Where the Wild Things Are - Owl, by Ann Luloff

Sometimes when I walk, I am looking for certain things. My eyes may scan the forest floor, looking for ephemerals. Sometimes my eyes are darting from brush to tree to ground, trying to see whatever is calling through the spring woods. At times I just stand still and look. I may notice small bits of green that I could of walked right on past. The flight of a bird off to the side is noticed and noted. Sounds of frogs calling now fill the air, bird calls in the distance come into focus. 

It is the surprises that make every walk a joy. A new plant, the first sighting of a bird for the season. I never know what is out there. As I walked in the wetlands behind the marl pits, I found the marsh marigolds just starting to come out. Not far away was a tree that I failed to recognize. Evergreen and needled, it is obviously a conifer, but which one? It was short and wide, not the conical shape one expects. It didn't match the simple tree book I carry with me. Photographs taken, mental notes about details, it was a mystery for later research. 

After a climb up into the oak forest, the sound of frogs drew me over the top of a hill to discover a small woodland pond. A delightful sight, with no cattails or Reed Canary Grass around it. There in the water, I saw another plant I didn't recognize. Again, photos and notes, ready for later. Then I saw it. An owl flying quietly into the woods. 

It landed on a branch not far away and I slowly moved through the trees until I could get a better look. A Barred Owl! You hear them more often than you see them. "Who, who cooks for you?" is their persistent question. A bit of patience and I had a photo of the elusive bird, not National Geographic quality, but good enough to confirm the ID. 

The rest of the walk was less eventful, but soul filling. The tree appears to be a Common Juniper which isn't reported in Todd County (a really underreported county), and the plant? Turns out to be Pennsylvania Bittercress! Always an adventure!