Ear tufts! Not just for old British men.

This is the second in our new weekly column, That Nature Show, about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks!  Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.

Who goes hiking at 8 o’clock in the dark on the coldest night in early December while the rest of you snuggle watching Netflix and drinking rum-laced eggnog? Us. We do.

We’re that family who sees a flyer at Giant for Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area’s monthly Owl Prowl and, even though the in-laws are visiting, we say, Yippee kai yay, Grandma, get off the couch, grab yer mittens, girl, we’re going to see us some owls.

We were the only family there, so we got to see the rehabilitated owls  “ooper duper schmooper” close, said my daughter, 6.  A screech (pictured above), a saw-whet (palm sized, adorable), a barn (white, spooky, with a face like a satellite dish and the call of a terrified child and perhaps the origin of the legend of the banshee, our ranger told us), and a barred (which makes the classic “Who cooks for you?” hoot sound and handily won the starting contest with my son, 8).

Then we went out owling with the ranger.  We are not very good at being quiet, and everyone was cold so there was lots of stomping and zippering and scarf tossing and swearing that this was a crumb-bum idea, Mom.

But then we heard an owl.

A screech owl, according to our ranger. Suddenly I was the best mom in the world. I was smart, and had great ideas. It was like we were living on a page inside Jane Yolen great kids’ book Owl Moon.

Then the kids started hearing owls everywhere. “Over there!” my son said. The ranger said, “Good try, big guy, some day you’ll be a naturalist, but that was a dog.”

We’re going back next month. Hope you’ll join us, January 4, 8-10, Soldiers Delight. Bring your night vision binoculars and ear muffs.

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