I had noticed earlier in the day that various items had been moved or knocked off shelves in the shed where the barn cats live. This was not unusual; there were often romps in the shed or things moved in the pursuit of prey. A cat carrier was on tilt, nearly falling off a shelf, some rakes were knocked down, a bird feeder had fallen off a top shelf. I replaced everything and left.
When I came home just before sunset, and the car headlights were shining on the windows of the shed doors, I saw the most beautiful round face peering out at me from inside the shed. Not a cat. An owl!
It took my breath away as I looked at this perfect creature, wondering how it had managed to get inside the shed at all. Years ago, wrens had nested inside the shed, next to a can of spray paint. Wrens are like mice in terms of wriggling through small spaces such as were present with the old shed doors. They raised four youngsters there, on the third of four shelves along a wall.
Grabbing the camera, I opened the shed door to investigate. The owl had taken refuge on the highest beam available, and gazed down at me. Feeling nothing but gratitude, I left the shed door open for about an hour, hoping it would find its way out. Well after dark, I closed the door; the owl was still in the same space.
The next morning, before daybreak, I opened the door again and left it open for about two hours. When I checked back, the owl was gone. There were no owl feathers on the floor so the cats had not had a successful owl hunt, if they had tried at all.
Later I wondered if the owl felt welcome because of some outside decorations, or if it just got caught in a bad situation.
Comparison with an Audubon calendar photo showed the owl to be a screech owl. I didn’t hear any screeching but the markings were right.
Occasionally, Nature presents us with the most extraordinary gifts, up close. I’ve had the privilege of such encounters many times, been surprised and enraptured each time, with a renewed sense of childhood discovery in me, a gift beyond a gift. Nice.