It is oddly pleasant to be there when Owl flies up the stairs, or glides down them.
What's this nocturnal bird of prey doing sunning himself? It seems out of character. A bright patch of sunlight on the kitchen floor. Owl checks right, left, locates the dozing Claggart, then softly flies down to it—there is something special about these quiet landings, he sifts the air through feathers as he lets himself down. (Other times he seems to hit the perch as hard as he can. The gooseneck standing lamp he enjoys making go klong against the wall.) Owl centers himself in the light, looks around once more and gradually extends, expands wings and tail feathers like fans out on the floor—a fine, brightly illuminated gray-brown display of Owl all spread out there, with watchful yellow eyes. Now Claggart is up and walking toward Owl, who, of late, no longer takes off. Claggart is tangled wire pulled tight, as he gets near, his walk becomes crabby and slow. Owl's head rotates to the cat's progress but he does not gather himself up in the least, will not interrupt his sunbath. The hard glare keeps the cat to a careful detour around Owl, even though he is close enough for an easy pounce. I don't know what game it is they're playing. I remind you of Claggart's instinctive pugnacity, which has been inscribed on the lacerated hides of X number of dogs and 10 X number of unfortunate tomcats who tested him.
Before man's arrival, eagle and bear and horned owl and the like had things much their own way. Now all of us are in the deepest kind of trouble. But screech owls have always had to be careful. Owl swoops on a grasshopper, his long-distance low-trajectory shot which sends him skidding across the floor on his knuckles with the insect tight-wrapped. The first thing he does, the very first thing, is to look up and then to look all around.
What are you doing, Owl? Two things: Owl is looking to see in what direction his meal may be trying to escape, which is better than looking up two seconds later to wonder in which direction it has escaped, and since when he pounces both he and his meal attract attention, he looks up to see if something may be coming for him, which is better than looking up two seconds later to discover something has come for him.
...which is what Owl's life is mostly, and so have I been overemphasizing his more striking aspects? If so, I will remind that for the most part he is as everyday as a silent canary or a sleeping hamster. He is but a small bird, able to squeeze through an opening two inches by 2�, tastefully attired to the point of reticence in a gray check with a dull red-brown overtone, a tweedy sort and moderate in his habits; spends hours perched, doing little, will come when called only if hungry, as a general rule, otherwise scarcely answers. An orderly house with a few familiar friends, quiet, objects in their place—these things suit Owl's austere personality. Loud talk and music, jumping, dancing kinds of people, too much drinking and smoking, women who move around after him in order to pat him—he perches aloof on a cornice and glares down. Most especially he dislikes strange dogs and cats and keeps between one of them and himself the better part of a room and all the height available. I say he shows good sense about that.
A Screech Owl Is Not a Lapdog
...ours, nevertheless, does not conform to the image of the lonely hunter in his forest who has just two questions for anything that moves: Can I catch and eat it? Can it catch and eat me? Owl likes to be tweaked and groomed, especially around the head and neck. Pull away before he has had enough and a claw flicks out to retrieve the finger. As one works affectionately around the back of the head and toward the front again, one arrives at a small patch of dark feathers diagonally under the bill which immediately triggers him to respond in kind. He nibbles back. This kind of activity—consider also his spontaneous pulling of earlobes, hair, eyebrows—may be simply a confused extension of what goes on between parent and offspring and between courting owls in coldest springtime; still and all, he's pretty good company.
At Table with Owl