So I was out working on my airplane yesterday and these guys just happened by. They were pretty unconcerned with my presence, except for the little ones who were quite shy and wanted to hide behind mom and dad. It's interesting that the chicks obviously can't fly yet so the adults must be camping out nearby. I think this is the same family that I saw about a year ago.
What's ironic is that these birds are extremely dangerous around airplanes; one, they are quite large and have been known to bring down an airplane in a collision; and, two, they seem to have no fear of the human element. So I guess their attitude is, "well we were here first, deal with it."
They are quite beautiful creatures. They gobble like a turkey would, but different sounding. They seem to be feeding on grubs or other insects and every so often will hand (beak) one to an infant, who seem to be doing more observing than anything else.
Here's a closeup of an adult:
For about a week now I haven't been able to find the little one in the nest oak tree. I knew that he was probably branching out to the adjacent trees but couldn't figure out which one. Until today. Finally found him in one of the lower oak trees about 200 yards from the nest tree. But what was really a shocker was to see big daddy a few feet away from the little one. Haven't seen dad in a long time. Mostly just mom this year. Looks like dad had the duty to keep an eye on junior this afternoon. Maybe some hunting lessons later this evening?
Is it my imagination or is dad starting show his age? Here he is with his head turned around keeping a close eye on the camera:
Right on cue, he turned around on the branch and gave me a view of his front side:
And just a few feet away, the little guy. He's obviously fledged and is about 2 months old now. He's flying at least 200 yards to get here so he's probably not going to be around much longer.
What's interesting to note is that dad is perched at exactly the location that I had selected to locate an owl nesting platform that I'm building. I'll have it up by this summer. My hope is that a new owl family will take up residence here this coming December. I'll take it as a good omen that dad is perched there.
In the off season, we had a bit of a catastrophe in that the branch that contains the hollow that the owls use as a nest broke off right at one end of the nest. We had all summer to think about it and do something about it. What we came up with after talking to the owl experts and some construction buddies was to wrap the end of the branch with stucco wire and then cover the wire with stucco. We hired a tree service guy to do the work and it came out really well. However, we wondered if the owls would come back to their "modified" home. For one, it now had a man-made structure next to it, and secondly, it was missing a branch for the little ones to perch on when they became branchers. We were pleasantly surprised when in November we started to see the owl pair in the neighborhood. One day when I was out riding my bike I actually saw mom sitting in the nest--and this was way before nesting time--kind of like she was trying it out for size. Good sign.
Sure enough she was sitting on her eggs by mid-December as usual. The eggs hatched in early January and although I was hoping to see at least two heads poking out of the nest, it finally became obvious that only one had hatched. So today was the first day that I saw the little one out of its nest. It wasn't standing out on a branch as you would expect when they venture out, because there isn't one anymore, at least not convenient to the nest, but it did manage to perch on top of the concrete structure that now forms what looks like a roof over the nest. By this evening when mom brings food, it will be back in the nest.
So here is a photo at about 1 month old and just starting to branch:
Found just one of the siblings today in the nest tree. This is O-1, the non-rescued one. He looks really healthy and appears ready to fully fledge, probably one of our last sightings.
This is rare to see the two together like this during the day. These photos were taken today around noon. I think the rescued one is on the left, probably a female since it's larger.
Notice the light brown downy feathers are almost all gone on their breasts, and you can see the permanent feathers underneath.
It's amazing how well they have bonded again after being separated for so long. They look well fed don't they?
(Click to Enlarge)