[Tweeters] Talking with Owls at St Edward State Park in Kenmore

Jeremy Schwartz jschwartz1124 at gmail.com
Sun Aug 6 15:39:35 PDT 2017

Hello tweeters!

This little anecdote actually took place about a month ago, but I figured
you all would still be down for a bird story.

It starts with Facebook posts from a friend of mine who had been seeing
barred owls pretty regularly at Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore. Being a
newbie birder (a little more than a year doing it seriously), I was
thrilled at this as I had not yet added an owl of any type to my life list.

I went looking with this friend one evening, but came out empty handed. A
few evenings later, I went with my wife (who has been nothing but
supportive toward my newfound hobby).

We set out after dinner on the 15-minute drive to the park from our house.
We arrived at about 7:30, with a respectable amount of sunlight still
hanging in the air. It had been overcast earlier in the day, but now the
clouds had cleared enough to allow the sun to mingle with the conifer and
deciduous trees that inhabit the park.

My wife and I walked slowly toward the area where my friend had seen the
owls just a few nights before. Talking ceased as we aimed our eyes upward,
roughly 50 feet or so in the tree canopy. The perch options for barred owls
were near endless. Sturdy Douglas firs offered hundreds of horizontal

I searched and I hoped; hoping one of these many branches would hold a
young barred owl, still partially covered in young-bird fluff. We chose our
steps carefully as we walked the forest trail, the ground threaded with
tree roots. All the while our eyes looking toward the tree tops.

Ten minutes of looking. Nothing yet.

Fifteen minutes. A handful of other bird species seen or heard but nothing
of our main quarry.

We had walked maybe 100 yards along the trail when we decided to head back.

That’s when, on a whim, I imitated the barred's distinctive “Who cooks for
you? Who cooks for you ALL?” call. It was quiet, I had thought. I had no
intention of broadcasting it across the forest. I just felt like imitating
the sound.

Nonetheless, an owl called back.

Both my wife and I froze in our tracks, eyes locked on each other. We
pointed to where the sound had come from. Not close, but not too far

“There’s no way it heard that,” I whispered in disbelief, referring to my
quiet imitation of the call.

“They’re owls, of course they heard it!,” my wife replied in a similarly
hushed tone.

We began walking back the way we came, silent and scanning the trees. I
made the call once more, this time with hands cupped around my mouth to
boost its volume. Again, a call returned from the forest. A minute or two
later, the odd caterwauling of a pair of owls came floating through the
trees to our ears.

The thrill at hearing this is indescribable. It almost brought tears to my
eyes, the feeling was so visceral. Was I really calling back and forth,
however briefly, with a wild animal? My brain could barely reconcile the
input it was getting and my lingering disbelief.

I imitated the call again maybe four or five times as we returned to the
trailhead, but did not receive any more replies. I figured I had overdone
it, perhaps, and made the owls realize they weren’t actually speaking with
a member of their species.

We walked back to the car, a smirk of disbelief and elation lingering on my

“So, how was talking with owls?” my wife asked me on our drive back home.

I could only chuckle in reply. I had not yet seen a barred owl. But they
were there.I knew this for myself, now.

Has anyone else seen the barred owls that live in St. Ed's State Park?

Keep watching the skies,

Jeremy Schwartz
Lake Forest Park
schwartz1124 at gmail dot com

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