As I discussed in my last post, (click here for nestling pics) we were privileged to have a Great Horned owl family nest in our neighbourhood, giving us the incredible experience of watching three owlets grow from wee nestlings to sturdy fledglings. From mid-March to mid-April, we’d only caught glimpses of the owlets in the big crow’s nest next door. So imagine our excitement when we spotted this little one sitting out on a branch. Mama owl is to its right, and another owlet is in the nest, on the lower right.
This stage of development is known as branching, and the young fledglings, about six weeks old, hadn’t learned to fly yet. Hubby named this brave little one, Wanda.
Later that same day, Wanda’s sibling joined her for a super cute photo-op. Hubby named the second one, Heather.
Meanwhile, the youngest sibling who Hubby named Yon, remained safely in the nest. The names were Hubby’s play on “wander, hither and yon.”
The older two siblings began venturing out on a daily basis, and Hubby set up a chair, so he could watch the antics in comfort, using a camera and tripod to catch some excellent shots.
Although Mama no longer sat in the nest, we could usually spot her close by.
Sometimes she’d sit in the sun.
The baby yawns were too adorable.
From the start, the owlets were alert and very cognizant of their surroundings. They did a comical head bob if they spotted us watching them. They also intently tracked the movements of our little dogs, which was both amusing and disconcerting.
Look up, way up, and you’ll see the youngest owlet, Yon.
It started branching a full week later than the other two.
At about seven weeks old, Wanda and Heather began to practice flapping their wings, fly-hopping from branch to branch.
Sleeping baby. (Check out those talons!)
A sixth sense would somehow warn it of our presence.
Wanda and Heather were often together.
I’d hoped to capture a shot of all three owlets, but poor little Yon was always alone. It looked so lonely.
Some great close-ups. Such captivating eyes.
Owlets can fly short distances at nine-ten weeks, and are already as big as their parents. We didn’t get to see any of the babies actually fly. We knew the older two were leaving though, during the last week of April, because we often couldn’t find them in the tree. These photos, taken on April 30th, were the last time we saw Wanda and Heather (and mama).
Yon made one final, lone appearance the next day, then it too was gone.
It’s rather funny how emotionally invested we’d become in those three little lives, and how much we missed them when they left. For days, maybe weeks, we’d glance at the tree whenever we went outside, hoping against hope that one might come back for a visit. But nope, all we have left are our memories, a couple hundred photos, several comical videos, and a few feathers that our pup, Bella, had collected in the yard.
We’ve started letting our little dogs venture outside alone again, now that the owls are gone. But I still pen them and stay with them after dark, and I always will, now that I know what danger might be lurking in the shadows. Despite the worry and inconvenience, we’d gladly welcome the mating owls back next January, but it’s my understanding that the nest deteriorates so much during one season of use by a Great Horned owl that it can rarely be used again. The owls don’t build their own nests, preferring to take over an established one, so they’ll likely choose another location next year. Therefore, we’ll be thankful for, and lucky to have had, our one season of owls.