to find him. The article I wrote in response to the plea noted that a female owl had been hanging around the nature center trying to attract Chitters’ attention. She succeeded, and at the first opportunity Chitters made his escape.

“Imagine that female’s surprise,” said the Nature Center’s spokesman, “when Chitters fails to bring her food, as courting males are supposed to do.”

Chitters turned up back at the Nature Center several days later, skinny and much the worse for wear. Perhaps he has progeny flying free over Ogden, or perhaps not.

The photo of Chitters above is one I took of him during a visit to Ogden a couple of years ago. Isn’t he beautiful?

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