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.



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.

Important To Know The Symptoms And Dangers Surrounding Retinal Breaks And Detachments

I’ve been on quite a journey in the past six months. Although it did involve some travel, the journey has certainly not been a fun one. In fact, it’s been rather scary. I don’t yet know the outcome of this journey, but I’m hoping if I share its details others might avoid going down the same path.

It started last December, a few days before Christmas. I kept thinking a stray hair was hanging in my eyes and I’d try to brush it away. But it kept returning. I was busy that morning, so I didn’t think too much about it beyond how annoying it was. As the day progressed, the ‘stray hair’ grew into many rapidly flashing black lines, shooting and darting in and out of my left eye’s vision. Still thinking it more irritating than worrisome, I hoped it’d settle down before it drove me crazy.

But it didn’t settle down. It got worse. The black lines began exploding into zillions of bright little black dots, and my vision became blurry, as though Vaseline had been smeared over my eye. It was after medical facilities’ work hours, and although I try to avoid the hospital ER whenever possible, I didn’t know what else to do. After waiting about three hours, I saw a medical doctor, who looked into my eye and couldn’t see anything wrong, but she didn’t have the equipment needed to do a more thorough examination. She said she’d refer me to an ophthalmologist. By this time, the flashing lines had completely subsided, but I still had the opaque blurriness, filled with those teeny-tiny bright black dots.

I awoke with a massive opaque floater, still filled with all those black dots, constantly moving and swirling around, impeding most of my vision. An ophthalmologist’s office called with an appointment for two days later, which was the Friday before Christmas. At that appointment, both of my pupils were dilated, and the ophthalmologist confirmed that I had a retinal tear on the upper left side. I’ve supplemented the doctor’s explanation to give a clearer description.

As our eyes age, the clear vitreous gel that fills the central eye cavity liquefies and separates from the retina. This is a natural occurring event that happens in most people between the age of forty and seventy. When the gel separates, a person will often see floaters—dots, spots or curly lines, which move with the eye. Usually this quickly settles down and everything returns to normal. Sometimes, most often with people who are extremely nearsighted, the retina will tear or detach when the gel separates.

It’s really important to pay attention if this happens to you. I can’t stress that enough—if you experience these symptoms, get it checked out immediately. Go to or call your optometrist, there’s usually one on-call after hours. They’ll be able to check for a break (tear) or detachment and get you the help you need without delay. Some hospital ERs will call in an ophthalmologist, so check that option, as well. A detached retina is a medical emergency, and the longer you wait to have it repaired, the greater the chance of permanent vision loss.

The ophthalmologist had me meet him at the hospital that same day, where he repaired the retinal tear with laser surgery. I sat upright in a chair and leaned into an apparatus vaguely similar to what’s used to test eye pressure. My eye was held in place, somehow, preventing it from moving. The laser procedure wasn’t pleasant; there were lots of bright, flashing lights, but the pain was tolerable and it only took a few minutes to complete.

I was instructed to take it very easy for the next two weeks. No lifting anything, no exercise, no quick movements or turning my head abruptly. I walk fast, I wave my arms fast while I talk (fast), and I’m not big on lying around relaxing. Nor do I readily ask for help, so doing nothing for two weeks was a challenge, but I did the best I could to remember the doctor’s orders.

Two weeks later, at my follow-up visit, the ophthalmologist said the laser repair looked really good. I expressed my concerns about the opaque floater continuing to impair my vision. The black dots in the floater were less bright and there weren’t as many of them, but when combined with the large grey floater in my other eye, my sight was too unstable to chance driving. He felt the condition would improve somewhat over time, but I’d likely always have that new floater. Not what I wanted to hear, but I left his office thinking the worst was over. Little did I know I was only starting this frightening journey with my vision.

In the coming weeks, I’ll explain more about what I’m going through. I really hope by sharing my experience, I can help others learn the symptoms and dangers surrounding retinal breaks and detachments. Please stay tuned. (Next week’s link)


A Little Inconvenience Could Save Your Life

April is Cancer Awareness Month, so perhaps it’s fitting that it’s the month I learned whether or not I have cancer. But I shouldn’t have had to wait four months to find out.
Back in November of last year, while at the doctor’s, she commented that the lab hadn’t received my fecal occult blood test back. The sad truth is, I’m given a fecal occult blood test kit every single year and I never return it. There’s no good reason why. Mostly it’s just too inconvenient. Never mind the slight ick factor of collecting stool samples, there are food restrictions to follow, you have to remember to do the test three times in a row…Blah, blah, blah. Excuses.
My doctor told me about a new test, called FIT (fecal immunochemical test), which was easier to complete and more efficient. She wrote down a requisition for it along with some blood work, and off I went to the lab. When I got home I opened the kit and read the instructions. Much simpler. No food restrictions and only one sample needed. So I did it. And it was super easy.
The next week I got a call from the doctor’s office asking me to make an appointment to discuss my test results. I assumed it had to do with my blood tests. I assumed wrong. The FIT test showed positive for blood in my stool. What does that mean? I asked. Possible cancer, the doctor replied, or precancerous polyps. Either way, it needed checking out so she was requesting an urgent colonoscopy. I didn’t panic or worry or even really think seriously about it. Naturally I discussed the test results with my hubby, and I also told a friend, but decided not to tell anyone else until I knew something definitive. I didn’t want anyone worrying about me, especially not my mom or kids. Besides, I’d be getting the colonoscopy soon, and I’d have my answers. Or so I thought.
December went by in a blur. I was beyond super busy with work; there was Christmas and all that. Then January flew by. We had our vacation and when I got back, I didn’t really have a spare moment to dwell on why I hadn’t been booked yet. And I didn’t concern myself with the possibility of having cancer. Much.
As February went by, every once in awhile, especially when some other family members had their own very real brushes with cancer, an insidious little voice in the back of my mind would whisper, maybe you have cancer too, maybe it’s growing worse every day. I’d immediately quash that voice. After all, I had none of the risk factors for colon cancer except for being over 50 and probably too sedentary.
Come March, on another visit to the doctor, I asked her why I hadn’t been called yet. After all, when we’re talking possible cancer and with the test deemed urgent, waiting over three months didn’t seem right. She agreed and said she’d look into it. The following week while I was away visiting family, the hospital called to schedule. Isn’t that the way it is? I wait three months and they finally call when I’m not there.
Anyway, when I got home I booked the appointment for the Friday of following week and soon received an email with the prep information. Yikes! And I’d thought the previous test was too inconvenient.
One week before the test I needed to stop taking my low-dose ASA and multivitamin. It was also suggested I eat no nuts or seeds for a week. No biggie. The day before my test, I was to have a small breakfast: a bowl of cereal, milk, coffee. That’s what I usually have, so fine. For lunch that day, I was to have something light and clear, such as soup broth, no milk or solids. Again, no problem. I’m not a big eater.
But there were other aspects I worried just a bit about.
My finicky tummy doesn’t do well when it’s empty. Basically the acid tries to eat through my stomach lining, which really hurts. My blood sugars also drop if I don’t eat regularly, making me lightheaded and nauseous. I was concerned too, because of my IBS, that the powerful laxative might cause painful cramps. Then there was the worry about the trip to the hospital after drinking all that laxative. (Wearing Depends was recommended! OMG!!) Funny, I wasn’t worried about actually drinking four litres of PEG (polyethelglycol bowel prep) and I wasn’t worried about the colonoscopy. I wasn’t even the least bit concerned about the test results.
Turns out I worried about all the wrong things.
At 4:30 on the afternoon before the test, I had to start drinking the PEG solution. In the space of two hours, I needed to down two litres. That’s 500 ml every half hour. No problem, right? Wrong. Besides the nasty aftertaste (or maybe because of it), my strong gag reflex was operating on high-alert that day. If only I could chug things down the way my hubby can. Glug, glug, glug and 500 ml are gone. Me, it’s more like sip, sip, gag, sip, sip, gag.  You get the picture.
My stomach actually did just fine being empty. I never once felt hungry or lightheaded, not even after more than 24 hours without food. And I took the Gas-X tablets as recommended, so the acid problem didn’t occur either. And there were no cramps, well, nothing serious. To put it delicately, input was far, far more difficult than output.
The next morning, I had to immediately start back on the PEG solution, needing to finish another two litres by 9:00. I honestly didn’t know how I’d get through it without throwing up. I managed, but I won’t lie, it was rough. By the time we left for the hospital, my insides were as clean as a whistle, and I had no worries about needing Depends. Whew!!
At the hospital, we ran into a little roadblock with the IV, but that’s nothing new with me. After a couple of failed attempts, another nurse was called in. She had me lie on a gurney, wrapped my arm in a hot towel, attached a blood pressure cuff and voila! Veins appeared and the IV needle went in smooth as butter.
They use the IV to administer two medications. One is a pain killer/sedative and the other is this miraculous little drug that removes all memory of the events, even though you remain alert. I’d been given this drug a few years ago while having an endoscopy, and I found it both amazing and a little creepy. One minute I’m chatting with a nurse in the procedure room, the next I’m chatting with a completely different nurse in recovery. Bizarre.
This time it didn’t work quite that slick. I had memories of pain. No recollection of the procedure, just of holding a nurse’s hand and breathing through some serious belly pain. I’m usually quite stoic, but I guess I felt ripped off by that memory and I (nicely) let the recovery nurse know I remembered the pain. She apologized and said that my bowel was unusually twisty and it proved a challenge for the doctor. Of course, my bowel would be twisty. Nothing is ever straightforward with my health or my body, so why should my bowel be any different?
I ate a muffin and drank cranberry juice, then the doctor came by to tell me he had discovered and removed a polyp. One single precancerous polyp. Small and relatively innocuous, but with the potential to become big and nasty if left to its own devices. I felt very fortunate.
Colon cancer is one of the deadliest of cancers. It’s also one of the most treatable – if it’s detected early. So if your doctor suggests you complete a FIT kit, please do yourself the favour of complying. Cancer is far more inconvenient than the test. If you’re over fifty, and most especially if you have other risk factors, ask your doctor about taking the test. Be pro-active with your health. All sorts of pertinent information can be found at screencolons.ca.
You can be sure when the lab tech hands me that FIT kit next year, I will go home and do it. And if my doctor tells me I have to have yet another colonoscopy, I will readily submit myself to the inconvenience of having it. This past scope proved timely and successful. I intend to keep it that way.
Now, fingers crossed for the same positive results on my recent mammography.


Sorry, But Guns Do Kill

I had planned a different post for today, but the need to vent has postponed it.  Normally I try to avoid posting anything here that has to do with politics or religion.  Both subjects are a matter of opinion and I don’t feel the need to share mine.  I’m sure my opinion today won’t be popular with some people, but I’m sharing it anyway.

What got me going was a photo one of my sons posted to Facebook.  This photo was attributed to someone called Adult Humor 18+


I was rather surprised that one of my kid’s would share something like that in light of the many recent shooting tragedies, and I’m sure he had no idea that he’d hit such a nerve with his mom.  He probably figured the saying was funny, catchy, and didn’t really think through the ramifications.  It happens to be a real hot-button topic for me though.

I’m not trying to pose a solution here, the scope of this problem is far beyond my grasp.  And I’m not suggesting a complete weapons ban, although stricter gun control and a ban on automatic assault weapons would go a long way in saving lives.  There is never a reason, ever, for a civilian, no matter how responsible, to own an assault weapon.  Hunters don’t hunt with assault weapons, trap shooters don’t practice with assault weapons.  Assault weapons are used to kill people.  Period.

What annoys me is the way gun proponents try to perpetrate the myth that guns don’t kill.  The saying “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” gets my blood boiling every time.  People kill people with guns more than they kill people with anything else combined.  These are some sad and very sobering stats verified by Snopes:

In 2011, the percentage of weapon types used in homicides throughout the US were as follows:

Firearms: 67.8%

Knives and other cutting instruments: 13.4%

Personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc): 5.7%

Blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc): 3.9%

Other dangerous weapons: 9.2%

Read more at http://www.snopes.com/politics/guns/baseballbats.asp#5k2eeAkCFKQMMpLj.99

Here are some more disturbing facts:

In 2010, there were 19,392 firearm-related suicide deaths, and 11,078 firearm-related homicide deaths in the United States.

Read more at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States

Still say guns don’t kill?

So often I hear the counter argument that people also kill with bats, with knives, with cars and so on.  That’s such a cop-out.  Most definitely, if a person is bent on killing someone they have a multitude of ways to go about it, but few are as deadly as a gun.

Turn a crazed person loose in a shopping mall with a baseball bat and I’m positive that before he can do much damage, a couple of brave bystanders are going to gang tackle him and neutralize the danger.  Give that same person an assault rifle and the only way that scenario is going to end is either by him killing himself or law enforcement doing it for him, but not before he inflicts massive carnage.

And that leads me to a related beef.  Misinformation.  It’s rampant.  With easy access to the internet this misinformation can spread like wild-fire.  Weekly I get emails or see posts on Facebook and Twitter containing blatantly false information, usually about a political party or certain nationalities, but there’s a whole wide range of subjects.  Some are just silly, harmless, but untrue.  More often they’re derogatory and potentially dangerous.  Yet people will blithely and blindly pass the information on without checking to see whether there’s any truth to it.  Granted, there are some people who enjoy maliciously passing on the misinformation, but others naively assume if so-and-so sent it to them, it must be true.  I have to question the mindset and morality of the person who originally composed these slanders.

My request to you is before you pass on such defamatory misinformation, just take a moment to ascertain whether there’s any truth to the story before you hit that send button.  If it doesn’t contain genuine facts, don’t perpetrate the fallacy.  Don’t be irresponsible, think about the ramifications of posting something questionable, even if it’s broached in a humourous way or with catchy phrases.

Trust me, you’ll come off looking much more intelligent.

This week I wrote 4040 words and my wip stands at 45,773 words.