Scott wakes up early, I am sound asleep. Scott walks down the driveway to get the newspaper and hears an adult owl clacking away in one of the tall pines. It was also getting mobbed by crows making a racket. When he returns from retrieving the paper he sees a chick down on our brick chip garden path. Uh oh.
Then he checks out the nest from the front porch and sees that the other owlet is still in the nest eating something. Mom is clacking and making a fuss. Scott is not sure if she is yelling at him or the crows or her wayward kid. He comes in and wakes me up. I am dead asleep but know instantly that whatever has happened involves the owls. There is no other reason Scott would risk waking me up early on a Sunday!
I put a sweat shirt over my pajamas, Scott changed out of his robe into clothes. We grab our gloves, the bucket and a towel. (The ladder is already out there.)
The good news is that despite all the commotion of last night, the owlets have been fed. Mom and Dad know where they are and are taking care of them. The bad news? The new(ish) nest is now in shambles. We surmise that the act of the parents bringing dinner/breakfast caused the collapse.
The larger owlet is on the ground with its breakfast. Scott puts the ladder up and we investigate. The smaller owlet is in what is left of the nest and also has breakfast. There is no room to put the owlet on the ground back up there. We don’t know if Humpty Dumpty fell out first and then the folks served breakfast on the ground or if it jumped out with its breakfast. If you look closely, you can see part of breakfast still in Humpty’s mouth.
I go get the box (again!) for the grounded owlet. It seems to quiet them down when in the cardboard box with the flaps closed. This is also the protocol for injured birds to keep them safe.
We discuss what to do. It is 7 am. We haven’t even had coffee yet (!) but we know we should work as efficiently and calmly as possible. We decide that we need to find/build a better nest. At the Center for Birds of Prey we learned that Great Horned Owls are notoriously bad nest builders. In fact, they most often take over an existing, abandoned nest and basically do nothing to it in the form of home improvement. This we know to be an understatement! We were also told that they have been known to lay eggs on flat surfaces or small hollows on the large branches of Live Oak trees. Bingo!
We have eight huge Live Oak trees in our backyard. We scout out the back garden for a good location. Scott recommends a large oak near the center of the garden with a heavy cover of ivy beneath. “For safe landings”, he says. It has a wide bowl in the main crotch of the tree. Up another ladder goes for a closer survey. Perfect. We decide to line it with Spanish moss. We have no clue if this is a good or bad idea. We figure the new tenants or their parents can remove it if not to their liking.
So now we have a prepared nest, one owlet in a box (with its breakfast) and one owlet in a disintegrated nest also with its breakfast. We discuss. We agree that we need to place BOTH owlets in the new digs together.
Counter to everything I have been taught since a little girl, I climbed the ladder and removed the little owlet from the ‘nest’ and placed it, and its breakfast, into the bucket. My husband and I had decided early on that only one of us should handle the birds. And I won. Ha.
We carried it around to the back and brought the box with us. I first placed the little one (with its breakfast) into the new location. Then the second one came out of the box, into the bucket and up to their new address. (Yes, also with ITS breakfast.)
They were pretty laid back. And we did not hear any ruckus from the parents during this whole transfer (which is taking me longer to write than it did to execute.)
Immediately after we concluded this latest adventure, we got a call from the Birds of Prey Center. Extremely helpful, lots of information and tips for going forward. If we had gotten the call earlier, we would have used a large wicker basket secured in the new location to provide some ‘walls’. Photos were requested and sent. She read the blog and called back. They ARE at the beginner brancher stage. In just a few more days, they should be good to go! Even to be able to climb back up the tree if necessary with coaxing from the parents. (Their real parents, not us!) If they are in danger or can’t quite make it, we should give them a boost. It will be a few more weeks before they fledge.
Since then our wayward owlets (they are teenagers after all) have settled in, eaten their breakfast and squawked a bit to let mom know they had moved. We hear Mom and Dad hooting soothingly but not seen them yet.
The big tell will be if the folks feed them tonight. We can hardly wait for the Rat Cocktail Hour!
PS In case you are wondering: My house is a mess, we have no groceries, I have been wearing the same clothes since Thursday, we have not had dinner in three nights and I am hosting my Book Club tomorrow night which involves a presentation of the book selection and dinner for 10. Yikes! What book?