Christmas bird count

Steady rain. Two drenched birders walk up the road, towels draped over their binoculars, and tell me they’d managed to flush a barred owl.

Christmas Bird Count! Crow, junco, white-throated sparrow. Three chickadees, two nuthatches and a cardinal. Nothing in the damn pear tree.

Christmas Bird Count day. I strain to hear something more exotic than crows and sparrows. A distant siren turns into a screech owl’s wail.

A dark bulk approaches through the dawn woods: upright, bipedal, enormous feet crunching through crusted snow. My brother, back from owling.