Our Great Horned Owl Nestlings Become Fledglings!

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.

Very aware.

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.

 

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The 2019 Season of Owls

My first indication that we had newcomers to the neighbourhood came by text from our next-door-neighbour, late in January. He wanted me to know there was an owl in his big, old pine tree, so we should keep a close eye on Georgie and Bella, our four-pound dogs. It soon became apparent a pair of Great Horned Owls had appropriated an old crow’s nest in that tree.

From our carport, using binoculars, we could catch glimpses of the female on the nest.

Needless to say, the crows were very unhappy about the situation. Although they weren’t nesting yet, themselves, they didn’t want the owls around, and they tried mightily to drive them off. They’d swarm the tree en masse, over and over, cawing and screeching, (triggering my Hitchcock’s “The Birds” ptsd) but their efforts went for naught, and the owls stayed put.

A part of me was super excited to have the owls nearby. I hoped to see them fly, and to watch their owlets grow. Another part of me was nervous about having these predatory creatures around my tiny dogs. Friends and family began warning me of the dangers, and my concern grew daily, so I put in a call to conservation. The conservation officer confirmed there was potential danger, albeit not huge. He suggested never leaving the pups outside by themselves. Going out with them was inconvenient, but being winter, they were in and out quickly, so it wasn’t that bad. We set up a covered pen to keep the pups corralled.

The tarp terrified Georgie, so it didn’t stay on long. Because we were always right beside them, we figured an open pen would be safe enough.

Often while out with the dogs late at night, I’d hear the owls hooting back and forth; the female in the neighbour’s tree, the male from other nearby yards. It got so I could recognize their calls. The male had a deeper hoot, and the female’s was higher and faster. They were loud too, sometimes waking me up very early in the morning.

Great Horned owls typically lay one to three eggs in late January, a single egg every two-three days, although there can be as much as a week between laying. Incubation takes about a month, with the owlets arriving at the beginning of March. Their eyes stay closed for up to eleven days.

From our carport, we kept a steady watch on the nest using binoculars, and the female was always setting. Sometimes she’d be snoozing, but often she’d look right back at us, very aware of her surroundings.

Mid-March, our neighbour texted to say he’d spotted a baby. Unable to see into the nest from our carport, I visited our neighbour’s yard about ten days later. Usually the male owl didn’t roost in the same tree, but because the crows were being so persistently aggressive, he must’ve decided to hang around that day, much to my delight. It was my only opportunity to see the handsome guy.

There were two owlets visible, and I almost melted when I saw the wee balls of fluff. At this stage, they’re called nestlings.

And already so fierce looking, despite the downy plumage.

I had yet to see the mama leave the nest, although both parents would be out hunting throughout the night to feed the growing owlets. The adults’ resounding hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo became a routine occurrence, from ten pm to five am.

Two days after I’d photographed the owlets, I was in our backyard with Hubby and the pups. I didn’t usually let them run loose, but that day they were. Suddenly my neighbour yelled a heads-up to me, and I turned to see the female owl flying toward me. I mean – right toward me. My first thought was, she’s after one of my dogs. Before I could react, she’d flown by, her wings mere feet from my head.

Turns out, she wasn’t interested in me or my pups. To divert the pesky crows from the nesting tree, she’d flown to another big tree two doors down. I just happened to be in her flightpath. The crows made a hasty and noisy pursuit. More and more gathered as they swarmed the tree.

These were taken April 4th, so the owlet was likely about four weeks old. What incredible changes in less than two weeks. And just like its mama, it was very aware of me.

Its tiny ear tuffs were already starting to appear.

A few days later, we spotted Mama perched on a branch, enjoying a snooze in the sun.

She soon realized we were watching her, even though we were in our own yard.

Great shots of her ear tuffs.

Over the next week, I tried photographing the owlets from my carport, but it was difficult through the branches.

Their plumage began to change, taking on more mature colours.

Around this time we discovered there were actually three owlets. The youngest one must’ve hatched much later than the other two.

Meanwhile, Mama began to enjoy daily alone-time away from the nest.

An owlet can be seen in this one, to the lower right.

At six weeks old, the nestlings were about to become fledglings, and that’s when things really got cute. Click here for fledgling pics and stories.

Recovering From Ahmed Valve Implant Surgery

I’ve been talking recently about the ongoing complications from a vitreous hemorrhage in my right eye, in April 2017. Catch up with current posts here, or start at the beginning of my journey here. These earlier articles contain pertinent information about retinal detachments and the serious problems that can arise.

Last week I described my Ahmed valve implant surgery. It takes eight full weeks to recover from this surgery, although the first two-three weeks are certainly the toughest. And rushing the process could put its success in peril, so don’t risk it.

For two weeks after surgery, do nothing that might exert pressure on the eye. No lifting of any type, gentle walking only, no housework, and no sexual activity. It’s even suggested to avoid getting constipated. So, seriously, no exertion.

It’s also important not to lean forward or tilt your head down. I had to sleep on my back or non-surgical side, propped up by several pillows for four weeks. I wore my eye shield to bed for a month, as well, as it’s crucial not to rub the eye.

Immediately after surgery, there was minimal swelling and redness. My eyelid drooped quite a bit, which is a protective response.

Day two:

Day four, redness quite apparent around the surgery site:

I saw my ophthalmologist one week after surgery. My ocular pressure was down to 9, which is low. He instructed me to cut back my eye drops to Latanoprost with Timolol, once a day.

Day nine, not much had changed.

The valve (a white rectangle) is barely visible under the inflamation:

I couldn’t bake goodies or decorate my house for Christmas—I didn’t even have a tree. I made the best of it, but my Christmas spirit was definitely lacking.

A pressure check, seventeen days post-op, came out a perfect 15 in both eyes. My eyelid was still droopy and swollen, and my eye continued to be quite uncomfortable. It sometimes felt itchy, sometimes gritty. The constant sharp pain was diminishing, but it still woke me up at night and throbbed badly if I leaned forward.

At four weeks post-op, it’s okay to start activities requiring light exertion. No heavy lifting or doing anything strenuous. If it affects your breathing, don’t do it.

At my four-week follow-up, my ocular pressure had elevated to 24. My ophthalmologist put me back on Brimonidine eye drops, twice a day. He thought the valve looked good:

My eyelid was still droopy. He explained that it’s protecting the eye, and as the eye heals, the eyelid position should improve. However, sometimes it remains lower than the other eye, especially if there’s been numerous surgeries, such as in my case.

With permission from the surgeon, we spent a week in Mexico one month after surgery. As a concession to my recovery, we slowed the pace of our long daily walks. Only once, climbing Mirador de La Cruz, did I feel serious eye pain and realized I was pushing it. A few minutes of rest and a gentler pace allowed me to carry on, pain-free.

At my six-week follow-up, my ocular pressure was 23, so hadn’t dropped despite increasing the eye drops. My ophthalmologist was concerned whether the valve was working properly, so faxed a letter to the surgeon in Vancouver. Sometimes a valve has to be readjusted surgically in the weeks following implant.

I flew to Vancouver two weeks later. Thankfully, my son came to my rescue again, chauffeuring me around and giving me his bedroom. At the appointment, the surgeon said my implant looked good and had healed well. My pressure was still 23, and he explained it might be unstable for up to a year, and I might always have to use eye drops. I told him the eye pain had started to fade around seven weeks post-op. He said that’s approximately when the stitches are completely dissolved.

A week later (two months post-op), the pressure reading was 24. I could now resume all activities, no matter how strenuous.

Three months post-op, the pressure reading was 25.

Four months post-op, the pressure reading was 17. Totally normal. It’s too soon to say if it’s stabilized, but I’m hopeful. I want to believe, after going through the ordeal of that surgery, that there’ll be one positive outcome in this long journey.

Click here for my final article, where I conclude my thoughts on my progress and go over some important information about eye health.

An Ahmed Valve Implant To Treat Glaucoma

I’ve been talking recently about the ongoing complications from a vitreous hemorrhage in my right eye, in April 2017. You can catch up with current posts here, or start at the beginning of my journey here. These earlier articles contain pertinent information about retinal detachments and the serious problems that can arise.

Last week I discussed stopping treatment for ocular hypertension and allowing my eye to go blind. After careful contemplation, I agreed to consult with a surgeon in Vancouver about having a shunt implanted. The consultation appointment was set for three weeks later, at the end of October 2018.

A friend agreed to stay with our puppies – the first time we’d ever left them. And our son kindly put us up at his apartment in Vancouver. The drive over the mountains was unexpectedly snowy.

We strolled around my son’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood.

And enjoyed visiting him and his girlfriend.

A field vision test was performed at the appointment to confirm how much vision I still had. I looked into a dark tube and clicked a clicker every time I saw a light flash. First using my right eye, and then my left. I expected the surgeon to say I didn’t have enough vision to warrant doing the surgery. Instead, he strongly recommended it. He didn’t go into detail about the surgery, other than to say a tube would be placed in my eye cavity to help with fluid drainage. When I read the information sheets describing the surgery and recovery period, I realized how complex the entire procedure would be. Consequently, I left Vancouver still unsure whether to proceed or not.

At least the drive home was better. Clouds, but no snow.

I spoke with my ophthalmologist and family doctor, and they both felt I should have the surgery to preserve what little sight I still had in my right eye (which is important because my left eye is also visually and structurally compromised), as well as for the overall health of my eye. After considering this advice, I decided it’d be in my best interest to go forward with it.

Surgery was booked for December 11th, and I was told I’d have to stay in Vancouver for a week. We had to take the puppies with us, which meant we couldn’t stay at my son’s apartment. His girlfriend generously offered us her place, while she and her cat moved in with my son. I blogged about our stay, including photos, here.

The actual surgery was probably the most pain-free I’ve had so far. I asked not to be given a sedative, so the anesthesiologist didn’t even insert an IV. Instead of freezing my eye with needles (big ouch), a substance was instilled directly onto the eye (teeny, tiny ouch). This was reapplied several times during the procedure. The device implanted is called an Ahmed Valve. A tube goes from the eye cavity to a plate attached to the exterior white sclera of my eye, which then disperses the drained fluid. Pain was minimal throughout the surgery. Arrival to departure took two hours, surgery about forty-five minutes.

Throughout the day, my eye grew progressively more painful, and it leaked bloody tears nonstop, which, apparently, is not uncommon. By evening, the tears had turned clear, but were still profuse, also running inside my nose.

At my follow-up appointment the next morning, everything looked good and my ocular pressure was down (I don’t know the number). Fluid continued to leak, mostly into my nasal canal, and the eye was quite sore. If I accidentally tilted my head down (big no-no), the pain really ratcheted up.

The eye pain continued to worsen on the third day, although the leaking was diminishing. The following morning, I got the good news I could go home the next day. The bad news was that my ocular pressure had climbed to 28, which is high. The surgeon told me to expect fluctuations. As previously directed, I had stopped using the hypertension eye drops before surgery, and was now told to resume them.

The recovery period for this type of surgery is not easy. The slow, painful process took many long weeks, and I’ve detailed this in my next post here.

Two Puppies, One Lap

It’s a given, if I’m sitting down, I have a dog on my lap. It’s been that way for years. For the last eight months, however, I’ve had two puppies and only one lap. We got Georgie (brown and white Chihuahua) first, and she’s always been a snuggler. When Bella (black and white Papillon/terrier) came along, Georgie had to learn to share. It was easy at first, because they were both very little.

As they got bigger, things got a little tighter, but we talking less than ten pounds total, so not really an issue.

They even share my lap in the car.

Sometimes, they’re content to snuggle beside me, as long as we’re all together.

And although mine is their go-to lap, they’re happy to cuddle with Hubby, too.

Or my boys, if they’re around.

When they were younger, Georgie and Bella would snuggle together in their bed if no lap was available.

As they got bigger, I thought they’d be more comfortable in their own beds. At first Bella didn’t agree. She’d move her bed next to Georgie’s, then sort of worm her way over.

Usually if I’m on the computer, Georgie is on my lap, and Bella uses the nearby bed.

It gets tricky when, for some reason, Bella thinks she should also be up on my lap.

This only works if I’m scrolling Twitter or newsfeeds, and don’t need to type. When I’m using the keyboard, even Georgie usually gets down. Somehow she always manages to scoop the bed away from Bella, and Bella quietly moves to the mat by my feet. Which is strange because Bella is the bigger and more aggressive of the two.

On the rare occasion, Bella won’t move right away, so Georgie just sits there until she wins.

Every morning, they can be found on my lap right after Hubby leaves for work. I’m drinking coffee in my housecoat and catching up on the news headlines, and my two little girls are snuggled in tight. Makes it hard to get up and start my day. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my puppies!

 

Another Vacation Ends With A Whimper

On our final full day in Puerto Vallarta, we’d planned to relax at the resort. Maybe even laze around the pool. Hubby did do some poolside snoozing, but it wasn’t the way we’d envisioned.

The previous evening, he’d had more than his usual drink or two, and I commented that he might regret it. Not surprising, during the night he became ill. He continued feeling very sick the entire day, and spent it horizontal, leaving me to entertain myself between regular checks on him.

This big guy put on a show in the iguana tree that morning.

The estuary was covered in a mysterious ugly film.

This juvenile striated heron didn’t seem impressed with the nasty yuck either.

I killed time snapping pictures. Front entrance:

Palapa lobby:

Aires del Mar buffet:

Refreshment station by the buffet:

Fusion a la carte:

Snack bar by day, Guacamajazz a la carte by night:

Activity pool – our first room, on the fourth floor, is in the upper left-of-center behind the palm frond:

Adult pool:

The grounds are limited, though clean and attractive.

Our second room balcony, on the third floor, one down from the top.

Walkway along beach wall:

Hurakenna Bar:

To the beach:

Hallway to the lobby and outside:

We always used the stairs. With my vision issues, the spiral ones were tricky.

The set closest to our room were easier.

Cruise ship arriving:

The estuary water cleared up midafternoon.

Snowy egret’s cute yellow feet:

Cormorant striking a pose:

Canadian flag on the beach:

Attessa IV, the 328-foot yacht we’d previously seen on the way to the marina:

Mouth of estuary from the beach:

Cormorant still standing guard:

Second time spotting this yellow-crowned night-heron:

A juvenile night-heron was nearby:

Beach entertainment:

Hubby felt well enough to join me for dinner, although he only had soup.

Night lights of PV, poorly captured:

Palapa lobby lights:

The evening entertainment, Showtime, highlighted movies.

These guys got big cheers:

Three iguanas in the tree on our last morning:

With Hubby mostly recovered, I wanted to explore the beach on the other side of these rocks. I made it a couple of feet before freezing. Because of my distorted vision, I couldn’t judge whether to step up or down, take a big step or small. We reluctantly determined it wasn’t safe to proceed. I was super disappointed.

The plane ride home had severe turbulence, and to my complete mortification, I threw up for five hours straight. Hubby and the flight attendant were incredibly helpful and sympathetic. Obviously, Hubby’s illness the day before had been food poisoning or a stomach bug, and that same fate had struck me. That made it the fourth time happening to him on a trip and third time for me. Unfortunately, these were the only souvenirs I brought home:

Click here for my first post on our trip.

The Sculptures of Puerto Vallarta’s Malecón

We’ve visited Puerto Vallarta’s Malecón three times, with our kids in 2008, in 2012, and again last month. It was redesigned in 2011, making it more aesthetically pleasing and pedestrian friendly. With a recent extension, it runs southward for about a mile from 31 Octubre Street to Los Muertos Beach.

The first sculpture erected on the Malecón was “The Boy on the Little Seahorse” by Rafael Zamarripa (1976). It’s one of PV’s most recognizable landmarks.

“Puerto Vallarta” has been erected beside it, making it a very busy photo spot.

The spiraling “The Millennia” by Mathis Lídice (2001) stands at the north-end of the Malecón.

My crew, in 2008. I’m on the right, with the frizzy hair.

Amazingly, an albatross is perched atop the sculpture in both my 2012 and 2019 photos!

2012:

2019:

“Good Fortune Unicorn” by Anibal Riebeling (2011)

“Nostalgia” by Ramiz Barquet (1984) was one of the earliest sculptures on the Malecón.

“The Subtle Rock Eater” by Jonas Gutierrez (2006)

“The Roundabout of the Sea” by Alejandro Colunga (1997). Also a popular photo op.

“In Search of Reason” by Sergio Bustamante (1999)

Tourists often foolishly climb the ladder, and apparently in 2008, so did my bratty kid.

“Triton and the Mermaid” by Carlos Espino (1990)

“The Friendship Fountain” by James “Bud” Bottoms (1987)

“Vallarta Dancers” by Jim Demetro (2006). It’s had a paint job since we last saw it.

2012:

2019:

“Standing on End” by Blu Maritza Vasquez (2007). Resembles giant sea urchins.

My guys, in 2008.

San Pascual Bailon, patron saint of cooks, by Ramiz Barquet (2008). To honor chefs worldwide.

“Origin & Destiny” by Pedro Torres Tello (2011)

“Angel of Hope and Messenger of Peace” by Héctor Manuel Montes (2008). We missed the sculpture this trip, but photographed it in 2008.

“The Washer Woman” by Jim Demetro (2008)

“The Fishermen” by Jim Demetro & Christina Demetro (2018). A new piece on the southern extension of the Malecon.

Not really a sculpture, perhaps this tree and presents are only around during the Christmas season.

We hardly saw any sand art this trip, just these two.

And this old guy, who was a little worse for wear.

I’ve only included the sculptures we saw along the Malecón; there’s more we didn’t see. We saw the following sculptures at nearby locations:

“Come on Bernardo!” by Jim Demetro (2014). It’s a newer sculpture, at Lázaro Cárdenas Park off Los Muertos Beach.

Ignacio L. Vallarta, PV’s namesake, by Miguel Miramontes Carmona (1964) in Plaza de Armas.

“Solar Framework” by Antonio Nava (1987) by the Cuale River bridge to the island.

“Minstrel’s Corner” by Ramiz Barquet (1999) on Galeana Street.

“The Fisherman” by Ramiz Barquet (1996) at the intersection of Libertad, Agustin Ramirez and Insurgentes in downtown Puerto Vallarta.

I got much of my information from these two websites, which give an interesting and detailed background on each sculpture.

http://visit-vallarta.com/discover/landmarks/malecon-boardwalk-sculptures/

https://www.puertovallarta.net/what_to_do/sculptures-statues-around-puerto-vallarta

For my vacation wrap-up click here. Catch up from the trip’s beginning here.