What happened Sunday night?

After MiniMe plunged to earth again? For the second time?

There was Hide and Seek.

Hide and Seek
Hide and Seek in the garden…
Hide and Seek in the trees...
Hide and Seek in the marsh…
Mar 17 hide and seek in the trees
Hide and Seek in the trees…

There was much discussion about the owlets, mother nature, human intervention, owl parenting skills, leaving well enough alone, high tide, raccoons, climbing versus flying abilities, etc. One thing we know for sure: The parent owls know where their kids are. And another thing we know for sure is that no matter what, they will feed them.

This discussion is going on while Scott and Dad are playing cribbage, Mom is trying to find out if owls can swim and I am making dinner (for a change). Crab cakes oddly enough. It is pouring rain and cold.

I complete all dinner preparation except for the actual cooking part. I can’t stand it. I get on my rain gear, boots, refill my wine glass and head out to walk along the marsh towards the faint sound of squawking owlets. But then it gets very, very quiet. Somebody make a noise. Nobody. They are good at Hide and Seek.

I am reassured that all is OK. The owlets have fledged. My job is done. I look to the tall pines and see that someone is on duty.

Thanks, I've got this now...
Thanks, I’ve got this now…and I have a fresh rat to deliver…

BUT. You knew there was going to be a BUT, didn’t you?

But I wasn’t quite done. What happened Monday morning is another whole story.

My parents are fledging too. It is time to take them to the airport. It is Tuesday afternoon. They have been super troopers with the Owletventures. They have been here for all the joy and awesomeness of baby owlets. And all the drama. When they arrived last week, the owlets were snuggled in the nest.

I want to thank Lou and Jeanne for everything. Joining in with us on our owlet diaries. Dad has the box, the blanket, the gloves thing down pat. Mom writes great captions and even did a guest blog. She has also been helping select the best photos to tell the story. Plus they were great about fending for themselves for breakfast and lunch. Dinner was always a joint effort.

So maybe when I get home later I will tell you about what happened on Monday. Oh, and I want to tell you about Nancy. She lives directly across from the tall pines marsh island. She texts me hourly to tell me what the parents are doing, the owl parents. And she is a riot. She calls hunting: Shop & Chop. More Nancy-isms later. Actually our text messages would make a great story on their own. Thanks Nancy!

Here is your preview about what happened on Monday. Wow, that was just yesterday….

I can explain...
I can explain…

I could use a little help here…Please call 911…

So. I am taking up the saga since noon yesterday, Sunday. I left you with the hanging upside down photo above. It is hard to explain simply. Even with photos, even with time stamped photos. It is incredibly hard to keep up with the shenanigans of the wee ones, let alone have time to tell the story. BTW happy  St Pats Day!!! I met my husband, Scott, at Dunleavy’s Pub, Sullivans Island.  That is where we normally spend St P’s day but I digress.

Uh oh...this can't be good
Uh oh…this can’t be good

On Sunday, yesterday, at around noon, all was quiet in the owl neighborhood. Then MiniMe was mobbed by crows, blue jays and mocking birds. MM was in the very tree tops, on small twigs of branches. Fluttering, flapping, frantic. Big Sib was not around to protect, ward off, whatever. (See earlier posts).

I went out to the garden with camera to capture the mobbing and what I expected to be the fall from grace. And then.

I can not get loose
I can not get loose

At first, I thought MiniMe was just hanging on, afraid to let loose. Holding on for all get out with one talon, flapping and trying to right  itself. I am shouting at my Mom, on the porch, to get Scott and Dad, something is not right with this picture.

This goes on for about 10 minutes. Now I am SURE this is not going to resolve itself. I run around to the front of the house, shouting for Scott. He and my Dad have just left for a walk around our neighborhood, unsuspecting of the drama taking place. I am shouting as loud as I can. There is no way I can fix this without their help. How long can an owlet hang upside down, with one talon snagged?

I am trying to let go, but...
I am trying to let go, but…
Hanging on too long???
I have heard of wolves biting off their feet to get free…

This is really, really not looking good...

This is really, really not looking good…

Scott and Dad come running to my shouting. This owlet has now been hanging upside down for over 15 minutes. It is grim. Clearly, human intervention is called for and necessary. But how? The branches it is stuck in are very small, wobbly. That is how it got into this dilemma.

Again, lucky for us,  and especially MiniMe, my husband is a super ladder man. He is a professional painter and has ladders of all sizes. Scott susses out the critical situation and sets up a 30 foot ladder on a four inch diameter branch and tells me it is safe…for me to climb up …and what?

Precarious ladder position into thin air
Precarious ladder position into thin air

You have got to be kidding me. This is all we have? The best we can do? So my Dad and Scott decide they need a blanket to use for a trampoline…to catch me? No. To catch the owlet! Which has wings!

I strip off my sweater and marsh boots (again, see earlier post), grab some pruning shears and climb up. I trust my husband. Really trust my husband.

I get to the top. I am face to face with a Great Horned Owlet with a current wing span of at least three feet. We are beak to nose within inches. I am terrified. The owlet is beyond terrified. I can’t reach. I am trembling. My husband says I have to go up one more step. To reach past the owlet and cut the vine that is wrapped around its talon.

Really???
Really???
OMG
OMG

I wrap one one arm around the top rung of the ladder and the four inch branch, take the pruning shears out of my back pocket, tell myself that whatever happens, DO NOT FLINCH. I reach across the dangling owlet and snip the vine.

Free fallin'
Free fallin’

I am shaking so bad that I do not realize right away that the owlet

I seriously thought we done with the ladder work
I seriously thought we were done with ladder work

does not land in the blanket. The expression on its face matches my own at this point. (I am told by my parents, my human parents).

And there is more....
And there is more….
And more...
And more…
And more...
And more…

And it climbs back up the tree to the very tip top in the leafy twig branches. I am pretty much spent. Heart stopping, adrenaline rush crash. Sit on the back porch steps and well, …cry.

But it is still not over. It’s never over with these owlets. The next thing is that a parent owl flies in with a headless rat (yep, see earlier posts). Where to land for delivery?  Well, apparently, in owl logic, the next big branch over from the recovered owlet. Me? I am drinking a glass of wine on the back porch trying to recover myself.

The owlet is screeching and squawking trying to get to the dinner offering. And, …well, …falls back to earth.

Rats!
Rats! Double rats!

The sago palm breaks its fall along with a valiant effort of wing flapping. I am pretty much undone by this point. Or done. Just done.

And then……………….

What next?
What next?

36 Hours of Pandemonium

I think this is where we left things off just a short 36 hours ago. Happy Feet decided, despite my recommendations, to head off our property, across our neighbor’s back yard, across an easement/causeway, and got as far as a creeklet. That kind of stymied it.

Happy Feet was bound and determined to get to his parents roosting location, on a high marsh island. The operative word here is ISLAND.

Hmmmmmm........
Hmmmmmm……..???? What? Water?  A moat? Salt water? This is not what I expected…
The tide is out but no one is giving me any advice or directions. There does not appear to be any ferry service....
The tide is out but no one is giving me any advice or directions. There does not appear to be any ferry service….or a bridge…
I STILL do not want to come home...
No. I STILL do not want to come home…
I am a wood owl, NOT a shore bird...Pluff Mud? Are you serious?
I am a wood owl, NOT a ‘shore bird’…Pluff Mud? Are you serious?
Tide is coming in fast
Tide is coming in fast. I am up the creek without a paddle…

And the high ground is at least 15 feet to the right of Happy Feet. It is wet and can’t even fly when its wings are nice and dry. Happy Feet is in the deep end of the ocean with a rip current. It is dusk. What to do?

I march back to the house to get boots, gloves, blanket, the box and help. My husband, Scott, and my Dad, Lou, agree that Happy Feet is going to drown without lifeguard assistance. So.

Back-in-the-box!
Back-in-the-box!?!
It was a really long, interesting journey. I can totally relate to the Geico Gecko...
It was a really long, interesting journey. I can totally relate to the Geico Gecko…
Back in the tree? After that long journey? Crap. Déjà vu all over again..
Back in the tree? After that long journey? Rats! Déjà vu all over again. I hope Mom and Dad know where I am. I am really, really hungry!

Mom and Dad DID know where Happy Feet and MiniMe were. They flew in with big juicy, headless rats for dinner. And we thought everything was OK. But….

We were wrong. This is a preview of what happened at about noon today.

??????????????????????
??????????????????????

As I have said in previous posts, I cannot keep up! So this brings us up to noon today since about noon yesterday. 24 Hours. (Sounds like a TV show). Well in the next 12 hour period since the above photo was taken, is another really long….long….story.

And I am only covering the highlights.

So much to explain...
So much still to explain…

It’s a very, very long… Long…story…

Forget everything I said before about what I was going to write about today. It was a very exciting morning, dawn actually. And then things got REALLY interesting. This is going to be the short version of the story…because… it is still in progress…

My human parent, Jeanne, wrote the narrative as it happened since I was preoccupied.

Exploring the big blue pot
Exploring the big blue pot

Before 7:00 am, still dark, I see a silhouette standing on the edge of a big blue pot. It moves around, turns, poops into pot, hops down into pot, pecks around. Then it hops up to rim, fans wings, hops down into garden. It begins walking around, exploring slowly. Eventually it reaches the border between garden and marsh.

Exploring the garden
Exploring the garden

Dale is photographing all this until Happy Feet gets dangerously close to the mucky marsh. Dale to the rescue!

mar 15 tools
Tools of the trade
No. I do not want to go back in the tree
No. I do not want to go back in the tree

Towel trick, red gloved hands, picks up owlet and carefully places on trunk of the nest tree. Whew!

Ok Back in the tree, sort of.
OK Back in tree, sort of…
I COULD climb back up, but…

After long rest, the wayward outlet begins to climb up branches and then out and out and higher to thin branches not sturdy enough so suddenly it falls (or decides to jump?), wings flapping vigorously and lands back on the ground. Unharmed (it appears).

Sky Diver begins exploring again, walking faster and farther away from the nest tree. By now 2.5 hours have passed and sibling owlet has been sitting quietly high above the nest just watching.

Crossing the mercy
Can’t fly yet, guess I  have to walk…
I am on a mission to find my parents or breakfast...
I am on a mission to find my parents and/or breakfast…
In the marsh, natural GPS?
In the marsh, natural GPS?

Another hour and a half passes and Happy Feet has reached a water filled creeklet which it is determined to cross…somehow.

Uh oh. There's a moat...
Uh oh. OMG! There’s a moat…

Oops! “I don’t know how to swim but yikes I’m in the water and all wet! And it’s SALTY!”

I am all wet and SALTY!
I am all wet and SALTY!

Mother/Father owl has been perched in a nearby tree on the high marsh island, softly calling in a cooing version (of the typical hooting) to encourage the owlet forward.  Dale (our human owlet, Dalet), with amazing patience is photographing this whole owlventure as it unfolds. It is now noon. And this is the short version of the story!!!

This is NOT what I expected on my inaugural fledge!
This is NOT what I expected on my inaugural fledge! I am NOT a shore bird. I DO NOT like pluff mud on my talons or feathers. And  I can’t swim!

OK It’s me, Dalet, back. Thanks Mom for taking us up to noon with a guest blog! There is SO MUCH MORE to this story and photos!!! Constant contact with Center for Birds of Prey, adjacent neighbors, monitoring, listening, checking, photographing, deciding best options, etc. etc. Neighborhood watch program set up. Bridge building discussed. Ladders back out. Code Red again. And again. I am exhausted. The above photo says it all.

It is almost midnight. The Ides of March. But in our kingdom, all is right in our natural world – so far. Both owlets in tree. Both parents in attendance nearby. Lots of owl conversation. We’re good. At least until dawn 😉

And we still have not had a chance to dissect the owl pellets we collected a few days ago. The way things are going around here, I am afraid they are going to be eaten by us for hors o’devours!

Don't eat!!!
Don’t eat!!!

The rest of the story as soon as the new stories abate! Going out for bed check and listening. I wonder…………………

Not enough time

Trying to make dinner when all I want to do is observe the owlets and their dinner
Trying to make dinner when all I want to do is observe the owlets and their dinner!

This is me peeling sweet potatoes and parsnips for our human dinner, coat and scarf on, ready to run out and take photos of the owlets’ dinner delivery. My Dad took the photo just to show/prove that I was making an effort to prepare dinner for my visiting human parents.

These photos are from yesterday, March 13th.

Peek!
Peek!

It is very hard to spot the parent owl on call in the trees near the owlets. It is much easier to pick out the far away parent resting in the tall pines in the distance (as reported in earlier posts). Below is the exact same photo, one as taken and then zoomed in.

Why the parent owl on watch is hard to spot
Why the parent owl on watch is hard to spot
Same photo, zoomed in
Same photo, zoomed in

The Spanish Moss just blends in with the crown of the Great Horned Owl’s head. They are such good camouflagers! Sometimes even after considerable time looking, I can’t find them and need the assistance of crows, blue jays or other small birds on the attack (mobbing) to clue me in where it is.

And below is my Dad’s version of camouflage on the back porch.

Dad keeping warm on back porch during owlet watch.
Dad keeping warm on back porch during owlet watch.

There is so much going on at dawn, during the day, at dusk and at night that I can’t keep up with the photos and the narrative. I am only able to convey a tiny fraction of the story. The owlets and their parents are endlessly entertaining. Every day I need to do more research on their behavior. I learn something new every day. Actually, several times a day!

Today, March 14th,  my human parents and I went to the Center for Birds of Prey. We had a long list of questions. Steve was great! And patient, knowledgeable, funny, smart, and wonderful. As were all of the folks at the Center. Here is just a preview of tomorrow’s post:

Dad and Steve at Flight demonstration Center for Birds of Prey
Dad and Steve at Flight Demonstration at Center for Birds of Prey

mar 14 harris hawk flying 2 at Birds of Prey 2 mar 14 vulture landing at Birds of Prey 2

And we had a surprise when we returned home. The owlets were looking a little guilty in our absence.

Me? I wasn't doing anything.....
Me? I wasn’t doing anything…..

Not me either!
Not me either!