After months, I heard the owls one night this week, trilling loudly as I walked Daisy through the neighborhood. Searching dark shadows of tree branches for small oval shapes, I couldn’t find them. They are molting now, scattering gray and white feathers across Tim’s yard. The owls that visit my yard are gone; neither seen nor heard. This spring Daisy and I would often return from an evening walk and find an owl perched on a shepherd’s hook, head bent, searching the ground for bugs. Now the yard is empty and silent.
The Junction Butte Pack has moved to Lamar Valley. Seven wolves, five black and two grays, including 907F, were bedded in the sage on the south side of Lamar River. Earlier this morning they tested bison, no doubt looking for calves, weaving in and out of the sage, or lying bedded, still watching the bison.
Yellowstone is having a cold winter. Snow is everywhere - deep snow, with moose and elk up to their bellies in pure white powder. Floating Island Lake is frozen solid allowing bison to walk across without falling in. The thermometer dives below zero daily, reaching -40 at least once. We should have guessed it would be like this during that first week of October, a time the Park usually basks in Indian summer. Instead temperatures rarely rose above 45 and it rained and/or snowed each day until one drizzly day slid into the next snowy one. In the end it was one cold, wet week.
It started badly. The reins suddenly between Willis’ legs and then snapping apart with a frantic wave of his left front leg. I was trying to buckle the noseband on his bridle when his head reached toward the ground, searching for another slice of apple, no doubt. The reins slipped forward from his head, brushing the concrete floor. Willis stepped forward unsuspecting and then the struggle. There goes the riding lesson, I thought.
I heard the screech owls last night, an anxious cry shrieking through the darkness. The little gray owl appeared in September and is guarding her place in the box again this year. For more than a decade owls have nested in the yard, successfully producing several clutches of four or five owlets.