Tag Archives: great horned owls

Look Familiar?

No, not ‘our owl’. Since last year, Scott and I became volunteers at The Center for Birds of Prey.  We are officially members of the Renesting Program.  We are on call to renest birds of prey chicks that have fallen out of the nest.

Great Horned Owls are the first of the nesting season for birds of prey. The Center got a call on Tuesday, March 17th, that there was a baby owl on the ground. And we got the call. Our first ‘mission’!

Humans!
Humans!

I am embarrassed to tell you that I went to the reported area and could not find a chick anywhere! I look and look. No chick. I call Joe, the guy that reported it while walking his dog, to get an exact location. I am in the right place. No chick. An adult parent is clacking whenever I get close to a particular tree.

Kind of like that old game of Hide the Button – getting warmer, no getting cool, colder. Adult clacking means I am close. No warning sounds mean I am really cold. The area around the tree that elicits the most warning alerts from an adult owl is full of all kinds of interesting evidence: a headless baby squirrel, three adult squirrel tails, owl pellets and lots of white poop.

Mar 17 Evidence
Evidence

 

But no chick. I listen. I am quiet. My first assignment and I cannot find the chick! I knock on doors. Explain. Leave notes on doors of ‘not at home’ nearby residents with my contact information. I go home defeated.

Four hours later, Joe calls back. The chick is sitting out in the open, pretty much exactly where he told me he saw it that morning. By now, Scott is home and we gather our gear and head out. Joe has recruited a neighbor kid to stand watch until we get there.

Sure enough. A Great Horned Owlet is just sitting there next to a pine tree, out in the open, in total and complete site!

Scott and I confer. There is no visible nest. And this chick is developed beyond the nestling stage. It is a Brancher but not able to fly yet. I examine it as best as I know how. I hold its talons and unfold its wings, one at a time. All looks good. The chick is amazingly compliant. An adult owl is clacking its beak but from a safe distance.

I am warning you to not hurt my chick
I am warning you: do not hurt my chick!

Scott and I decide to place it in a large Live Oak Tree. We get permission from the homeowner. We put the chick in a bucket, Scott sets up the ladder to reach a crotch (or nook) in the tree, about 20 feet high. We discovered last year that a bucket was the most expedient and safest way to carry a chick up a ladder – for all involved. I explain to neighbors that have gathered to watch what and why we are doing this and also what to expect. And give everyone our contact information.

Mar 17 Chick placed in tree
Out of the bucket onto a big branch

 

What we expect: this will not be the one and only time we are in this location. We know from our experience from last year (with ‘our owls’) that this will most likely be the first time, not the last.

In my new location, high up in a tree
In my new location, high up in a tree

Not too secure looking. As, ahem, now that we are ‘professional renesters’, we are not supposed to attribute human feelings or characteristics (anthropomorphism) to our feathered creatures. BUT clearly, this chick does not look too happy. We pack up our gear and watch from a distance with binoculars. Parent owl communicating with chick by hooting softly. Chick is silent.

Mar 17 Chick in tree 2
Peek a boo

Looking a little more relaxed now. And safe. This is all we can do. As Joe texted when I gave him an update, “I would say that young owl had the luck of the Irish on its side today.” Indeed.

But that is not the end of the story of our first mission. Followers of this blog from last year’s adventures will recognize that there is almost always another chapter. Stay tuned!

Special thanks to Joe for his diligence in reporting this fallen chick and following up on its status to make sure it was safe and secure. And to the neighbors Rachel, Emily, Elizabeth and others for whom  I do not have all their names. Thank you! 

Preview of next blog: Same location, different chick!

Hmmmm
Hmmmm

 

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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!