I want to try to give you an idea about the perspective of the location of the nest in our garden. And particularly, where the parents hang out most of the day, keeping watch over their owlets and taking a break from hunting. The photo above shows the tree where the nest, or nook, is (upper right hand corner). In the distance you can see tall pine trees. The pines are on a high marsh island, uninhabited by humans.
Below is a clear view of the pines from our dock, just a short distance from the nook tree. I took these photos yesterday on a cold, rainy and windy day.
The parents take turns watching the owlets. One is usually nearer in the tree tops of the Live Oaks in neighboring gardens. And one is almost always in the tall pines pictured above. Below is a handsome fellow. Or perhaps gorgeous mother. One of the parent owls.
And a close up of one of the parents. We think this is Dad.
Most of the photographs I have posted have been from the point of view as you look at the front of the nook of the tree, the view from our house. I take many shots from the back porch so I do not disturb the owlets. But there is a back door to the nest. The parents have a clear owl-eyed view into the back of the nook from the tall pines.
Below is the site line into our garden from the point of view in the pines. No, I did not climb the pine tree to see the exact point of view! Owls have acute vision and hearing. They can hear every squawk and see every move their owlets make.
The parents ALWAYS have eyes on the kids. So as indiscriminate as they are at building or renovating nests, they make up for it with tending their young to make certain they thrive.
Nature. No other explanation is needed.
Please see earlier posts for the stories and photos of the owlet adventures and how they came to be nestled in the nook of a Live Oak tree in our garden.
Actually the owlets are doing fine snug in the nook of the Live Oak tree. They huddle together to keep warm. Note that they even have a leftover mouse! Click on the photo below to enlarge and see the mouse just above the .com watermark. (If you dare! ) It appears to be headless as described in an earlier post about what owlets eat.
The leftovers have been there for two days. We wonder if they only eat ‘fresh’ prey? The owlets occasionally stand up to stretch their wings and dry out their feathers. Most the day, they are nestled into the safety and security of the nook. Until feeding time!
We see the parents fly in to feed them at dawn and at dusk. We hear them – all four – communicating about what’s for dinner/breakfast and when it will be served. Dad hoots. Mom screeches and the kids squawk. Kind of just like people do!
I must say again that we really do not know one parent from the other. The female is larger but since we rarely see them both together, it is difficult to discern with our untrained eyes.
I caught this shot early this morning of a parent on the watch and hunting for prey on what we call ‘the perch’. It is a very tall dead branch that rises above the canopy of the Live Oak trees.
“Most birds cannot chew their food and owls are no exception. Owls usually swallow their prey whole. However, owls differ from other species of birds because they do not have a crop. In owls, food passes directly from the mouth to the gizzard.
The types of tissue that can be dissolved by an owl’s digestive system include muscle, fat, skin, and internal organs. These tissues are broken down into a variety of nutritional substances by the owl’s gizzard and intestines. Some of these food particles like fur and bones cannot be digested.
Indigestible material left in the gizzard such as teeth, skulls, claws, and feathers are too dangerous to pass through the rest of the owl’s digestive tract. To safely excrete this material, the owl’s gizzard compacts it into a tight pellet that the owl regurgitates. The regurgitated pellets are known as owl pellets.”
Expelling pellet. Now what do I do with this thing?
“An owl pellet generally reaches its final form a few hours after the owl has eaten. Since the stored pellet partially blocks the entrance to the digestive system, it must be ejected before the owl can eat again. Young owls do not produce pellets until they have begun to eat their prey whole.”
I am compacting, not singing.
“The actual process of regurgitating a pellet lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. The pellet is forced out by spasms of the owl’s esophagus. These spasms make the owl look like it is coughing painfully. However, it is not hurt by the process because the pellet remains soft and moist until it leaves the owl’s body.”
“The adult Great Horned Owl can produce pellets that are 3-4 inches long! These pellets are usually cylindrical and tightly compacted. The exterior of the pellet can vary greatly due to the vast array of prey that Great Horned Owls consume.”
There is also a quite entertaining (and educational) video on youtube, especially for kids. Or the kid in all of us!
Marsh rats, mice and small birds according to our owlets. One of the parents lands on a branch close to the nest or nook and feeds both owlets. (Please see prior posts on how we/they got from the original nest, to a temporary nest, to the Live Oak nook). The adult owl holds the prey down with a talon, strips off small bits of ‘meat’ with its beak and feeds it to the little ones. Owls do not regurgitate to feed their young. More about that next post.
In the top photo, Mom delivered a headless rat to the area to the left of the nook. This seems to be the dining area of the owlets’ new abode. The one with the rat, the larger of the two owlets, appears to be saying “Thanks, Mom!” and also looks like he is not too sure about the WHOLE rat thing. And the little one on the right? “Where’s mine?” looks a bit envious and kind of pouting and well, fuming. “Really? He gets to eat the WHOLE thing?”
Mom came back later with another rat and fed MiniMe. In the meantime, Big Sib ate his first whole rat WHOLE. This apparently is the owl version of graduating from one Gerber stage to the next! Regarding the ‘headless’ rat: we speculate that either 1) mom really likes the head best or 2) the skull is too difficult for the owlets to process.
No, not for rats. Not for nest relocation services. And not for home improvement. But because they demanded I buy a new camera!!! Hoot and Hootette were not happy about how I have been portraying them in media.
I have been using a Nikon Coolpix 7600 and could not get the close up shots with any clarity. So this morning I bought a Nikon D5200 D-SLR with coaching and advice from pros Vanessa and my brother-in-law, Mike Riebesehl. This is my first shot, taken from the back porch.
The owlets have been snuggled in the nest most of this cold, damp day.
I am not a photographer; however this new camera is so amazing I’m beginning to feel like one. I am only on page 14 of the 88 page instruction manual. I know just enough to set it on auto and shoot. Very cool.
The owlets are waking up now, it is almost 6PM , getting close to feeding time. I can hear Mom hooting.