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Winter Pine - Great Horned Owl By Robert Bateman

By Robert Bateman

Owls have long been creatures of myth and mystery. The ancient Greeks associated them with Athena, the goddess of wisdom - hence the expression “wise as an owl.” In other cultures they have been held in awe or viewed with fear. Sometimes they are seen as heralds of victory or harbingers of good luck; at other times they are thought of as ill omens foretelling disaster. The aura of mystery surrounding owls is heightened by two of their characteristics: the fringed feathers at the ends of their wings allow them to fly almost soundlessly, and, with a few exceptions, they are nocturnal and therefore often very difficult to see. The largest of our owls, the great horned owl, is a creature of the dark night and the deep forest that nests up high, usually in an abandoned hawk’s nest or in a tree cavity. I have spent many hours searching for this fierce hunter, which will catch and eat birds as large as a small goose and mammals as fleet as the snowshoe hare. It also dines on porcupine and skunk. If I’m lucky, a noisy mob of crows especially reprehensible. (They have good reason for this, since by night crows become one of this owl’s prey.) If they find a great horned owl trying to take a nap, they wild scold it relentlessly. - Robert Bateman

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