The Owl and the Windmill

In many parts of the world, the water-pumping windmill was the workhorse that allowed the pioneers to open up vast areas of land for farming and ranching.  Poised over a water well, these wind powered towers lifted the water out of the ground so that  it could be used for irrigation in areas that were far from rivers and streams.

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The Windmill in this photograph now sits on the family farm of some good friends.  Do you see the owl sitting on the platform just below the vanes? No, I expect you don’t. It is only there in my memory.

The evening before I took this photo, we were all sitting around the campfire, roasting hot dogs and s’mores. Suddenly, a Great Horned Owl swooped over our heads, then flew off over the meadow towards the dugout. I set off at a trot, hoping I could get a better look at it. As I rounded the edge of a clump of trees, I looked up and there, on the platform of the windmill, was the owl. It looked down at me for a few minutes, while I talked to it in my best Owlspeak.

Of course, I wasn’t sure I knew how to speak like an owl, but I figured Harry Potter didn’t know he could speak Parseltongue to a snake until he tried it, so I had nothing to lose… The owl on the windmill listened quietly, then flew off over the trees and disappeared from view.

I always wanted to have a close up, (safe)  encounter with an owl. My wish came true at the Hohenweffen Fortress in Austria. There is a Falconry Center there, and they put on daily demonstrations with their many birds of prey. Of course, the entire commentary was in German and we missed most of what was said.

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But as soon as the narrator introduced the next  bird as  ‘Oohoo’, I just knew what kind of bird it was! The owl  flew around the arena a few times, and then the hostess threw some bird feed right near our feet! The ‘Oohoo’ swooped right down in front of us to eat. It was the best part of the whole trip as far as I was concerned!

The Feather Files
Name: Bubo bubo
Alias: Eurasian Eagle Owl
Migration: Found in North Africa, Europe, Asia, Middle East. Northern birds migrate South if tempareture is low or food becomes scare
Date Seen: October, 2011
Location: Austria

I expect you have heard that Owls are very smart, but apparently they are not as bright as geese, crows, and ravens. That’s not what A.A. Milne would have you think, however:

Owl took Christopher Robin’s notice from Rabbit and looked at it nervously. He could spell his own name WOL, and he could spell Tuesday so that you knew it wasn’t Wednesday, and he could read quite comfortably when you weren’t looking over his shoulder and saying “Well?” all the time…
– The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne –

Post 33

20 thoughts on “The Owl and the Windmill

  1. Too bad you don’t speak German. The falconer was telling you that it’s considered bad manners to follow an owl when they are resting on a windmill. If you do, they will just fly off in a huff.

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  2. Hi,
    They are a magnificent bird, and you managed to get a very nice photo, what a shame the commentary was in German, but still it would of been great watching all the different type of birds.

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  3. Beautiful photos. I enjoyed your owl thoughts very much. They are such mysterious critters. Seeing one and being able to photograph it is really a special thing. 🙂

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  4. I think birds talk to us if we just take the time to listen. I saw a research show on Crows. The findings are amazing, they know us, grieve the loss of a member of the flock and have many different call sounds. So why wouldn’t your owl? And I understand that owls mate for life like crows (is that right?) Crows can mate for up to 20 years! I do not know how long owls mate but your owl is your friend now!

    P.S. Love your Pooh quote too!

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    • Hi Amanda – Apparently the great horned owl does mate for life. They lay their eggs early in the spring, even before the snow has left the ground. I’ll have to check our trees carefully next spring to see if an owl is nesting on our property!

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  5. I would have liked to have seen the video of you tossing your pre-s’more into the fire and trotting after the owl. The top of a windmill is a great place for looking down on the wee creatures…even those that talk.

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  6. They are really such gorgeous and majestic birds. And – what a perfect perch atop that beautiful windmill. Love your little story here.

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  7. Beautiful windmill photo!

    There is a falconry and birds of prey place near my home town. Among other animals they have a vulture, which is known to fly down to the beer garden below the falconry and help himself to a schnitzel off a guest’s plate from time to time.

    I haven’t been to the falconry for quite some time, I think it closes for visitors during fall and winter. But when I go back there in summer, I wonder, if a beer garden visit would be a good idea. Watching the vulture scare the guests is certainly quite a spectacle. Then again, if a carrion feeder loves their food, I guess it is not necessarily a recommendation.

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