Baby Owls Branching Out

I'm in the midst of my busies month.  If I'm not at the National Park Service engaged in ranger work, I'm on the road at a bird festival, birding the crap out of whatever state I'm in.  It's a horrific schedule but it's loads of fun.  And at the end of the month of May, I get a weekend off to celebrate my wedding anniversary with Non Birding Bill (we'll be on year lucky 13--boy, why did I think it would be a good idea to get married in May?). A friend of mine who is new to birding asked if I'd like to go out next week.  My first answer was that I was too busy.  But then I saw on Tuesday that it was supposed to be 80 degrees and I just couldn't say no.  So we did some birding near my apartment.  It's warbler season and they are dripping off the trees.  The few days I was home, I had a golden-winged warbler outside my bedroom window ever morning!

I showed him the owl nest and boy the two young owls were panting like crazy.  Birds don't sweat like humans and pant like dogs when their hot.  The young owls still have some of their thick down that protects them in snow storms when they hatch earlier.  Doesn't it look like it's saying, "Oh man, I'm so hot, ugh."

I didn't see either adult and figured that since the young were so large, they were tucked in a nearby conifer for shade from the warm sun.  As I looked at the nest from this angle, I realized how trashed it is.  Check out these photos from an earlier entry when the female was still incubating.  Note how the nest material was all the way to to the stick.  In the above photo, it's well below that now.  I thought to myself that these owls have to be in the brancher phase.  That's when they are still downy but their feet are very strong and they begin to venture out of the nest.  The young birds can even be blown out of the tree, yet their feet are strong enough to enable them to climb back up.

It looks like they have some feather development on their wings and back.  I got confirmation on this a few days later from another nearby resident who has been watching the nest and he confirmed that babies had crawled out and were on branches 10 feet from the nest.  Our little guys grow up so fast.