Have you ever been followed by an Owl?

Well it happened to me a few years ago while taking an evening walk with my wife along a cottage road deep in the bush around Six Mile Lake, Ontario.

I had brought a flashlight knowing that it would be dark by the time we returned from our trek.

While walking home, suddenly we heard the call from a species of owl we had both become well acquainted with.

Here's why; several years ago I was given a cassette tape done by Dan Gibson, a man well known for his work taping wildlife and nature sounds for film and television. However, as I found out, he has a great selection of tapes available to the public which can be purchased at just about any music store.

When I initially listened to the tape I was pleased to find it included a wide variety of animal and bird calls including one from the particular owl we were now hearing while on our walk.

On several occasions I had played this tape or at least choice segments of it, depending on what animal or bird I was attempting to attract, in hopes of getting some kind of response, and wow did I get a response!

On one particular summer evening I decided to give my experiment a try to see if it would work. So while sitting on the back porch with my portable tape player and coated in bug juice I began playing, in repetition, the call of a Barred Owl. Within minutes I had a response which continued and got closer each time I played the tape.

If you've never seen a large mature Barred Owl in flight and up close I'll tell you in all honesty it kind of reminds me of a scaled down jumbo jet. Beyond a doubt this is a large species of owl, averaging in size anywhere from 43 cm to 65 cm or 17-28". In flight, with its wings stretched out, it is really something to see!

The barred is the only owl, with exception of the Barn Owl, that possesses deep brown eyes. All other owls have yellow eyes. It is large and its chest coloration is a greyish brown incorporating barred greyish white feathers giving the impression that the breast feathers are laying horizontally rather than vertically and the back feathers have white spots which are equally dispersed along its entire length.

The belly feathers are streaked lengthwise and tend to be whitish grey. Its wing span averages 150 cm or 5 feet.

Now I'll tell you what happened when my wife and I came across this most interesting inhabitant of the forest, or should I say when it came across us!.

As we stood quietly in the dark listening to the barred call, my wife suggested that I answer back to see if we could draw him nearer so that we might possibly catch a glimpse of this night hunter. I began to call and sure enough his responses got closer and closer. Again, just as before when calling the barred by tape from the back porch, this one came swooping in within minutes of me answering his calls. All we heard was a swoosh and a bit of flapping in the dark above our heads.

He perched himself (or herself) on a tree branch which extended out over the roadway only ten feet or so above us.  I shone my flashlight on it, which it didn't appear to enjoy very much, and flew to another nearby branch. This time I didn't shine the light directly on it but instead just off to the side which still allowed us an excellent view of this beautiful creature.

This particular owl was much smaller than the other I had attracted by the tape,...you know the one that almost made me dive for cover. I assumed, judging by size and coloration, that it was immature.

For the next half hour as we walked back to the cottage it continued to follow us along the road. It would land on a branch just ahead of us, wait until we walked beneath it, and then fly ahead again and wait for us. This was repeated time and again.

We would laugh and shake our heads in astonishment while saying hello to this crazy owl each time it glided over our heads to perch on a distant limb.

I quite frankly have no explanation for this behaviour except that maybe there's the remote possibility it was just curious and wanted to thoroughly check us out. In any event it certainly added excitement to our walk.


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