Walking after work clears my head. Weather doesn't bother me but sometimes I need a knitting or NPR podcast in order to get off the couch and out the door. Last Friday after spending an afternoon hunched over the computer, I left the ipod at home. Breathing deeply, I savored the neighbor's daffodils and the cool Spring breeze on my cheek. I also smiled and said hello to folks who were willing to make eye contact with me.
Four blocks from home, I heard an unfamiliar bird call. Phoebes have been calling to each other but I haven't been able to catch a glimpse of them. I knew the call I was hearing wasn't a phoebe but still I stopped to scan the roofs and trees. After turning 180 degrees, I found myself looking into the brown/black eyes of a 17 inch owl. Against a bright blue sky, the owl with a gray face appeared to be a mottled gray/brown in color with lighter flecks on the breast. As I watched, two blue jays flew in to scold him but he did not budge from his perch next to the tree trunk. He swiveled his head once to look at the jays and then gazed back toward me. After a three or four minute stand off, I resumed my walk.
After consulting a field guide and wikipedia, I decided the bird was either a Barred or Spotted Owl. While Barred Owls are common to the midwest, the plumage of this owl more closely resembled a Spotted Owl. Spotted Owls are more common to southwest United States so if he was a Spotted Owl he was a long way from his typical habitat. Regardless, if I'd been plugged into "Poetry Off the Shelf" or "Cast On" I'd have missed the owl. Walking without ear buds has advantages.