The Owl on Kent Street

Throughout the summer and fall, on quiet nights after everyone else had gone to bed, I would swear that I could sometimes hear the hooting of an owl in the trees on the hill behind our house. I never actually saw an owl in our yard, of course, because they are so stealthy and secretive. I wasn’t even sure if I could trust my ears, but this area is full of interesting wildlife, so I figured anything was possible.

I have been proven right — on the possibility, at least. There’s an owl in Newburyport for sure.

Kirk came home from work at the hospital last week with a tidbit about there being an owl in a tree in the park down Kent Street. (I live in a town where the juicy gossip is about bird sightings, it seems.) 

We figured we’d check it out between snow storms, and here he — or she — is:

Newburyport and Plum Island are major destinations for serious bird watchers, so there was group of people gathered to see this owl. Many came prepared with serious telescopic lenses and binoculars, and nice lady let us borrow hers to get a closer look, which was very cool — so cool that we walked home to get the kids and then walked back with them to have another look.

This is, apparently, an Eastern screech owl, and they love to hang out in trees and sleep all day. This one is reddish, and if the bird paparazzi wasn’t there to tip you off, you’d probably never notice him because he blends in so well. He picked a remarkably picture-effect tree to call home, though:

We were there in the waning light, and Mr. Owl did open his eyes and turn sharply when a big black lab came lumbering by. We wanted to stay until dark to see if he’d start to wake up, but it was getting cold. 

There is, around the right side of the tree trunk, another, smaller hole several feet closer to the ground. In this hole we found an either very brave or very foolish squirrel taking up residence. Other people who had been watching told us that while we were gone getting the kids, the squirrel was gathering twigs for his apartment and had scared himself silly coming up too close to the owl. 

Upon hearing us laugh, the squirrel curled up tight in his hole and we couldn’t see his face anymore.

This owl is nesting here, and I find myself detouring past Cushing Park and Kent Street when I walk home from downtown now to check in on the owl. There’s a chance the owl could mate and raise babies in that tree this spring, so we’ll see how long he sticks around. 


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