The poor bare forked dead willow has a new branch today. I looked up and its deeply familiar outline was changed. There is a new growth sprouting from the brusque yard-long horizontal. If I hadn’t known the damn tree so well – it gets around 100 gazes a day as I look up between sentences – I’d have accepted the pretence for what it seemed: a dumpy lumpy stumpy bit of tree.
No bird on earth can pretend to be a branch quite as well as a potoo, a South American nightjar relative. But here at noon in May a little owl was doing a pretty decent job: motionless, bark-coloured, with only those cross yellow eyes to give it away.
I’ve never seen him there before. My guess is that the cold weather and the north wind have caused a drastic shortage in food supplies for the nest he has 50 yards away. So he’s trying a different hunting-perch, or more likely, a different time to exploit it. A tactic of desperation, perhaps. He hasn’t moved a muscle in 20 minutes. If I were Mowgli I’d give him the jungle’s great greeting: Good hunting!
But after half-an-hour a crow chased him off. Not fooled. And because he can. Alas poor owlets!