GHO owlets Falling out of the nest a second time
April 20. Growing fast and so are the wings and instinct to get out of the nest and fly. After falling out of a very small nest in early April and being relocated in a new man-made nest on April 13, thanks to the kind care devotion and concern of a lot of people, the two owlets resumed their life in the park. The parents were feeding them well and one could see them growing fast from one day to another. And their followers grew as well. The big guns out in force. Regulars who used the park daily, birders, nature lovers and photographers, a lot of photographers. Some came from more than 100 miles away. 20 to 30 people at peak times. The spring was a bit wet and there were many days when the youngsters looked soaked to the bone and miserable. Those days only ducks were happy. But life went on. Their feathers grew amazingly fast. They were doing a lot of wing stretching and flapping. First signs of 'branching'. Getting close to flight and leaving the nest. Almost ready to fly? Almost. Branching became a daily activity. At first, just a couple of feet away from the nest. Then a few more. Then a branch further out reached with a combination of jumping and half flying. I could tell where they’ve been by spotting the poop marks on branches. It was fun watching them develop. Always together and so close They were two very cute characters. Two brothers that were always very close together, grooming one another and bonding. The natural instinct to fly, wonder and discover the world around them was strong. And of course it happened again. One of them fell out of the nest and was missing. We became very concerned when only one of them was visible in the nest. I got to the park about 3 in the afternoon. It was an ugly day. Rain on and off, drizzling the rest of the time. Said hi to Jeff and Fred, two of the regulars, and we talked about the missing youngster. One of them is missing. Looking for them all over for almost half a day. They looked around the area for a few hours already but could not see any sign of the missing youngster. I started searching also. Couple of other folks showed up to help. We looked close and far. Nothing. It was getting late, after 5. I took another walk around looking and hoping. And then I saw him. Unbelievable. When I looked behind me, there he was. All wet and a bit confused When I looked behind me, there he was. Wet to the bone He was in thick bushes right behind me where we were all the time earlier. On the ground and looking soaking wet and miserable. Looking at me like almost saying “Where have you been? I’m here I and need a little help to get back home with my brother”. Wow, I called Jeff and Fred and they could not believe it. They looked in the same spot for hours and could not see him. He must have been further back in the bushes out of sight. He saw me and we made a connection. Do you think?
A call to Bobby and he's back for another rescue Again a quick call to Bobby Horvath and help was on the way. We kept an eye on the youngster. Got really worried when a couple with a big dog NOT on a leash walked by. With a security detail of four guys, the owl had nothing to worry about. And then we spotted the mother. I think she knew all along where her son was. They connected and the youngster started to walk away from us heading into thick brush and out of sight. Just for a minute or two. Within the hour Bobby arrived. By this time the young owl was up on a fallen trunk in thick brush. Bobby and Fred with the lost owlet Not a problem for Bobby. He went in got him and brought him out. We kept an eye on the mother. She might take some action to protect her baby. Everything was fine. Bobby checked him for any broken bones and gave us a thumbs up. One last check and a bit of cleaning. The two of them should know each other by now Ready to go up? I'm smiling and so happy to have found him. He just wants to go home A bit of cleaning from all the mud on the feathers and he was ready to get back up. Since I was the one who found him Bobby let me hold him for a few minutes while he got the ladder up by the nest. Then we let him on the ground for a bit. Even though very young not afraid to challenge anyone. Tough guy he was. He put on a mean face, puffed up his feathers making himself look big and threatening. He didn’t fool any of us. What a character. And then it was time to rejoin his brother. We all went home feeling good and relieved. It was a good day.
Back home This second fall was only 11 days after the first one. Amazing to see how fast they grew in such a short time. This fall was more in line with what was expected. 'Branching' out farther and farther and farther Them branching out and leaving the nest even though they did not fledge. Sure enough, a week or so later they were gone from the nest. This time we did not make a rescue call.
The boundary barricades were taken away. The crowd of followers thinned out quickly. A few of us, concerned, were still looking for them. For a few days they were not to be seen. April 28. A day or two after saying goodbye to the nest. Then they were found, in opposite parts of the meadow. Mostly roosting on a branch, practicing flying and calling for the mother at dusk. On the ground after a fall. Using their claws to climb back up. They were pretty flexible and resilient Within a week or so they were flying regularly, doing pretty good although the landings were still a skill to be developed. And then they got back together. A family again.
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GHO owlets Bonding brothers
Getting bigger by the day. Early April I am not sure of the exact day the first egg hatched but I am pretty sure the second one was not more than a day or two behind. These two owlets spent the early days close together in a very small nest. They were always in touch of one another except on a day or two in March when the temperature reached 80+ and they were overheating with all that down fur on them. I got to see them and their parents (mostly the mother) almost every day for a few hours for about five months. A lot of things happened to this owl family as I wrote in other posts. T Always time for a kiss hroughout their young lives I was amazed at the loving feelings and emotions they showed for one another. And for the mother and mother for them. I’ve seen those emotions in dogs and cats, in deer and in other wildlife. I’ve seen many birds, mostly in my backyard, taking care and protecting offspring. But I have never seen the level of love this owl family expressed. To me what distinguishes them from the rest is the eyes and facial expression. And what eyes do they have!
The owlets showed this emotion from an early age. Even when only a month old I could see how affectionate they were with one another. Feeding time was not fighting time. Mother GHO giving some love. Fledgling returning mother's love. There’s nothing like a mother’s love and care. The love in her eyes as she looked over her babies was unmistakable. Occasionally the father would roost near the nest but I have never seen him feeding or spending time in the nest.
You're so nice to me! Love you brother As they got older I think their love and affection only grew. In the man-made nest they were easily see them. So many times they just liked to be tight together. Looking into each other’s eyes. Kissing, touching beaks, preening one another. When branching came I could see the first one encourage his brother to join him on the branch.
After they fledged they got separated for a short while. Then they found each other agin. Roosting during the day in close proximity. As dusk approached they would roost together. Most times touching one another. Finding comfort in touch. These feelings stayed with them even when they were bigger boys. Not a fight. Just friendly grabbing and touching. Not a fight. Just friendly grabbing and touching. Sometimes they got together on the same branch and, to the passing observer, it looked as if they were fighting. Wings speed and flapping, claws out, jostling for position. Not so. It was just loving play. After the ‘fight’ I saw them settle down next to one another, kiss and shake hands. Claws that is. June 6. A clear change in the feathers They stayed together till almost the last time I saw them, about six months since birth. By August they were not to be found. They either went to other parts of the park or they might have left to find their own home miles away.
While they were extremely close in these few months, I doubt that they stayed together afterward. They are not communal birds and even as paired adults they are not really that close. I hope they find love in a mate. Being males, and later as fathers, they might become distant and cold with the kids. I hope they don’t forget one another and the loving time they shared together as they became young adults.
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GHO owlets Feeding time
As the youngsters fledged, most of the feeding took place before sunrise or at dusk. I witnessed a few feedings about half an hour before sunset. Finding them proved a slight challenge. They roosted most of the day and hardly moved so spotting them in the trees was never easy. If sitting on a branch somewhat in the open, an easy find. If roosting in the middle of the tree, in a leafy area, very difficult to find. Many times the loud alarm calls from Blue Jays and Robins would point me to the right tree.
Feed me, feed me! So just before sunset the two fledglings would wake up and would start to move around a bit and get agitated. They would jump or fly from one branch to another intensely looking for a parent. From my observations it was the mother. And they would call her constantly. The usual call was a harsh repeated sheik lasting about a second or so. A food-begging call. That would go on for about 30 minutes. If the mother was spotted, the youngsters would jump and fly over to her. Many times she had no food for them. When she did bring food it usually was a bird. That’s when the fledglings would go into a frenzy. Both of them would try and get to her first to get the meal. There would be a bit of ‘elbowing and pushing’ going on. Chasing mom for a meal. Where is my meal? In the early days just after fledgling, the mother would still ‘baby feed’ them smaller bits of the pray on the branch. As they got bigger one of them would win the elbowing and pushing and grab the bird for himself and fly to a nearby branch for a meal in private. Mother GHO bringing pray for the fledglings. Second fledgling coming in to claim his share. The other fledgling never challenged the other for the meal. Lucky fledgling got this one Looking for another spot All gone On a couple of occasions I saw one of them with parts of a squirrel in its claws. I don’t think it was caught by one of them. The squirrel would put up a good fight and the young owls were too inexperienced to make a proper kill.
Not much of a meal but it will have to do. As they got bigger, they became more independent and hunting on their own was the norm. The food-calls were fewer and fewer. There was plenty of pray in the park. It's going to take a while to finish this off! Lots of Robins and Starlings foraging on the ground. Rodents and small rabbits also abundant. And of course squirrels. They were very hungry in the first three or four months but later on as the growth slowed a bit, so did the hunger. GHOs are very opportunistic predators adapting to what their territory offers. So it was a bit unusual when I saw them try to eat some leaves. Or maybe they were just imagining devouring a mouse?
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