The Snag and the Owl

Among the evergreen trees surrounding our home is a Western Hemlock that appeared to be dying.  We asked an arborist to come and remove it and he was willing to take it down, but encouraged us to leave a ‘snag’ for wildlife. If we didn’t like the look of it he’d come back and remove it later.

According to  Conservation Northwest  “Standing dead trees, called snags, provide birds and mammals with shelter to raise young and raptors with unobstructed vantage points. Large downed trees also provide important habitat for wildlife. Hundreds of species of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish benefit from snags for food, nesting or shelter! ”

We have plenty of other trees in our yard and weren’t sure a snag was necessary but decided to take his advice and leave it standing. It would be nice to have a woodpecker take up residence there.

It looked kind of funny and we wondered if we’d made the right decision.

And then last week after dark I saw the form of an owl perched on one of the limbs. Though I’ve heard their calls in the night,  I’d never seen one in the wild – outside of a zoo or other wildlife sanctuary.

I stood (with my umbrella in the rain) and watched him as he stared at the ground below. He took no notice of me while I stood beneath taking pictures of him.  Why should he? He owned the night.

Honestly I was thrilled – and a bit unsettled too.

It’s a bird of prey.

And while I’m happy if he takes the rodents making mole hills in our yard, I’m also concerned about creatures larger than that.

I will need to remain vigilant.

~ Susanne

23 Comments on “The Snag and the Owl

    • Thanks Pete. I hope so. Unfortunately, though it may be rare, it has happened. 😦 Tiger’s bigger and probably wouldn’t be at risk but I’d be worried about Benji as he’s a smaller cat.

      • Maybe. There are so many different types and sizes of owls. I did a little research and found that the Great Horned Owl will occasionally catch cats and small dogs. 😦 I think this was a Barred Owl though I’m not certain. For now I’m just being more careful and keeping the cats in at night.

  1. Wow! You’ll need to keep your cats inside at night, now. If an owl nests in the tree, though, you’ll be rewarded with owlets to watch grow! Very cool.

  2. Magnificent owl picture! I would be wary of the and keep the cats inside at night too. Owls are strong and fly silently. I even looked out the window on a cloudy day once and saw an owl perched on a branch. It was about 2 feet long from the top of the head to the talons. Hawks, too, have been seen diving at cats.

    • Thank you! The picture’s not great since it was dark and rainy but I was happy to get it at all. It’s amazing that you saw one during the day! I loved seeing the owl but immediately worried about the kitties. For now I am definitely keeping them in at night. I kind of hope the owl will move on.

  3. Who knows what else will take up residence in the snag. Here it might be a woodpecker. They are excellent perches for eagles and hawks too. Great advice to leave it standing.

  4. As you know, one of our neighbors has a goose…well, last month an Owl also took up residence somewhere in the cult-de-sac and we hear it every night…never thought of it a sa bird of prey but we will see –

    • I didn’t know one of your neighbors has a goose! – I love to hear the owls at night but this was the first time I saw one. I think they mostly hunt small rodents so the cats are probably okay, but it did make me think twice about letting them out at night,

  5. Wow! I have heard of owls and hawks attacking small dogs, like Yorkie size. I would say you can’t be too careful. And remember what happened to Panda in Peru!! 😋

  6. I wouldn’t think your cats have too much to worry about, but it’s probably wise to be careful. The owls here are mostly Hawaiian short-eared owls (pueo) though there are barn owls too. The pueo are too small to worry most cats I think, but the nice thing about them is that they’re active during the day so I see them often, especially when I drive over to the east side of the island. Kudos for keeping the snag. You might get some bald eagles using that. Now they would be a concern for the cats.

    • I think it’s unlikely that the cats are in any danger. It was just such a surprise to see the owl in our yard. But they have probably been around us for years, especially since we had the 22 acre Tiffany Park Woods in back of us until they were recently razed for development. Either way, I’m happy we kept the snag.

      How wonderful that you get to enjoy owls during the day. They are such beautiful birds.

  7. Neat idea about leaving the snag and so cool an owl showed up.

    It’s sad about your hemlock though. I read an article recently that said the hemlocks are dying off in huge numbers all over Western Wa. Cedars are getting hard hit too, but not as bad yet. They think it’s from all the stress created by several years of record breaking hot and dry summers in a row.

    • We’re glad we left the snag as it provides unique food and habitat for birds. It was amazing to see the owl!

      I hadn’t heard about the hemlocks dying out. Sad. They’re Washington’s official state tree.

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