When I entered the house, I could hear birds. Not indoors, thank goodness, although they were so loud, for a moment I thought they might have broken in. I went upstairs and peeked out a window. My backyard looked like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Black birds perched on tree branches, the deck railings, the fence.
Against my sense of self-preservation, I stepped out onto the deck. Fortunately, most of the black birds flew away. The remaining birds were focused on one of three huge pine trees. When they realized I wasn't leaving, the rest of the birds vacated my yard.
I glimpsed something in the tree. Tufted ears and a round face. I could not figure out what creature was hiding in the pine tree. After the Dragon on the Deck and the Killer Baby Robin incidents, I knew I needed photographic evidence. I hoped my camera phone images would be more convincing than those of Sasquatch hunters.
I watched as long as I could, but a gusty snowstorm began to blow in. I went inside to warm up. When I returned, the owl was gone.
I realized my interest in the bird in my tree illustrates the research steps I often use in my writing. Gather evidence: in this case photos. Go to the internet: bird watching sites. Consult experts: our birding friends.
Armed with my photos and a video, I went to the All About Birds and the Bird Watchers Digest websites. I still couldn't tell whether it was a screech owl or Great Horned Owl, although I was leaning toward the Great Horned. I sent a photo to my birding friends. Their verdict? Great Horned Owl. Definitely.
Here are links to bird websites I use when trying to identify a bird.