I’ve had the privilege of watching several owl nests in the past few weeks, as I first indicating in my recent post about My First Trip to the Oakland Great Horned Owl Nest. I missed the really cute stage when the birds were tiny babies, and Mom tucked them under her tummy as she sat on their nest. Now the owlets are starting to fledge. My dad came with me to the nest recently, and he made the comment that these owls aren’t Harry Potter’s owls…but wingardium leviosa, they are certainly starting to fly!
I’ve been making at least weekly trips to the nest. The owls have gotten more independent with each trip. When I first found them, they were sitting on their nest. A week later, they were still sitting close to the nest, but they had moved up to a hollow in a slightly higher branch. The next day, they had edged out onto a branch, more than several feet away from the nest. They are such fun to observe. They just sit there, perfectly still and silent. But their heads turns to watch every move that is made below them. Their parents are often asleep in a nearby tree. I guess we’re the baby owls’ entertainment during the day when Mom and Dad are napping!
As soon as the birds are able to move away from the nest, it’s not long before they leave completely. They spend a day or two on nearby branches, gradually working their way higher and higher into the trees. I think the parents leave food higher and higher to encourage their youngsters to move on up. Finally the juvenile birds discover that they have wings, and after that, they are a lot harder to find! (I guess it’s like when your teenager finally gets the car keys….watch out!)
These next two pictures are from a different nest, one that I’ve been watching for over the past several years. Thanks to some nice friends, I found the babies just before they fledged. These were taken on a sunny afternoon as the owlets posed high in the treetops, chuckling at the photographers below. At first I didn’t like the camera angle, but then I realized that it makes me see very different detail in the birds. Look at the talons on the feet of the first guy! I wonder if he yet realizes what to do with those. I bet hunting lessons began soon after I took these pictures.
It can be sad to see these birds fledge after watching over their nests. However, as the spring passes, we have the promise of more owl babies to come. The Burrowing Owls are making their burrows, and I can’t wait to go back to Brian Piccolo Park to get baby shots of their little ones! Soon!