February 3, 2010
Sometime yesterday morning or afternoon, I was thinking about the owls (big shock) and wondering how I might know when the owlets have hatched. I remembered that at least once in years past I had seen Charles, towards the end of the incubation period, fly to the nest and hoot at/into the nest at a gentle volume and with great solemnity. I interpreted this as him being aware that the owlets had hatched or were nearly ready to hatch (just prior to hatching the owlets can be heard from within the eggs) and that he was welcoming his new progeny. Well last night he did this very same behavior.
Charles had flown from The Wooded Area after starting off in his favorite conifer. He landed in The Hilly Wooded Area in one of the trees that Sarah has been using for grooming this season when she takes a break from incubating the eggs. A few minutes later, Sarah flew out from the nest and landed above Charles in the same tree. They duetted for a moment (Charles had been hooting prior to her emergence) before Charles flew off to The Nest Tree and landed on/in the snag/hollow. At first, I thought my eyes played tricks on me and that it was in fact Sarah who went to The Nest Tree, but no there was Sarah grooming and stretching.
Moments after landing Charles began to hoot within or at the snag/hollow and his volume was soft and his approach considered. Watch for yourself!
He stayed a couple of minutes before flying out to his favorite perch in the tree in front of the snag/hollow. Sarah joined him in this perch before he made a predatory attempt at a nearby tree which hosts a squirrel nest. I went for a better view of him and Sarah and while I took my eyes of off him for a few seconds, he disappeared on me without any indication as to the direction in which he went!
It was amazing to see Charles go to The Nest Tree and hoot within or at the snag/hollow. The last time I saw him go to the snag/hollow was weeks prior to Sarah nesting there. I think his actions are a decent indication that hatching has occurred or will be occurring shortly. If this is the case, it is an amazing and touching way for him to welcome his youngsters to the world.