As previously reported, the nest has deteriorated in the last 24 hours. In fact, it is falling to bits. So at bed check tonight it was not totally unexpected that one (of two) owlets would have fallen.
Our two owlets have not quite graduated from the nestling stage to the ‘brancher’ stage. More about that later.
Scott and I had just finished watching the Olympics for the night when I did my usual bed check. And then. OMG! Owlet down!
We live on the marsh and have raccoons and feral cats in our neighborhood which can be predators to chicks. The adults are very protective of their young owlets but we learned from the folks at the Birds of Prey Center – the best way to protect a fallen chick is to put it back in the nest or on a branch.
So we did. This was the second time. But the first time was exactly a week ago and there WAS a nest. And it was daylight.
The other owlet was still in the tree and had somehow managed to climb from the nesting crotch of the River Birch tree to one branch up! So we decided to put the fallen chick on a branch just lower than the nesting crotch for two reasons. We did not want to use the really big ladder causing more of a raucous for the owlet in the tree or getting attacked by the adult owls. So.
We followed the procedure suggested by the Birds of Prey Center. We gently put a towel over the chick and scooped it up with wings tucked in and placed it in a bucket. We set up the ladder, donned head-gear and placed the owlet on a branch about 20 feet up. All the while the adults were screeching, clacking and flapping but not attacking.
It was a bit tricky to get the chick out of the bucket and onto the branch. I had to hang on and get the clacking, hissing owlet out of the pail and then get it to hang onto the branch. I held it in place for a few minutes while my husband held the ladder and was watching for incoming adult owls. Mama and papa were making a fuss but not coming at us.
It has been about 30 minutes and both owlets are on branches. One about two feet up from the nest and the rescued one about five feet below. We hear the adults hooting not screeching. Our owlets had to become ‘branchers’ perhaps before they were ready. But maybe this is exactly how they learn this new trick. I don’t think I am going to be able to sleep tonight! Up every hour or so to check on them.