It was just after dawn on a crisp winter morning not long ago, Christmas Eve day actually.
I was on my way to work, and some happy quirk made me take a different route than usual.
As I drove slowly down a quiet street I saw an unusual huddled and bulky shape on a telephone wire and I pulled over to get a closer look at it.
It was a large owl.
I've very seldom seen them, and the ornithologically-minded side of my self combined with the superstitious omen-seeking side of myself to give me a momentary shiver of delight at such an unusual sight.
I walked slowly across the street and we regarded one another.
I don't know what species it was, but it was tall and had ear tufts so it may have been a Great Horned Owl. It looked down at me with that slightly unnerving round-eyed glare, and then took wing down the street until it alighted in a tree not far away.
I love the way owls fly--it's like they are drifting through the air. *shivers happily again at the memory*
The last time I saw an owl was in Kenya, two years ago. I was at Fishermen's Camp near Naivasha and had to leave my tent on a nature-call in the middle of my first night in Africa.
I was feeling a little bit nervous because even though this was not a game reserve, there was still plenty of unfamiliar wildlife making strange sounds in the dark. Hippos laughing in the nearby lake and giant two-hundred pound frogs (no, wait, those were later determined to be colobus monkeys making the strangest monkey-sounds I've ever heard). There was also a creeping white ground fog that bounced my flashlight's beam right back at me and made the way to the outhouse particularly daunting.
But despite initially regretting drinking so much Tusker beer right before bedtime, I was so glad I ventured out because of the owl.
He was perched on a branch by the showers. I wouldn't have seen him except that I'd followed the sound of his calls. Hooooo...hooooo....hooooo. He was large and by my flashlight I could just make out his large shape. I was thrilled.
A bird book from the overland truck we were travelling in identified my owl as most likely being a Verreaux eagle-owl, a kind of owl that will actually wade into the water to catch fish and who may particularly like to snack on hedgehogs.