Owlet Outlet!

Who dat say dey about to learn to fly?  Who dat?  Who dat?

The Two Little Who Dats, dat’s who.

Since I was out of town for a couple days, and then sick in bed for another day upon my return, I was concerned that the owlets might have flown the nest in my absence.

So, feeling about 80% better, I donned the nearest pair of pants and t-shirt, grabbed my camera and headed to Camp Dularge to look for my babies.

Typically, I climb the stairs to the back deck, and sit in the chair I have perfectly positioned for a clear view of the nest.  But when I sat down and looked up, I was shocked by what I saw.

N O T H I N G !

The nest was not where it had been for the previous months.

I scanned the tree branches, which are no longer heavily laden with oak blossoms (why do they produce those irritating things, anyway?  It’s not like they are real flowers.).  With a new outgrowth of bright green leaves, the owlets would no longer be well camouflaged.

Not too far from where the nest used to be, I spied something.  Looking closely, it was hard to tell whether I was seeing a baby or a parent owl.  It appeared to have its head tucked down on its chest, sleeping.  The wind was blowing so hard, I was amazed at the creature’s ability to hang on to the branch and sleep while swaying in the strong March winds.

I haven’t looked it up, but fledgling means a bird that is about to learn to fly and leave the nest.  Well, interesting thing about that nest.

Can you see all the sticks, scattered all over?  That’s the remnants of their nest.  Of course, knowing how weird I am, you won’t be surprised to know that when I saw this, a line from the James Taylor song “Fire and Rain” floated through my brain, “Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.”  Except my version went like this, “Sweet dreams and owlets’ nest in pieces on the ground.”

But, I digress.  The light bulb flickered on, as I thought,

“AHA!  So THAT’S how the parents get their little charges to leave the nest!!!  They don’t kick them out of the nest.  They kick the nest out from under them.”

And sure enough, upon closer examination of the surrounding area, the nest lay in pieces all over the ground.  Lest you start hypothesizing about my theory, let me tell you that you will never convince me that the wind blew that sturdy nest down.

As I walked under the tree, an owl took flight above me–so quickly that I decided it was a parent owl keeping watch while the babies slept.  I continued walking under the tree looking for the second owlet.  And as if by magic, she appeared in almost plain sight.

As you can see from the darkness of the photo, the day was quite overcast; and since I don’t have one of those flash boosters that sends a bolt of light 30 feet out, these pics are the best I could produce.

But I really think you will like this one  . . .

After each photo, she winked her right eye at me.

Out of about twenty-four photos, the flash managed to capture the eyes in the one photo above.  We stood and stared at each other for a very long time.  No need to worry that she might mistake me for her mom, because after six weeks, she has imprinted firmly on her owl mother.

I’m not sure exactly how old they are now, but the fact that the nest is gone tells me the parents are ready for them to become self sufficient.

And now, any particle of food they drop no longer falls in the safe-keeping of the nest, but falls to the ground as food for the ants.  Here is obviously a morsel dropped from a recent meal.  I was wondering if my friend Kim could tell us what kind of bird this was by the color of the feathers.  Kim?  The feathers are the color of a robin, actually.

Friday, just before heading out of town, I stopped to check on Lady Grey and Earl. Lady Grey has been sitting on her eggs for weeks now, and since I had no way of keeping track of how long she had been doing so, I had no idea when the babies might hatch out.  Sadly, I discovered two dead chicks lying on the ground inside the pen Friday. Immediately suspecting Earl was the killer, I had The Captain lift up the pen, and I ran his cocky butt out with a big stick.  Yep, just turned him loose right then and there to fend for himself.  I mean, how DARE he mistreat his offspring?

And then, I listened very closely inside the nesting box where Lady Grey sat, unruffled by Earl’s eviction, and I heard ever-so-faintly coming from under her body, “cheep, cheep, cheep” and knew I had done the right thing.

This is what I found upon my return visit to the Chicken Tractor . . .

Again, I apologize for the poor photo quality, but I was trying to point the lens through chicken wire, which is not kind of, but very, tricky.

But you get the picture, right?  She is a very good mother, bowing her broad wings out over her babies, shielding them from  harm.  Reminds me of a Bible verse that says something about God wanting to gather his children together, like a hen protecting her chicks.  That’s just a very interesting analogy to me.  Lady Grey is, indeed, very protective.

It is my hope they are both hens.  That way, I will have my little hen farm and Earl Grey will have done his duty.  I’m not sure when, or even IF, he will ever be allowed back in the hen house.  If not, there just might be a future post entitled, “Earl Grey Bites the Dust or How BW Became a Pioneer Woman”.  And shortly thereafter will be a post about a very good recipe for chicken stew.

Keeping things real,

BW

You may also like...

Comments

Owlet Outlet! — 38 Comments

  1. Great read Wendy! I have 2 pairs of doves nesting at my house. We watch them everyday. Pretty neat how they let you get withthin 3 ft of them in the nest but wont come 300 yds of you in hunting season! lol

  2. I loved these owl stories, Wendy—and the pictures were great. I will have to tell you my story about an owl, Jim and me sometime—it’s cute!

  3. Nice pics gal. yard rooster makes awesome gumbo- I knbow from experience, but he may not survive he owls. glad you are feeling better. happy spring. I took a pic of a kestrel last week; been trying to do that for some time now. they fly away when I stop to shoot.

    • Oh wow! A Kestrel? That is something I’ve not been able to capture yet either!

      You know, I didn’t even think about the adult owls getting Earl when I let him loose. I was so upset about the dead babies, I wasn’t thinking straight. But he has managed to survive them so far. Maybe he’s too big for them to grab? I really don’t want the owls to eat him, though.

      • Those feathers they dropped look like they came from a chicken rather than a bird.

        Guess they will be flying away soon. Sure have enjoyed the photos and story.

  4. I absolutely enjoy reading your posts/columns. You always have interesting articles.
    Next visit I make up that way I will need to make it a point to stop by.

    Thanks for the articles.
    Chris

    • Hi Chris! Thanks for the kind words! Yes, please call before you come down and book a Wetland Tour and/or a night at Camp Dularge. You won’t regret it! There is always something interesting to see or do down the Bayou!

  5. I’m sorry to hear about Earl getting kicked out – hopefully the owls won’t get him! As far as the feathers go – it’s hard to tell from the picture. If they are red – maybe a cardinal? If they’re a brownish red – maybe a thrasher?

    I thought that Great Horned Owls ate mammals instead of birds so I went to Cornell’s site to find out. This is what they say: “Great Horned Owls kill and eat small to medium mammals of many kinds, especially hares and rabbits. They eat mice, rats, squirrels, opossums, woodchucks, bats, weasels, and the occasional domestic cat. Great-Horned Owls also eat skunks, which are sometimes such a prominent part of the diet that both bird and nest may smell of musk. Although mammalian prey typically comprise more than three quarters of the diet, more than fifty species of birds have been recorded as prey. In addition to hunting small songbirds, Great Horned Owls have been known to eat large birds such as grouse, herons, ducks, Canada Geese, hawks (including Red-tailed), and even other species of owl.”

    It also said they kill more than they can eat and cache it. So who knows what dead prey you have up in that tree.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the chicks grow up. I know they grow up fast.

    • Kim, the feathers are more of an orange/brown, so they might even be hawk feathers. There was an equal balance of the evidence of small mammals and birds in the refuse. So, it all depends on the terrain and what is most readily available. With the larger mammals, they pull off chunks, but with the smaller ones like mice, they eat the whole thing. From the size of the bones, these owls are finding mostly small creatures to consume. I think they are almost ready to fledge, since the nest is non-existent now. Thank you for your input!!! It’s always good to hear from my Master Birder!!!

  6. The left-over owl food on the ground looks suspiciously the same color as the chicks. Just a comment. The pictures are great so you must’ve mastered chicken wire. Poor old Earl. Done his job, now abandoned. He’ll stick around?

    As for the owls….adorable. They must trust you to let you gaze at them from so close, 30 feet not withstanding. I can see the golden eyes of that cutie, all fluffy and soft looking. Do owls stick close to where they were hatched? We have a group of hawks that live around here, year after year. Same one with a blunt wingtip.

    As usual your story leaves me wanting further info.

    Oops, got to close. This storm is just terrible here. Glad to not be traveling but really sad not to be visiting. Hugs.

    • There’s no way they got to my chicks. Earl did his job, but he killed the results. I just couldn’t handle that. He hasn’t left the yard yet, and stays pretty close to the chicken tractor, the coward. Remember, a zoom lens does wonders for feeling like you’re only 10 feet away. These owls have stayed very near the nest branch so far, but after they fly, I don’t know where they’ll end up. It cleared up here after lunch, and the baseball games were canceled : ( So, no pleasures today.

  7. Great photos as usual. The close up of the “eyes” are a bit eerie. As for those reddish feathers…my first thought was that “Rusty” aka Earl had escaped the pen and suffered the consequences.

      • Roosters will kill the chicks and so will other adult hens. Mom has always put her momma hen w/chicks into a seperate pen and would let them into her garden to forage until they were a lot bigger.

        Watch the top of their heads. If they are roosters, you will very soon feel that little ridge the comb makes from front to back when you stroke their heads. If they are roosters, you will have chicken for a meal probably since they like to fight for dominance.

  8. My in-and-out cats (both neutered, of course) pretty much prevent birds from nesting nearby, but they have made friends with wild critters, and the mama raccoons and possums know where there is always food–especially when they are in a hurry to eat.

    Once the kids are big enough, Mama introduces them to the manna (aka dry cat food) then sneaks away from them to return to the woods and the activities that will bring her back next year with another litter.

    As long as I don’t move round much, they will eat the dry cat food about three feet from me.

  9. These pics are just great – all of them! Baby chickies, too. Don’t you wonder what mama’s saying to that baby in the last photo? I’ve watched the mama mallards spread their wings over their babies, too. It just touches my heart – I think it’s wonderful.

    I’ll tell you what else touched my heart recently – they pulled a big ol’ gator out of my marina! I think they took it over the Brazos Bend. It was about 12′ or so. It’s spring everywhere – they always show up here in spring. There was one in a pool over by a middle school. 😉

    • As a matter of fact, I paid really close attention to what she was saying to them, because she was making soft, low clucking noises that I have never heard her make before. She was absolutely bent down talking to them, and she was saying, “It’s okay, sh sh, be still now. That is just Bayou Woman. She feeds us and is our friend. Hush now. Be still. You’re safe.”

      A 12 footer? That is a big gator, Linda!! I’m glad they removed it rather than just killing it. It’s been around a long time. I failed to mention that my first tour of the morning last week got to hear two bull gators growling at each other out in the marsh. That’s such a unique sound!

  10. Tried three times to leave a comment :/ not fun when it won’t let me post. Maybe I outwitted it this time! I love the owl photos; I have never been so close to them. Thanks for posting them for us.

      • I too have been having trouble. I think it only happens when you have a new post. I have to “Fill in your details or click an icon to log in” (below the reply box) everytime.

        • Steffi, I’m sorry you’re having to do that, but WordPress controls that, I don’t or I would change it. However, if someone who uses this same blog host knows more than I do, I’d be glad to be taught something new making it easier for readers to log in once, comment, and be done with logging in every time. It’s a botheration.

  11. Great shots of Who Dat’s Who Dose.

    Aww, lookit the chicks! What amazing coloration. Granny’s were all Rhode Island Reds and the chicks were yellow.

    • Gue`, they are cute, but now I’m down to one chick. Appears the yellow one must have squeezed through a crack somewhere and disappeared. I’ll just leave it at that. Earl might be let back in the hen house after all!! (to make more babies, that is!)

  12. Saw two great horned ones yesterday in the dark gloomy rain….

    One was the one I been seeing a lot of…..

    And my bat friends are way behind on the skeeters….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *