Thursday, March 24, 2011
Choosing names for the owlets is always interesting. The first two groups of owlets in 2006 and 2007 did not get names but in 2008 when there were three owlets, I had to have names and since then I have named each year's owlets.
After some consideration, I have names for the two owlets hatched and fledged this year. I have named the younger, smaller owlet, Monica, after my late aunt, Monica Glenshaw (Aunty Mon), who died on September 20, 2010. I have named the older, bigger owlet, Dalton, after Dalton Brownell, the late father of my good owl and park friend, Barb Brownell. Mr. Brownell died just last week on March 18, 2011.
My Aunty Mon was an incredible lady. A doctor who spent the vast majority of her adult and professional life in rural Zimbabwe doing incredible work with major positive effects both micro and macro as described here. She was a very funny, unpretentious, incredibly hard-working woman with a great can-do attitude. Aunty Mon also had a great love for and connection with animals. I last saw her at my dad's funeral in 2003 and I would have loved to have seen her again before she passed away at much too premature age.
I did not know Mr. Brownell but I have been friends with his daughter, Barb, and her boyfriend/partner/joint-tax filer (and I'm spit-balling on the last one), Chris Gerli for a few years now. Barb and Chris are two of the longest serving fellow observers/owl addicts in both watching Charles and Sarah as well as another pair of Great Horned Owls; John and Jacqueline. No one knows more about these two owls than Barb and Chris. They have done amazing work these past two plus years observing and documenting John and Jacqueline and I am honored to call them owl mentees of mine. Mr. Brownell was surely a superb person both from what I have learned from his obituary and my knowledge of Barb as a person of great knowledge, humor, empathy and compassion.
The ages of the owls correspond with the ages of their namesakes. I don't know if the names correspond with the sex of the owls. Determining the sex of an immature owl requires an extremely up close and personal physical examination, which even if I knew how to do it, I would not do so. I think the owlets would be overly stressed by this process and Sarah might, and with good reason, try to turn me from The Owl Man into The Owl Eunuch. Thank you, no.
Here are pictures of the owlet Monica (be sure to double click on the pictures to see a full size version of each photo):
Here are pictures of the owlet Dalton:
And here's both of them from last night, March 24. Dalton is on the left and Monica on the right:
Thank you for reading!
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
In what comes as a pleasant, albeit puzzling surprise, we found on Monday night that the owlets have fledged! Fledging is the process of the owlets leaving both the immediate nest and the nest tree. They are well into The Wooded Area, a good 80-120 yards from the nest. Sarah is keeping a close eye on them and I'm sure Charles' hunting efforts continue apace. Here's the younger/smaller of the two:
Here's the older/bigger of the two:
You can tell the age size/difference by the greater feather maturation in the older one including bigger tufts!
Here are the two of them in one shot:
They are both gorgeous Great Horned owlets and I am so excited that they have fledged!
What is funny and embarrassing about finding the owlets is that I was right by them earlier the same night and I did not see them! The night began with me not seeing the owlets in the nest. I found Charles in his favorite conifer and Sarah a short distance from him just south/southwest of his pine-laden perch. It was puzzling to see Sarah much further away from the nest that she had been of late.
I went back to the nest and met my new owl friend Brenda Hente. Brenda has done a brilliant job of going from zero to owl addict in the last several months. We carefully looked in the nest but saw no owlets so we went to see Charles and Sarah. We located them and as we marveled at Sarah's massive, feather-covered talons, I turned my head slightly to the left and saw the younger owlet! I could barely believe my eyes and I had to look again before I whispered to Brenda that I saw an owlet just ahead of us. As Brenda delighted in seeing the owlet, I looked again and saw that the older, larger owlet was just inches away from its sibling! It was stunning to see them both and I continue to be bowled over that I missed seeing the owlets mere minutes ago!
The owlets were a very healthy distance from the nest and in some low trees a few feet away from Sarah's perch. I had seen one owlet in the nest the night before and now I even wondered that one was an third owlet, even though we had only ever seen two. Brenda and I returned to nest and ran into Kathleen Young, who had been out the night before with her parents. They along with Kathleen's daughter had gone out on a prowl weeks earlier and attended my talk at The Audubon Society and were fast devotees of the owls. We told Kathleen about the owlets fledging and she too was thrilled. We all looked at the nest and seeing no one, we returned to see the fledglings.
We were under a spell as we watched the owlets begin to move about and even bill-clack in their excitement. Their rasping begging cheeps, whispered and gradual at first but soon loud and frequent, filled the air. Charles went off to hunt and we wished him a speedy return. The older owlet took a spill as he made a flight that may have been too long for his experience level. We breathed a sigh of relief as he got off the ground and half-climbed/half-flew to a low perch. After many minutes of ear-to-ear grins fromwatching these owlets, we headed for home.
The owlets' fledging is not a surprise because of their age, they are in the 6-8 week-old range, which is when Great Horned Owlets fledge. The surprise is because we had seen all but nothing in the way of wing-exercising by the owlets. Before owlets fledge they spend many nights flapping their wings so that they build up their wing strength prior to making their first flights. I have seen this every year and a few years back I dubbed this process "hitting the gym." It is an amusing and even confusing process because it looks as the owlets are about to take flight as they furiously flap their wings but they remain fixed to their perches. So how did these owlets fledge with us barely seeing them "hitting the gym?" I'm not sure but a future post will review the time line of what I observed just prior to fledging supplemented with observations from owl friends new and old. Thanks for reading!
Sunday, March 6, 2011
I returned to the park yesterday afternoon to look for and watch Charles, Sarah and this year's offspring. I found Charles where he had been in the morning, in a tree he's been using this winter mostly as a fly-to perch. This new perch is in a tree between The Great Northern and The Overlook Hotel Tree. Sarah was out of the nest and in a low branch of The Overlook Hotel Tree, looking especially magnificent.
I headed down toward the nest tree and from a distance, I saw that there were two owlets in the hollow!!
Here's a cropped version of the same shot, which makes it easier to see the youngsters. The one that I saw in the morning is on the left and the second owlet is on the right.
It was amazing to see two and I can't help but wonder if there are three. Average clutch size for Great Horned Owls is two-three. Clutches of one, four and five to occur but are far less frequent. Notice how the second owlet, the one on the right, is smaller and less mature than its sibling on the left. GHOs lay their eggs asynchronously, at a different times. Usually each egg is laid one to two days apart but the time between each egg laying can be as much as five to ten days. This asynchronous egg-laying results in asynchronous egg hatching and thus owlets of different ages and stages.
I went to get a closer look of the owlets but the second owlet had descended down into the nest was out of sight. This owlet may have gotten a case of what Wendy calls, "the shys." I managed to get some other shots of the first owlet.
Great stuff for sure! The evening continued with many highlights including a visit from a new owl friend, Taffy Ross, Charles returning twice with food after very short absences (well done, Charles) and a very close encounter with Sarah. Thanks for reading!
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Great news-after much patient (and impatient) watching and waiting I saw an owlet in Sarah's nest this morning!!
I changed my angle and got a different look at him.
Judging by it's size, it looks to be between three and five weeks old. I wonder if it's one owlet, two, three or what. I have been fairly confident that hatching had occurred for a while now. On February 16 I saw Sarah catch a bat in mid-air (amazing) and return to the nest with it in her bill. This told me that she had more to feed than just herself. Just this Thursday, March 3 I saw Sarah return to the nest with a small prey item in her talons. But I still had not a glimpse of any owlets. The nest hollow is the highest one I have ever seen them use and the branch is so steep that one's field of view is incredibly limited. Hell, I can barely see 23-25 inch tall Sarah in the hollow until she is close to the hollow's opening!
I'm terribly excited to see an owlet! Bravo, Charles and Sarah!! That's six years in a row that they have had youngsters. Thanks for reading!