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)
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.