As I was working my way around my neighborhood the other day on my bike, I made one final stop before heading home to check on the great horned owl net. I hoped that since it was so warm that the female would be up and out of the nest and maybe I’d get a glimpse of a chick. She did seem to be up a little higher but I couldn’t see any sign of the young. I tried scanning the trees where I usually see the male perched as a sentry over the territory, but couldn’t find him. I decided to get an establishing shot of the nest.
That’s when I noticed him–he was perched right out in the open above the nest! Do you see where the nest is in relation to the male? The nest is in the lower right hand corner in the crotch of the tree. You can see her little tufts stick up out of the nest.
It was interesting to me that even though he was out in the open and I had my scope on him, a few people walked past me and didn’t seem to notice. Yo, people, huge owl up here. As I took this photo, a Cooper’s hawk flew in, circled the tree to buzz the owls and then continued on its way. It didn’t vocalize but it was as if the fly by was letting the owls know, “Yeah, I see you, you’re not fooling me.”
The male kept a hairy ball in the direction of the Cooper’s hawk. He never looked at me again after that, but watched the fast little hawk. A few other birds came in to mob them as well.
This flicker was my favorite. She slowly worked the branches for food and then suddenly noticed the owl (that photo is right when she noticed the male) and started giving a warning call. She even dove at the male a few times. I wondered if she hadn’t seen the nest because all the mobbing in the world by a flicker is not going to get that owl to move. And let’s face it flickers can’t even drive out a starling.
The female wasn’t too worried. She seemed to be snoozing in the sun, paying no attention to me or the flicker.
I started to leave and I turned to take one last look and then I saw the female adjust herself. I aimed the scope and up popped a baby owly head! So cute and fluffy! It shook its head a few times and then disappeared under the female again. Nice to know that there’s at least one chick in the nest.
Check out the baby, see the little white dot on the tip of its bill? That’s an egg tooth. Something birds have in the egg that helps them chip out of the shell. It usually sheds not long after hatching. I checked over at Cornell’s Birds of North America Online and looked up owl tooth development on great horned owls: “Young show remnants of yolk sac and retain egg tooth for 4–6 days (Turner and McClanahan 1981) or traces of both egg tooth and yolk sac for up to 2 weeks (Hoffmeister and Setzer 1947). Eyes remain closed until 9-11 days of age”
Young owls don’t always hatch at the same time, there can be a day or two difference. I wonder if this is the youngest owlet in the nest? It’s a safe bet that these birds are less than 9 days old or hatched early last week sometime. Exciting!
Oh and I found this empty wrapper not too far from the nest tree. I wonder what kind of shenanigans the owls witness at night?