Owls are more often heard than seen.
On my walks in East Dallas, I often pause when I hear owls hooting. Their calls occasionally emanate from the dense trees along White Rock Lake.
I also occasionally hear owls in the early evening as I walk my dog along the Santa Fe Trail.
But I had never spotted an owl before. That changed on a recent Sunday evening around 5 p.m. as I took my dog for a walk. After heavy rain earlier in the day, I glanced a large bird that I thought was a hawk fly past and land on a tree branch.
I squinted at the dense tree canopy of leaves, and saw the bird hunched over eating something (perhaps a small rodent). You may spot the owl above near the bottom right, mostly concealed in a catalpa tree.
I had finally spotted an owl, without even hearing it utter a hoot. Initially, it did not appear to notice my presence. The owl appeared to stretch.
It turned to the side, offering me a profile shot.
Finally, the owl turned and faced me directly. Still, its face was partially obscured by leaves.
I finally realized that I had actually spotted an owl.
A barred owl with inky dark eyes peered back at me. Barred owls prefer wooded settings in swampy areas or along creeks. They are common in the eastern United States and do not migrate.
I was surprised to spot an owl in my Dallas neighborhood because it was relatively early and barred owls are known to be the most active at night. The tree was also very close to houses in a residential neighborhood, schools and a park.
The owl was camouflaged quite well against the tree.
After hearing of many sightings of owls at White Rock Lake, and unsuccessfully trying to spot owls there many times I was surprised to spot one in full daylight within walking distance of my house.
I snapped several photos, then decided to continue walking down the trail. When I returned to the same spot around a half hour later, the owl was still in the same spot.
No longer alert, the owl appeared to be sleeping. Barred owls are named for the vertical bars on their chests, which are displayed prominently below.
I walked around for a better angle, and the owl definitely did not seem to be on guard. A ravine lay between the owl and I, so I was not overstepping into its territory.
Indeed, owls are known to prize their secrecy and elusiveness. They are nocturnal, after all. Birders warn against getting too close. That is also why I was intrigued by an owl relaxing so close to a trail busy with walkers, runners and cyclists.
Given how rare an owl sighting can be, especially during daylight hours, I will treasure stumbling across this beautiful barred owl and witnessing it both awake and in sleep mode. The barred owl is a wonderful highlight of the rich urban wildlife that can be found in my East Dallas Lakewood neighborhood.