Mysterious owls making themselves known

A barred owl peers out from a tree in a Goose Creek neighborhood. Buy this photo

The reclusive owl has been hooting up a storm in backyards across the Lowcountry lately, and not spooking from the trees when approached.

An omen? Nope, it’s just good breeding.

People across the Lowcountry are reporting close-up daytime encounters with the mysterious nocturnal raptors, who stare them down rather than fly away. The globe-eyed birds have surprised residents everywhere from downtown to the rural countryside.

“Sometimes she will light on the fence by our house,” said Stephanie Carroll of Crocketville.

So what’s going on?

“They’re nesting. They’re breeding,” said Jim Elliott of the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw. This time of year, the owls put themselves out where you can see them because they’re ranging farther for food for the owlets and your lawn is hunting ground for moles. They don’t spook because they’re distracting potential predators (including humans) from the nest back in the trees. Carroll’s owl was protecting an owlet that fell from a tree behind her home.

The owlet unfortunately died.

There’s nothing especially ominous about this year: It happens to some degree every spring.

Last year, Truman Smith had a pair of great horned owls in a low limb of a Pendleton Street tree and occasionally on his roof for several weeks.

A few years back, Jeri West and her late mom, Willa Dean Skaggs, used a rake to coax a barred owl from her goldfish pond in North Charleston. The bird had gotten trapped under fishing line she set to keep out herons.

“The owl was so big the wings got caught,” West said. It sat on the lawn facing off with them until it recovered enough to fly into nearby trees.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.

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