Second Owlet Down

Owlet number one made it through the night on the branch where it was placed. I could not sleep so I watched for a while, wrote the blog post and then decided to sleep upstairs in the guest bedroom so I could keep checking.

I finally fell asleep listening  to the parents hooting and making their hunting calls. I was awakened by a commotion outside the window at 6:45 am. Mom (or Dad?) was feeding the chick on the higher branch. And then it fell! OMG!!!

It tumbled a few feet then hung on to a small branch with one talon. It was dangling upside down, flapping its wings just above the head of its sibling. It could not get upright. I could not believe it right before my sleepy eyes. Its one wing was batting the owlet that we put back last night. I thought they both were going to come cascading down. Meanwhile, Mom had flown to a nearby tree squawking.

Twinkle Toes then let go or got loose and fell to the ground into a mulched garden (without taking its twin thank goodness). I jumped into my clothes (actually I had slept in the same shirt from yesterday) grabbed the gloves, towel and bucket and ran around to the side of house. The above photo is the adorable, clacking, hissing, fuzzy creature that greeted me.

Being inspected for injury
Being inspected for injury

I inspected it as carefully as I could. I was concerned that it injured itself in the fall or hurt its leg when caught up in the tree. It seemed fine and its talons were getting a good grip on my gloved fingers. So into the bucket it went.

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What the heck happened?

I carried the bucket around back to the knock on the window to wake up Scott. I held up the bucket and he jumped out of bed. It was too early to call the Birds of Prey Center for advice. We were hesitant about putting the bucket owlet on the same branch as the other one. We were afraid that in the commotion either we, or the owlets, would knock each other off. Accidentily of course!

After surveying the branches and as seasoned owlet foster parents (ha!), we decided to put the fallen owlet on the branch above the other owlet. We had left the ladder from last night outside but we were going to need a taller ladder. Luckily Scott is a (fantastic) house painter and he has lots of ladders. We had a plan and Scott got the bigger ladder in place.

We also donned our ski helmets. Last week when we placed the first fallen nestling back in the nest we did not wear head gear. We were told that the adults would “probably” not attack us! When we visited the Birds of Prey Center on Thursday, they advised us to wear helmets!

The parent owls were hooting, squawking, screeching and flapping nearby. The owlet in the tree was looking worried, watching everything and clacking at the whole procedure. You would think it would know that we were just going through the process of getting its sibling back in the tree since had experienced the same thing last night! Up the ladder I went with bucket in hand.

Carrying 'bucket' owlet up past other owlet
Carrying ‘bucket’ owlet up past other owlet
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Tucking owlet into crotch of tree.

I am in the process of getting the bucket owlet onto the branch above the other chick. You can see Klingon is watching nervously. I took the owlet out of the bucket and was holding it on the branch, steadying it. Scott was holding the ladder and watching for incoming in addition to taking pictures. Wait a minute…..

Falle  owlet placed on branch above Klingon
Fallen owlet placed on branch above Klingon

Two owlets now back in place on branches. There is no more nest; it has completely fallen to bits. In 24 hours they graduated from nestlings to branchers.

Two owlets restored to River Birch tree branches.
Two owlets restored to River Birch tree branches.

We put away our rescue gear but left the ladder out just in case! This photo was taken right after the event from our upstairs guest bedroom. It is on eye level about eight feet away. A perfect observation post.

I took this photo a little while ago. We were worried that the owlet was very stressed out and maybe slightly injured from the dangling and then fall. But as you can see, it has ventured along the branch away from the trunk and is looking pretty good! Yea!

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We are not too sure about this no nest situation

Owlet Down

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.

owlet down feb 21 001

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.

owlet down feb 21 003

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.

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Back up to the nest

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.

Living on the Edge of a Salt Marsh