Zinfandel, Couple, Owl
He sees her and time stops. Unconsciously he preens, puffing up his chest, as young men everywhere will do. She is lovely, bright and showy, done up with red and white. She’s hard to miss. He reacts immediately and is quick to go to her side. They meet for the first time in a meadow on Martha‘s Vineyard and their spring romance is a sweet one.
She finds him intense and powerful. He is a pale yellow-orange, spotted with dark gray-brown and white. His wings are tawny. They move together, reveling in the wind and sunlight that sparkles off of the ocean. Soaring over the treetops, he finds her plumage stimulating. The female Barn Owl is usually more spotted on her breast than the male and this female is a glorious specimen. The red feathers on her breast are more pronounced than his. Her heart-shaped face is bordered with tawny, pale feathers. This array of finery signals to him her preferred quality as a mate. Dancing, serenading and little gifts signal his desire. He hovers in front of her exposing his chest and belly. He is irresistible. She accepts and he claps his wings beneath him before flying away to find food to bring to her. They fly together swirling, dipping, chasing; cavorting in an exquisite dance. The first union is silent and quick.
Sleeping during the day; they take to the air in the late evening, just before dark. A screech from above tells them that a Sparrow Hawk is hunting. They saw him coming and are prepared. Feathers fly; the couple is under attack! Talons sharp and ready meet the would-be predator; the Barn Owls are efficient and agile. Against two adults the hawk has no chance and he quickly gives up; he will wait and try for their young, left alone in the nest while the parents search for food. He will watch the pair and might nest near them. The sparrow hawk leaves to try his luck elsewhere. The owls resume their flight and their path takes them near the ocean. They land in an old pine that looks out over the blue water; she fixing her feathers and he watching for raccoons, opossums, hawks and eagles. They search for a suitable nesting place.
Later when the sun sinks below the horizon it’s time to hunt. The male flies alone over the vineyard. He sees a field mouse drinking from a tiny stream and swoops down to take it. The mouse never sees the owl coming, never hears a sound. It’s over in a second and while the waters run the blush of a White Zinfandel for the space of a heartbeat, it‘s too dark outside to see it. The male returns to the hollow tree they have picked to nest in and gives the field mouse to the female. It’s the first of many that he will bring to her while she incubates the eggs. They will return to this nest year after year, season after season to hatch their eggs and raise their young; it’s not unusual for a pair of Barn Owls to raise two broods in one year. Their devotion to one another is romantic, their lifelong commitment is inspiring.