Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cabin Life: The Owl’s Meal

owl crop2The sun is shining later and later each day, and some of the snow is melting and dripping off of the roof in front of the big window.  It’s officially been spring for almost a week now, but don’t bother telling Mother Nature that.  The forecast of thirteen degrees below zero tonight isn’t as bad as the negative twenty-three we got a couple of nights ago, so I guess, in a way we are getting more spring-like temperatures.  But again, temperatures in the negative teens aren’t that spring-like to me.

I’ve been back at the cabin full time, and having a few weeks off from living out here was definitely nice.  After three winters having to haul in water and use an outhouse no matter what the temperature, the shine of living off grid has worn off.  I still enjoy many, many aspects of it, but this winter has definitely been a mood killer for me.  I was able to tap a few of the maple trees the other day and start collecting sap, but it’s been slow going with the cold returning.  And the hike up the driveway isn’t any easier than it was in February.

But while the winter goes on, I cling to the knowledge that spring is indeed near.  I certainly don’t feel alone in my antipathy towards winter at this point, but there are still some advantages to having this much snow on the ground.

Last night I was driving home just after dark and spotted a flash of white on the side of the road up ahead.  Yes, I know that everything is covered in snow that there are “flashes of white” literally everywhere, but this small patch was moving quickly.  My initial thought was that it was deer hopping the snow bank to head into the woods.  But with the more than two feet of snow on the ground at my cabin, deer tracks are something I haven’t seen in quite a few months.

I instinctively tapped the breaks and looked for another deer.  Usually when there’s one, there’s more, and hitting a deer and wrecking my car at this point would probably make me throw up my hands and move back to Florida.  I looked up and saw a spread of wings in front of me, and realized that it wasn’t a deer but the tail end of a rather large owl taking off that I had caught a glimpse of.

The owl wasn’t very far in front of me, but I never got a good look at it because it was flying directly away from me.  It had a wingspan of a couple of feet and was certainly impressive in size, but what species it was I couldn’t say.

I wondered why the owl had been on the snow bank so I stopped to have a look.  I had obviously interrupted a kill in progress, and after snapping a few photos, I moved on.  I didn’t want to keep the owl from his fresh meal.  Plus, after this rough winter, I kind of feel like all of us up here are in it together.  Even the animals.

Photo by Ellen Rathbone.


Justin A Levine

Having grown up in the southern Adirondacks, Justin has always been at home in the mountains of New York. After graduating from Paul Smiths College, he began his career in the environmental field working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. After a brief five year detour to Florida, Justin returned to the Adirondacks to live off the grid in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.

Justin continues to work and play in the outdoors, and maintains a blog about living off grid, hiking, and being outside in the Adirondacks called Middle of the Trail.



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One Response

  1. Steve Hall Steve Hall says:

    Ellen’s photo is of a barred owl, by far the most populous owl in the Adirondacks, and across most of the northern United States. Their range is not only expanding, but in a fine example of natural selection, they are threatening to take over the northwest old growth forest territories of the spotted owl, that endangered owl from the 90’s Supreme Court decision about logging in old growth forests. Two other large owls that inhabit the Adirondacks: the Great Horned Owl, arguably the most efficient predator that has ever lived on earth, which sports the “ear tufts” and enormous talons, suitable for grabbing any critters from the size of house cats on down (barred owls have a roundish dome like head), and now, the snowy owls, whose irruptions out of northern climes are becoming an annual event. If there was a”flash of white”, as Justin described, it was probably a snowy. If you click on my photo, you’ll find detailed descriptions of these owls, as well as smaller owls like the screech owl and the saw whet. You should also look for articles in the Almanacks archive by Tom Kalinowski, our favorite writer about Adirondack Wildlife, who I believe recently had an article on snowys.