January 28, 2019 - The mother Great Horned Owl has been staking out her nest area for about a week at this time. Here she is dozing comfortably in fine afternoon weather.
A few days later she is resting at one of her favorite spots near her nest.
February 7, she has taken to her nest.
February 7th, closeup. She has laid her eggs by now, two probably, as in the past.
Another pose on the 7th.
It’s been raining cats and dogs since then so mama owl is hunkered down low in her nest keeping her eggs warm. The rains are supposed to relent this weekend so I hope to have a few more images soon.
February 18th- The rains finally ended and the sun came out but mama owl has been sitting very low on her eggs, or at least she was each time I checked in over the long weekend. I could just see the top of her back over the rim of the nest and it won’t make for much of a photo so I’ll keep stopping by to see how she’s doing and hopefully get a chance at a better image or two.
February 24th- I stopped by the nest today with overcast skies above. I was checking out some different shooting angles as there is a fair amount of eucalyptus leaves and hanging bark that is messing up my prime angle of the nest. While checking the possibilities, my eye caught some great horned owl plumage showing through a patchy thicket of leaves. Binoculars revealed an owl snoozing. I got a bit excited because this would have to be the father owl or the mother getting a break from hatching duties and this is the first time I have seen the other adult owl while nesting was taking place. I swung over to look at the nest and there was mama owl (presumably) on duty keeping the eggs warm. Then the crows stopped by and raised a little hell, followed by the female red-tailed hawk’s arrival, she is still hoping to take the second nest. The sleeping guard owl woke up and glared fiercely at crows and hawk, both soon departed and the owl went back to shut-eye. Images to follow when I get the time……….and here they are below.
Here’s the mother great horned owl in her nest, on her eggs, February 24th. As you see, there is a piece of bark that is hanging down right between her eyes from my best angle for images. That coupled with the fresh growth of eucalyptus leaves to her left have cut way down on my view options. My best hope is for the bark to peel free and disappear. If those leaves grow too much more I’m in a serious bind. Maybe the bugs will keep the leaves chewed back, if I’m lucky. So, I’m counting on gravity, wind and insects to come to my rescue so that I am not shut out.
Here’s the father great horned owl, I spotted him here on this nice perch where I’ve seen the adult owls before, but this is the first time ever seeing the male owl in attendance guarding his mate, though I have looked long and hard many times for the second owl. I think this father owl is very careful to conceal himself for advantage in dealing with intruders.
I really like this grooming image, there will be many more in Book Two of The Owlery, coming soon here in Silver Forest Images.
Here’s a couple of the crows that stopped by to briefly bother the owls in a half-hearted harassment.
This is the female Red-tailed Hawk mentioned in The Owlery, Book One. I firmly believe that this is the hawk that built the first nest and the second nest as well as having had at least one brood in the first nest. She’s a beauty. Her rich, red tail is striking, her behavior is identical to when I first saw her building the second nest. She has been visiting the tree line frequently this winter and I believe she clearly wants to use her nest again. The owls are currently in the second nest and they do not seem to share turf very well at all.
March 6th- The rains are finally coming to a break. I stopped by the nest again this afternoon and through my binoculars thought I might be seeing a fuzzy headed owlet or two. I quickly looped back to my home for my camera and focused in at 500mm. No fuzzy headed owlets. Just a supremely satisfied, comfortable and at-ease mother owl dozing away in her usual place with her back to the windward side. The intruding, hanging strip of bark had shifted over a few inches providing an almost clear view of mama owl’s face framed by bark and tree trunk. So I took a couple dozen frames that looked pretty good on my camera screen, I’ll edit them soon and post an image or two. It seems like the hatching is a little delayed this year, perhaps mama has compensated her efforts to time the hatch after the rains cease. We’ve had very mild temperatures for the last few weeks of rain here, but soaked downy feathers on owlets may not be the easiest way to get started in life. Dry weather is forecast for the next week mostly, and I would be surprised if the chicks do not hatch any day now, maybe tomorrow!
March 9th. Rain and more rain. And ill timed opportunities for my attempts to see if the baby owls have hatched. Finally, dodging raindrops, I found an opening into their world.
The first shot above shows one baby owl’s head rising above the nest from my remote viewing position. I have seen similar instances like this via binoculars or camera over the last week, but this is the first time I could get an image even of rough quality as this one is.
The second image I believe to be a wing of the owlet, raised up to dry out after the frequent rains.
I am happy to announce that this Great Horned Owl family has successfully hatched at least one baby owl. Hopefully there is at least another owlet in the nest, we will see, soon I hope.
Mach 15th - Crepuscular Doings - I went to see the owls this evening and followed them through the twilight as far as I could until darkness prevailed. Mama was resting quietly in the nest before sundown and right on through sunset. The sun set at 7:15pm. At 7:34 papa owl emerged in flight from the eastern end of the trees and flew on the near side and landed in the last tree at its far western edge. Here, he faced the west, looking into the fading light and the glow of the crepuscule. He looked back occasionally and then they called to each other. At 7:38 he launched and flew to the west, most likely heading to the grassy fields of a good sized town park not far away to hunt. At 7:41 mama took wing and landed in the top of the westernmost tree. She stayed there until 7:42, then launched and after three powerful wingbeats she glided into the fading light to the west, following her mate. Around 7:46 I saw one owl return and it landed somewhere in the creek trees on the far side of the treeline. After a few hoo-hoo-hoo calls, the owl arrived back in the nest. So the baby owl or owls were left alone for about five minutes. I never once saw a baby owl tonight.
March 18th, morning- This Red-shouldered Hawk below and its mate are now making a sustained effort to build a nest or augment the currently unused nest in the treeline. This pair of Red-shoulders have been staking out and working the trees for about two weeks now. It’s been about three weeks since I last saw the female Red-tailed Hawk and I believe that the owls drove her away. But these Red-shouldered hawks are making repeated nest building trips into the treeline. They are cutting off lots fresh cedar branch-ends and taking them into the trees in the area around where the unused nest is. This image shows one of them leaving the cedar trees in the creek bed and heading straight for the treeline where the vacant nest is.
I stopped by later that day in the afternoon and observed from the other side of the treeline. Both Red-shoulders were there, perched and moving about near the unused nest. One of them began chewing on a thin eucalyptus branch, maybe 3/8 inch diameter thick at most. It chewed from different angles for about a minute. Then it hopped up into the air over the branch, grabbed the branch quickly and firmly in its beak and plunged straight down and snapped the branch free from the tree. The branch was almost three feet long, multi-forked with a few leaves at the ends. It then flew up towards the unused nest, disappearing into the foliage. it was a very deft move and done with a great sense of assuredness. Very cool!
I hope that these hawks are successful in making their nest and raising their young here, but I am not about to bet that will happen as the Great Horned Owls don’t seem to like having neighbors so far. We will see how it goes.
April 10th, 2019- We finally have dry weather and partly clear skies. I’ve seen brief, unsure glimpses of a second owlet but I wasn’t 100% sure. Today I saw both of the young owls clearly for an extended time. They appear to he thriving and robust! The Red-shouldered Hawks are still working the area but I have not been able to see if they have established themselves in the other nest, the intrigue continues.
April 19th, 2019- The Red-shouldered Hawks are still staying close but I cannot tell if they are using the second nest in the eucalyptus trees or not. So much foliage has grown around the nest on both sides, making it nearly impossible to see it much less get a good view of the rim the nest where the hawk would show.
The young owls are getting bigger and they are starting to distinctly show the lines of their adult plumage on their wings and their faces are changing as well. They move about the nest in a more mature and assured manner. They are raising their wings and starting to flex them a bit. Mama was out of the nest this afternoon, so I believe she is starting her work to coax the youngsters to start venturing out of the nest. Climbing and moving cautiously along the adjoining branches at first. Soon followed by short flights across the nest and along a branch, just a foot or two long at first and then opening it up to a few feet long. Then they will advance to begin flying from branch to branch, maybe five feet or so and working up from there. And they will be practicing landing every time they take flight. Landing is difficult and they work hard to master it. We will follow them as best I can and fortune allows.