Ghost owl.
Dustprint on glass of an Eastern screech-owl, Megascops asio.
Photograph appears here with the kind permission of the photographer, Dave Rintoul.
Click image for larger view in its own window.

Dave writes;

The image is a dustprint that an Eastern Screech-owl left on a sliding glass door. The bird was pursuing a moth (the dustprint of which is actually visible in the image) and smacked into the door. I presume that the components of this image, like those of the Shroud of Turin, might be mysterious, but I hypothesize that it is dust, or feather dust. At any rate, the owl was not seriously harmed; according to the owners of the house, it flew away without visible damage. The moth may have met its demise...

The owner of this house called me and told me about it, and I thought it might be interesting to see if I could get a picture. That was quite challenging, since oblique lighting was required and setting that up took a bit of doing. But I got the picture. And my significant other, Elizabeth Dodd, a poet and a professor in the KSU English department, was inspired to write the poem appended below.

by Elizabeth Dodd.

She shines the flashlight
sideways so the beam

obliquely meets the
windowpane, as if she's

looking elsewhere, off across
the grass, or towards

the V-shaped tree
that holds, in the quiet

tuning fork of its branched trunk,
an empty nesting box.

Just so, just so, attention sweeps
the dark, familiar places.

There-a shadow-print,
an apparition of the owl

that smacked against
the glass in flight.

Its primaries, like
feather-bones, are cast

in fine, exquisite dust.
It's a fossil of the air,

the crushed percussive
moment where the dreaming

psyche strikes, falls back
gasping, as you wake

and grasp at-
silence, nothing, what

the waking mind
will only later, with

the day-lit urge toward
stasis, try to frame.

If you enjoyed this poem, perhaps you will also enjoy a book written by Elizabeth Dodd, Prospect (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2003)

[Disclaimers: I have not read the book, nor am I paid anything to say nice things about it here. I am merely sharing a poem and a photo with you and letting you know that there's more good writing where this came from].

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Thanks for the amazing picture.

The screech owl "ghost" is an amazing and beautiful picture. I have to wonder, though, if the owl really was unharmed. I have read that window collisions sometimes result in internal hemorrhaging that is not immediately apparent but will kill a bird later.


I'm pretty sure that the bird survived, although it probably had at least a headache! The bird in question roosted in a nest box in the yard, about 100 ft from the house. It was seen in the days and weeks after this incident, and was still there this last winter, more than 3 years after its interaction with the glass.

Glad you enjoyed the picture!



...and to think that all this unfolded right in our neighborhood!

Wonderful photo. Luminous poem.

Thanks for posting,

Dave Redmon (via Eye on Kansas e-zine)

By Dave & Ann… (not verified) on 13 Jul 2006 #permalink