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Barn Owl

from What Good is a Life List?

The Sibley
Guide to Birds

Barn Owl, Santa Barbara, California, July 1, 1966.

Barn Owl by David SibleyA white owl with a heart-shaped face flew out of the woods and circled over our heads. (The painting of a Barn Owl, at left, is from the Sibley Guide to Birds.)

It was the evening that Michael and I were moving into a rustic cabin in the mountains that border Santa Barbara. I suppose the owl came to see who we were or what was happening to its lonely refuge. Its visit at that moment on the mountain seemed like a benediction.

We lived on the mountain for four years, caretakers on an island of private land surrounded by National Forest. There were five miles of steep, rutted dirt road between us and town, utilities, or neighbors. We kept warm with a wood stove, read at night by kerosene lantern, got our water from an ice-cold spring in the canyon. We learned to grow vegetables, kept a goat and made cheese, discovered self reliance.

In summer we swam in a natural, stream-fed pond while violet-green Swallows swooped by us, touching the surface for a drink of water or a tiny insect as they passed. In winter the clouds slid down from the mountain top and curled their mist around our little house like a soft blanket, and we were happy hermits there for a season of our youth that has remained an almost sacred memory through all the years since.

We never saw a Barn Owl in the clearing around the cabin again, but we often encountered it in the woods, watching us, white and silent.

— Diane Porter

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The painting of a barn owl of at top left is from the monumental new field guide, The Sibley Guide to Birds.

Sibley Guide to Birds

Author and artist David Sibley has created 6600 illustrations, by far the most in any modern field guide to North American birds. Each bird appears in several poses, an average of eight pictures per bird.

While all the pictures are rich in information, each one is also a work of art. See the Barn Owl at left, from page 272 of this book.

Each account includes a good-sized map of where the bird is found in all seasons and a detailed description of its songs and calls.

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