A Hatless Visit with the Screech Owls by Doug Fincher

June 19, 2017 - My nephew Dale Fincher has Eastern Screech Owls nesting in a water bucket on the porch of his shack near Ironosa Creek. We went out last week to photograph the mother and her babies. The mother is about 8 1/2 inches tall and her babies are white and fuzzy.

Dale called again yesterday saying he had been attacked by the mother owl that afternoon…an attack that left him bleeding in two places on his face and scalp. "I am keeping my hat on for protection and have to carefully sneak when going in and out of my shack", he said. (Dale had picked up one of the baby owls and as he put it back in the bucket, the attack occurred.) It was late in the evening and Pam and I hurried to get to his place before dark. We examined his head and saw that his wounds were as he had described.

We spotted the male owl in dogwood tree about twenty yards from the porch and could hear the female "screeching" from a tree behind us. "Yall just sit here on the porch and you'll see them feeding the babies before long", Dale said. Pam didn't have a cap on so she laid on the floor to avoid an attack. About fifteen minutes later the mother flew to the bucket rim carrying a large moth in her beak. Pam suddenly hollered, "She got me!" and when she stood up we saw two attack marks on the back of her head. Since we had gotten a number of good shots, we decided to go home but couldn't figure how Pam could safely get back to the car. "Here…wear my hat", Dale insisted…"I've got another cap here on the porch". With the hat on, she slowly eased to the car with no further incident.

Our visit to Dale's turned particularly nostalgic when we heard the coyotes, owls and "Chuck will Widows" blending in their nighttime harmony … but when we go out to visit the owls the next time … even if we forget to bring our cameras next time …

…. we definitely won't forget our hats.