Berkeley Owl Update: Infernal Twilight

We’re just in from the last dog-walk of the night. The typical August overcast is here, a low cloud cover that reflects the lights of the city and creates an un-dark condition, a kind of infernal twilight that persists from sundown to sunup. A very unromantic, blatting horn–maybe a train, maybe a very annoying truck–sounds in the night. Overall I find the scene less than enchanting. I probably need to get to bed.

The date palm a couple blocks away, the one where our neighborhood barn owls have been nesting, is quiet. The birds have moved out, almost. We got up early this morning to try to see the birds before full daylight. We have been hearing the birds in the area after dark, and we thought maybe we’d see them fly back to their nesting tree before the sun was up. In the non-rosy-fingered dawn–it was more like a wooly gray-blanket dawn–we heard what sounded like one bird in the palm. Then, at about 6 o’clock, two owls flew out of the tree and headed northwest, in the general direction of the bay. No other sound came from the tree, and there was no sign of the other three or four birds we figured were there as recently as a couple weeks ago.

We went back for this evening’s overcast sunset. Again, silence from the tree. But as it got dark, first one and then a second barn owl flew into the palm–from the northwest, the same direction we’d seen them go this morning. After a few minutes, one of the pair flew out into the dusk to hunt. We heard one or two other barn owls in the neighborhood, but didn’t make another sighting. We’ll look again tomorrow.

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