I got a surprise at about 3:40 this morning (May 18) when a strange loud screech was heard not far from my open bedroom window in the woods. My husband was awake and heard it and we were both surprised. I've never heard anything like it before.
I sat by the window and listened. It was clearly coming from a tree, up off the ground. It would make the sound then it would be quiet for about twenty seconds then it would repeat. The sound stayed eminating from the same place. It went on for about five minutes then it did it a few more times then it was quiet.
I researched online a bit. I know we have Great Horned Owls in these woods and found the call is from a juvenile Great Horned Owl.
I read a bit online and saw that the baby owl hatches in March and by about six weeks of age they are able to hunt on their own. At some point usually in May the parents will stop bringing them food. So, while the parents are out hunting and feeding themselves the owlet is hungry and does a 'begging call', trying to get food brought to them. Some are resistant to stop being fed in the nest and so squalk and beg to no avail, until they decide to go out and get their own food!
I found this interesting short podcast Earbirding, about birds that features the calls. This edition is about the Great Horned Owl and has recordings of what I heard.
I will have my iPhone handy tonight in case it happens again, I'll quickly shoot some video to capture the sound.
I wish my kids could have heard it but they were in a deep sleep.
Here is a great webpage with many photos of owlets and their mother nesting. In this photo journal the mother first leaves the nest on May 19.
Note: This was heard at my home in Fairfield County, Connecticut.