Joe and I got out of the car at the park this evening as the sun set. The evening was dim and the ice was thick in the parking lot, so I pulled under a big spruce where the pavement was bare. I got Joe out and set him on the asphalt as a distinct, deep "hooo" sounded.
"That," Joe said, "sounds like a Great Horned Owl."
(Not my owl -- but, as they say, "much like this dramatization.")
"It sure does, buddy," I said, and at that moment the owl dropped from his perch and swooped. I pointed to him, and Joe seemed to see him. (So hard to be sure.) Then he swooped again and I hoisted Joe on my shoulders and crunched across the snowed-under basketball court to a treeline where he perched. We got closer and closer, and finally got him in good view, his face visible and his "ear" tufts crisp against the dim sky.
Joe and I stood for a long moment, and Joe offered him his pine cone. "Do they eat pine cones?" he asked. I said they probably didn't. Joe called to him in his best Owl Moon hoot. The owl looked back at us, strange inedible and possibly threatening ciphers with strange forward facing eyes like its own. And it flew.
What I am proud of Joe for is not knowing the call, nor the species name, but for listening and caring enough to hear the call and to watch the owl.