|At sundown, all was quiet in the park|
On the weekend, I walked over to the park alone at dusk and wandered back and forth between the pines where the owls have been hanging out and the silver maple where last year's nest was. The sky darkened from pale pink and blue to navy blue, the shadows faded as the light drained away, and everything was quiet but for the sound of my boots squeaking on the hard-packed snow. No owls. Nothing at all, just me, growing colder and colder in the six degrees below zero evening.
I left the tree and headed up the path toward the Japanese Garden, where I had seen the owl hooting behind the tall fence a week before, but again, all was quiet. And then I remembered something one of the gardeners had told me last summer. She said she had seen the whole owl family one night "hunting off the top of the dome." I have been unable to look at the illuminated glass dome of the Como Conservatory since then without picturing four owls perched on the very top but of course that is not something I have ever seen. So I walked a few feet down the path toward the Conservatory, and right away I saw the owl.
|Hunting off the Conservatory dome.|
He wasn't on top of the dome, of course--how would he see anything from up there?--but he was perched on the ridge that runs around the bottom of the glass dome. He turned his head, he craned his neck, he was clearly hunting. I didn't want to get too close because my mantra always is, don't disturb the owls. I took a picture, but I was far away and so it's blurry, and he actually looks more like a cat than an owl. But then I saw him fly...
...to the adjoining greenhouse roof. Cats don't fly. Not in my life, anyway.
And so I left him there. If the female is brooded up somewhere, this is probably the male, hunting for something for himself to eat, and something for her. If all goes well, the female will produce somewhere between two and four eggs, spaced several days apart, and the eggs will hatch in early March. A few weeks later, the owlets will emerge from the nest to hang out on a branch. And the whole wonderful cycle begins again.