But now I am becoming acquainted with a truly cute owl: the Saw-whet.
Today when I drove up to the goat barn with my load of feed and stopped to open the gate beyond, the little Northern Saw-whet Owl that has taken up residence in the Wood Duck box near the barn popped its head out to look at me. Delighted to see it appearing in daylight, I hurried to the house for my camera. When I came back, the owl had disappeared. I sighed, started the pickup, and immediately the little head appeared in the nest hole, apparently curious about the sound of my vehicle. I took a picture. What a cute little owl.
After unloading horse feed at the horse barn, I drove back and stopped by the goat barn again. The owl did not reappear. Since it was threatening rain, I retreated to the house and waited until the weather cleared to unload the goat feed. When I came back and began unloading, the little owl looked out. Most of the time I was unloading, the owl was watching me. But when I began noisily folding the empty sacks, the owl began a low chattering that sounded like a scold. Apparently, I was disturbing its rest a bit too much. The owl continued chattering until I quit making noise. Then it ducked back down and, presumably, went to sleep.
I couldn't resist talking to the owl as I worked. It seemed so intent on what I was doing that I thought it only polite to explain my actions. This is a little owl one could fall in love with. I studied up on Saw-whet Owls in my many bird books and found that the name was probably not, as has been oft stated, derived from the sound of a saw being whetted, as the bird makes no such sound. Rather, saw-whet is likely a corruption of the French word for small owl, "chouette".
Alas, I learned that the earliest egg laying reported is March 19. But this is an oddly early spring and I have hopes this bird is truly nesting and not just hanging out. They do prefer nesting, my books say, in swampy areas and they will use nest boxes. This nest box hovers high over our little creek and the swamp the beaver have created.
Then I looked at a photo of a baby Saw-whet Owl. Oh my. The cuteness factor is off the scale. Here's hoping we have some of those to coo over -- and get photos of -- in a month or two. I will still love my Barn Owls. But, I must admit, cuteness is not their strong point.