T.J. the barred owl

If you’ve checked out my Facebook page the past two summers, you might have noticed a few posts identifying someone/thing named T.J. T.J. has been an unexpected surprise. T.J. is who I dedicated this blog entry to, as it is my last entry for the summer. I will start only posting every other week from here on out throughout the school year (oh yes, it is that time of year again!).

My partner and I moved into our house two springs ago. It is an old, funky house that we are enjoying fixing up. Included is a yard, which at move-in time had several more trees in it than it has now. (I am quite grateful for an uncle and mom who don’t mind helping out a couple of new homeowner’s take down dead trees.)


What the yard looked like when we purchased the house


What the yard looks like now…or rather in April of this year

Last summer, prior to most of the tree removal, I was sitting outside one summer’s evening talking to a friend on the phone. It was closer to the dark part of dusk, but warm enough to sit comfortably outside. As I was sitting there, I happened to notice a large bird fly, and land, on the for sale sign across the street from where I was sitting. I said to my friend,

“I think that I there is an owl staring at me.”

Instinctively, I ducked down a bit (the neighbor’s yard was about 25 feet away, but it felt as though it was closer to five), but kept on talking. About 20 minutes later, I suddenly saw a huge bird fly within five feet of me (this time, I’m not exaggerating–I swear!) and land in one of the two dead trees that is no longer in our yard. I abruptly ended my phone conversation, and crouching down, quickly went inside my house where I proceeded to look for the owl out the window.


The owl from the window…sorry it isn’t so clear

After a few minutes, the owl took off in flight again, which I would soon learn was just a quick trip to the top of our house. At that point, the owl started hooting. If you have never heard an owl hoot, they are much louder than you might think. This is a barred owl hooting:


Naturally, in my frightened stage I decided to google “owls attacking humans”, which I DO NOT recommend. Yes, this does mean that there have been reports of owls attacking humans (mostly in the Northwest from what I saw, and mostly due to humans running in the dark), which results in a series of rabies shots.

No. Thank. You.

So, I called out to my partner and told him that we were not going outside as long as the owl was there. I was anxious with my tone and frantic in my eyes while expressing this thought to him. His response, from the couch:


I asked him if he had seen the owl, and if he had heard it hooting. His response:


Disappointed that he wasn’t as riled up about the owl as I was, I retreated to the other room where my computer was, and proceeded to update my Facebook status with the owl citing news (I posted the above photo I took out the window). It was at this point, that I started to realize if I refuse to go outside for fear of the owl, I would never get to enjoy another comfortable summer night on the patio. So, I decided to do the only wise thing a person with a doctorate in Counseling and Personnel Services would do…I used my counseling skills to name my fear! 🙂 And, that is how the barred owl living just outside our front door acquired the name T.J. (please don’t ask what T.J. stands for…I’m not really sure. The name just came to me as a good name for an owl).


Update to this summer: T.J. is back, but this time there are three T.J.’s, and I certain that their home is in the grove of trees across the street in the neighbor’s yard. I have not heard much hooting, but instead have heard hissing. Yep, that is right, owl’s hiss. This is what a barred owl hissing sounds like:


I’ve also gone one step further this year in applying my counseling skills. Not only do I still refer to the owl, well really all three of them, as T.J., but I’ve taken to watching them and talking to them using T.J.’s name (this way they learn it). Mostly, I just ask how things are going, and thank them for watching over everything.


T.J., T.J., and T.J.

I will say that I am not alone in spotting the owl this year. I’ve seen many a neighbor note and point to the owls. Once I even had a couple stop me while I was sweeping, and ask me if I was aware of a “big bird” flying around. I kindly responded that I was, and that there were three barred owls that lived here (I really wanted to tell them that the owls names were T.J., but I resisted 🙂 ).


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