The owl peeks out of the entrance to her box. She is anxious to leave, her head inches outside the opening. It is 7 p.m. and still light, even in the grayness of an overcast sky. Daylight savings has screwed up everyone’s schedule. But not the owl's.
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.