In many parts of the world, the water-pumping windmill was the workhorse that allowed the pioneers to open up vast areas of land for farming and ranching. Poised over a water well, these wind powered towers lifted the water out of the ground so that it could be used for irrigation in areas that were far from rivers and streams.
The Windmill in this photograph now sits on the family farm of some good friends. Do you see the owl sitting on the platform just below the vanes? No, I expect you don’t. It is only there in my memory.
The evening before I took this photo, we were all sitting around the campfire, roasting hot dogs and s’mores. Suddenly, a Great Horned Owl swooped over our heads, then flew off over the meadow towards the dugout. I set off at a trot, hoping I could get a better look at it. As I rounded the edge of a clump of trees, I looked up and there, on the platform of the windmill, was the owl. It looked down at me for a few minutes, while I talked to it in my best Owlspeak.
Of course, I wasn’t sure I knew how to speak like an owl, but I figured Harry Potter didn’t know he could speak Parseltongue to a snake until he tried it, so I had nothing to lose… The owl on the windmill listened quietly, then flew off over the trees and disappeared from view.
I always wanted to have a close up, (safe) encounter with an owl. My wish came true at the Hohenweffen Fortress in Austria. There is a Falconry Center there, and they put on daily demonstrations with their many birds of prey. Of course, the entire commentary was in German and we missed most of what was said.
But as soon as the narrator introduced the next bird as ‘Oohoo’, I just knew what kind of bird it was! The owl flew around the arena a few times, and then the hostess threw some bird feed right near our feet! The ‘Oohoo’ swooped right down in front of us to eat. It was the best part of the whole trip as far as I was concerned!
The Feather Files
Name: Eurasian Eagle Owl
Species: Bubo bubo
Native to and Migration: Found in North Africa, Europe, Asia, Middle East. Northern birds migrate South if tempareture is low or food becomes scare
Date Seen: October, 2011
I expect you have heard that Owls are very smart, but apparently they are not as bright as geese, crows, and ravens. That’s not what A.A. Milne would have you think, however:
Owl took Christopher Robin’s notice from Rabbit and looked at it nervously. He could spell his own name WOL, and he could spell Tuesday so that you knew it wasn’t Wednesday, and he could read quite comfortably when you weren’t looking over his shoulder and saying “Well?” all the time…
– The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne –