The Owlery

The continuing story of a family of Great Horned Owls - by Dave Brooks

Book Two

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Book Two covers three sequences of this owl family’s behavior from May 7th to May 17th, 2017.

The young owls grow fast and begin to conquer their world in leaps and bounds during this stage of development.

These young owls hatched around the beginning of March, they grow in the nest throughout March. In April they are working their wings and trying first flights of just a foot or so in the nest and they start walking along branches, moving out of the nest. Early May finds them suddenly out and about in the trees as they are now fledged and making short flights between trees and honing their landing skills, landing on branches is not easy to do. They also begin learning to hunt during this time.

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May 7th - And there is much time spent grooming.

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Mama owl looks after her young with great care and attention. I happened to catch an extensive grooming session about 8:30am following their night’s adventures.

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A timeless expression.

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This shot always gives me a chuckle with the standing sibling closely observing the working over.

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Then it’s time to share the love with everyone.

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I was lucky to have been there and capture this series, hope you enjoyed it.

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May 12th - About 9am I happened upon the crew all set up together on a branch. One young owl has a plan.

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Mom and sibling are focused on something approaching from behind.

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This shot in the series is intriguing as we see the careful balance and positioning of this young owl as she gets serious about making this move. The lower branch is directly below the upper branch so there’s no leveraged angle of approach, it’s straight up but she has to lean her body back to get by and up.

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With her right talon notched up higher and her wings cranked up to assist, she is in position for success. The branch she’s climbing is bare of bark, hard and slick, but she is in control.

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Success, and well done. The action in this series took place in less than 18 seconds. If I had been watching this with just my eyes, I would have had a vague and general notion that this owl had moved, but I would not have any true idea and appreciation of what it took to do it.

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13 seconds later the kids are locked onto an overhead passerby, I believe it was a Turkey Vulture. The owls do not miss any fly-bys, its their business and they are on it, always. Humans down below are another matter, the owls are accustomed to regular visitors to the small park and walking along the creekside path.

They are not bothered by people unless they are approached directly. The few times this occurred when other people in the park noticed the owls, I took the moment to gently but clearly explain to them that it is simply not good to do and why it is so . Most people get it, right away, and I am thankful for that in a big way.

Following this owl family presented me with many learning opportunities as well as many challenges. Just the idea of embracing owls and their young was intimidating as I had no prior experience like it. I learned from reading the wise advice of those respected writers who put their recommendations forth. I considered the conditions of this situation and decided that due to the low volume but frequent presence of people passing by or spending time near, but not close to the nest, that it would cause no harm for me to follow and photograph them from a reasonable distance. That reasonable distance would be equal to or farther from the owls than the normal day to day activities of people in the area.

It can be quite difficult to get good photos of the owls. Twice, earIy on, I moved in too close to the owls, something around 40 yards. The mother owl let me know right away with a fierce glare directed right into my eyes. The effect is unmistakeable and I learned my lesson of the no-go zone very clearly and never again moved too far in. I shared this with several of the regular visitors to the park and they readily understood and conducted themselves accordingly.

I believe that sharing this knowledge helps people understand the careful balance of our actions in regards to wildlife and that this knowledge and intimacy promotes better behavior on our part that is beneficial to wildlife. We see, we learn, we share, we care and we act in appreciation and harmony to the benefit of all.

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May 17th - At 6:40am I captured the following images under good lighting conditions.

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Those are pretty sharp talons to scratch your eyebrow with. Their deftness, coordination, strength and calmness is inspiring to see.

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From May through most of June, the young owls stay in the trees of the treeline during the day. By the end of June or early July the young owls and family appear to leave the eucalyptus treeline and move across the field to the trees of the creek that offer deeper shade as the days get warmer.

Later in the summer, they appear to be fully grown and wear adult plumage. In the evening twilight all four owls can be heard and seen as they move from their roosts, stopping on treetops in our neighborhood as they move out to their hunting fields nearby to the east. They can often be seen and heard returning in the pre-dawn twilight.

This is the end of Book Two - Book Three will be posted in early Spring, 2019