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)
I have been trying for some time to get a photo of the mother owl feeding the two siblings without success--until today. The two young owls have been absent during the day as they move farther away into the adjacent oak trees, extending their range. I rarely see the siblings together anymore. I think the pattern now is that the mother calls the two owlets to gather in the nest tree for a feeding just before dawn. The last couple of mornings I have seen the owlets together early but then they are gone for the rest of the day.
So this morning I got out to the nest tree just before dawn and was fortunate to see mom feeding the two little ones. I had to wait until sunrise to have enough light--here is the first photo I was able to get with natural light:
These guys were well hidden and high up in the tree so it was difficult to get a clear shot, but here you can see mom feeding one of the owlets. Notice how she closes her eyes while offering food, much like Gulli did in the video from the Avian Reconditioning Center in the previous post. You might have to click on the photo to enlarge it to see more detail:
So in the next photo, I was trying to get a clear shot of all three together, and I had to use a little flash fill (I was shooting into the rising sun), thus the bright red retinas. I could have photo shopped the retinas black but chose not to as I like the way the lighted retinas enhance the photo:
Wow, this is really gratifying! Looks like we've come full circle with the one that fell out of the nest. It had an interesting journey, ended up at the ARC, was raised for a while by a surrogate mother, and finally has returned to its family in the wild. Maybe this year's story will have a happy ending after all.
It was 7 weeks exactly since the owlet fell out of its nest. The owlet was released last night near the nest tree and was reunited with its owl family.
For the past 7 weeks the rescued owlet has been at the Avian Reconditioning Center (ARC) up in Apopka, FL. I am going to call the rescued owlet, O-2, and its sibling that remained in the nest, O-1, for the sake of brevity. I've been in touch with Carol at ARC these past 7 weeks and she had suggested that perhaps we could assist them by driving up to pick up O-2 when she was ready to fledge. Carol told us yesterday that she thought O-2 was a female because of its size. O-2 has been cared for by Gulliver, the Great Horned surrogate mother. Here is a short video that shows Gulli's interaction with its young owlets:
O-2 is not in the video because it was filmed a couple of days ago and O-2 had already been moved to the "flight cage," which is much larger and allows the birds to actually fly.
So yesterday was the day to drive up to Apopka and pick up O-2. Carol met us as the facility and gave us a short tour. We got to see Gullie and her young, and in the flight cage we met the other surrogate mom, Trigger, and her foster owlets learning to fly.
Carol instructed us on the release. The most important aspect was that the release be at night, primarily so that the other birds would not harass the vulnerable newly-released owlet. O-2 was transported in a cardboard "cat carrier," which works well for the owls. So at around 9 p.m. we got the release crew out near the oak tree and coaxed O-2 out of her box. She was reluctant to fly, but after some more coaxing, we got her to takeoff and she flew for about 25 yards or so and landed on the ground under some bushes near the oak tree. At this point, we figured that this owlet had had a long day and was probably pretty stressed, so we left her to spend the night where she was. No doubt at some point during the night she may have heard mama because early this morning I found her up in a tree adjacent to the nest tree and mama was nearby. That was pretty cool to find them together!
Later on, around noon today, I ventured out to take some photos and found the other sibling, O-1, nearby as well. So looks like the whole family has gotten reacquainted. Here are a couple of photos from today:
The mocking birds have been harassing the heck out of the owls the last few days, and that probably explains why they are so well hidden. Can you tell they are siblings? Be sure to click on the picture for full size.
Update: I was able to get this photo at 7:30 p.m. this evening of the two siblings together, just as I was losing all the light. Very cool.
This guy popped up right in front of the baby owl. He's either really brave or he's paying protection money to mom, who was nearby.