I debated about whether or not to blog this, it's an owl nest and some people can get their undies in a bunch when someone talks about them publicly. Some birds seem to attain a cult status and people get particularly prickly about them. Owls are definitely a cult status bird, even garnering their own set of fan boys and fan girls (and owls are cool, I can see why).
I have a great horned owl nesting within walking distance from my home. I have mixed feelings about blogging it. On the one hand, I get the wisdom of keeping nests on the down lo. On the other hand, I live in a very urban area and these birds have chosen to nest in a particularly high traffic spot. I think they knew what they were getting into. There are all sorts of people well aware of the nest and happy to walk up to any stranger and say, "Hey, there's owl right there!"
I'm not going to reveal the exact location, but that still won't stop some complainers. Last winter, a birding organization received an email asking that something be done about me because I had revealed a northern hawk owl perching location in my blog, it wasn't even nesting. I thought it was funny that an organization that I'm not associated with got such an email (what are they gonna do, fire me). It's no secret you can find northern hawk owls at Sax Zim Bog and I had gotten the location from a website promoting where to find the owls. Ah well, haters gotta hate, as the young kids say these days.
Here's the male keeping watch near the nest, even though it looks like his eyes are closed, those little slits are open and he's keeping an eye on me with my scope.
So, what should you do if you find an owl nest? I think keeping the exact location hidden from the local birding listservs, Twitter, Facebook and FourSquare is a good idea. But when you find something so cool, there can be a huge temptation to share it. Be cautious with how many people you tell. Locations should be shared to some groups--say for instance a place like The Raptor Center. If orphaned great horned owl chicks end up in their clinic, they try to find surrogate nests for the chicks. You could also submit it to Nestwatch a website trying to document bird nesting throughout the US. If someone is keeping track of breeding birds for an overall study or atlas, that would be a good idea too. These could be safe ways of documenting the nesting process, a fun project for you, but won't bring hoards of people to the nest site.
I'm sure I'll be walking by and checking these birds out throughout the spring. I have an idea of when incubation started so hopefully some owl chick photos will come along. I'll be curious to note the number of people, especially those walking their dogs who will walk past it without realizing it's there.
I'll also be curious to see how the nest holds up. Great horned owls do not build a nest, but take over old hawk, crow or squirrel nests. I'm pretty sure that meatball of leaves the female owl is hunkered on is an old squirrel nest. She had lots of squirrel nests to choose from, some more secluded than others. It's interesting she chose one in a well traveled. Here's hoping that this turns out to be a big win for urban great horned owl nesting this spring.