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4.9.17  Thanks to a lead, I arrived at a Great Horned Owl nest east of the Deschutes River just in time to see the incubation stage.  This is Mom, sitting on the nest.  Dad is in a nearby tree watching my every move.  Fortunately for me, this nest is just off a quiet road, so I grab a couple of quick shots, then leave so I don’t disturb the family.

4.20.17  I began the day at sunrise from Catherine Creek before heading out to the Great Horned Owl nest.

I find Mama still incubating.  Great Horned Owls incubate for 30 to 37 days and typically use the old nest of another large bird.  Thanks to a resident who stopped to chat with me, I learned that the owl and a Red-tailed Hawk fight over this nest and another about a mile down the road each year.

I searched for and found Dad in a tree near the nest.  I know if there’s a Mama in the nest, Dad is likely nearby.  He keeps the family fed while she keeps the family warm.  When the chick is old enough to stay home alone, both parents hunt.

4.23.17  Mama still incubating and Dad was hunting in the distance.  Yes, in broad daylight!  Great Horned Owls eat a smorgasbord of mammals, birds, and reptiles.  The list is longer than any of my other raptors in this series.  I offer a link for you at the bottom of this post.

5.2.17   Great Horned Owl still in nest……..WAIT!  Is that a chick???

YES!  A fuzzy little Great Horned Owlet joins the family, I’m so excited to see it!!

5.4.17   I try to drive by slowly, stopping barely long enough to snap a few pictures and move on.  I am thrilled to see the owlet’s fuzzy little face.  There is a shoulder I can park on, but I can’t see the nest from there.  It’s all I can do to not park my car in the middle of the road and just watch!

5.11.17   Little Owlet misses nothing as I slowly drive by.  The nestling period for a Great Horned Owl is 42 days.  If this nest weren’t so far from home I’d be here every one of those 42 days!

Great Horned Owl parent watches me from a field.  Like most raptors, the female is larger than the male, so I think this is Mom.

I drive to a nearby Red-tailed Hawk nest, observe for an hour or so, then return to the owlet on my way back down to the river.  This has become my pattern allowing me to see the owlet twice without too much disturbance.

5.15.17   Mama gets some sleep while Junior keeps an eye out.

5.19.17  From time to time I park on the shoulder and try to peer around trees.  With my brown pants and green hoodie I get into the character of a tree.  Junior doesn’t buy it, so I leave.

5.23.17  I arrive to an EMPTY nest!  The Owlet is too young to fly away but I know they can climb in and out of their nest at 5 weeks.  I search but can’t find him and more worrisome is I find neither parent around.  I park and walk the entire length of this hardwood forest to no avail.

5.25.17   As I drive slowly by, searching the area for Junior again, I suddenly spot him high on a branch!  Two days ago I don’t remember if I looked UP so I have to laugh at myself!

He was more easily seen on my drive back down to the river after checking nearby nests.  Yes plural!  Today a woman stopped to chat for a moment and shared the location of yet another Red-tailed Hawk nest.  Thank you!!

5.30.17  The Great Horned Owlet continues to mature each time I find him.  Owls are silent when they fly and their feathers are oh so soft.  Most raptor rehabilitation centers have a ‘Birds of Prey’ program where you can see for yourself.

Owls can live long lives ~ I believe I read one was found that was 28 years old in the wild; and in captivity one turned 50 at a zoo.  Those admitted to rehabilitation centers have typically been hit by a car, shot, electrocuted, or caught in barbed wire.  They can also starve if food sources are scarce.

6.3.17   I leave most mornings in time to see the sun come up on my way to check nests.

Each morning I wonder if the Owlet will still be here.  Yes!  There he is, perched on a branch closer to the field than to the road.

On my way back down he’s perched on a different branch, close enough to see those long sharp talons.

6.8.17   Today was gray, rainy, and looked pretty miserable for the little Owlet.

6.10.17  I saw a parent sitting on a snag near the field, but didn’t see the Owlet, so decided to park and look around.  You can barely see the parent, he blends in so well with his environment.

All of a sudden, the Owlet burst out in front of me and took off in flight.  Sorry little guy, didn’t mean to startle you!!

He flew across the field….

…and landed near some pretty wildflowers.  Soon he’ll fly away and not look back.

6.13.17   The Owlet is getting more and more difficult to locate, but yay, I found him again.  I’m grateful this road gets so little traffic, and I apologize to the residents if I ever block your lane.

On my way down the hill, he was more out in the open, but started to climb down the branch at my arrival.  I want to emphasize that I try my best to not interfere, interrupt or otherwise disrupt any activity, so I quickly move on.

6.15.17  Another day of rain, but at least it’s a light rain.  Owlet continues to mature.

6.17.17  My last sighting of the Owlet was a warm and sunny day.  Had I known this was my last opportunity with him, I’d have stayed a little longer soaking in those beautiful feathers and mesmerizing eyes.  I can only hope that I get this lucky again next year…..

For more information about Great Horned Owls:  Cornell’s All About Birds, Audubon, and International Owl Center  There are many more pages to check, these will get you started.

The introductory post in this series where you’ll find links to my other nests as I post them is Empty Nest

 

Empty Nest

July 20, 2017

Empty Nest….a phrase with multiple meanings, but in my case quite literally.

I followed seven raptor nests from birth (incubation) until graduation (fledge) this season.  An arduous task barely completed, but I’m ready to show you my journey.

I followed three Red-tailed Hawk nests, (Nest #1, Nest #2 and Nest #3)

…a Great Horned Owl, (link to post here)

…Prairie Falcon triplets (link to post here),

…Peregrine Falcon triplets  (link to post here),

…and a Bald Eagle (link to post here).

I’ve followed nests before, but not this consistently or with as much determination; and never from beginning until end.  I did a ‘nest check’ every 4 to 5 days in the beginning, then every 3 to 4, then 2 to 3 days until the raptors were close to fledging when I checked every other day….and sometimes every day!

Starting mid to late March with a couple of nests, I picked up more as I went along.  My last day was July 4th when the Bald Eaglet fledged (I now call him ‘Freedom’, of course!)  Some days I shot thousands of photos, some days only a few, depending on circumstances at each nest site.

What got me started you ask?  I participate in a raptor survey each winter for East Cascades Audubon Society.  This winter I noticed empty nests through branches of deciduous trees and decided to keep my eye on them.  I also noticed a Prairie Falcon perched at the opening of a ‘stick’ nest high on a cliff that was likely occupied by Ravens last season.  A couple of people gave me leads for other nests when they heard about my project and I followed up on those.  Only one location was on private land and I’m grateful for owner permission to enter that gate.

Special thanks to mentor cjflick on this project.  She showed me many historical falcon sites and while together one day, we observed Peregrine Falcons flying into a known location that was formerly a Red-tailed Hawk nest.  She is also instrumental in my education as I travel through this wondrous adventure, always available for my many questions!

Also thanks to Rowena Wildlife Clinic who I called on several heartbreaking occasions.  Leigh put my mind at rest, told me what to expect and how to handle what I observed in the morning before most of my friends were even out of bed.

If you want to learn more about these amazing raptors there are many sources.  I used Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds,  The Crossley ID Guide, took a fabulous Raptor ID class from Dick Ashford at Winter Wings, followed up with many questions to mentors cjflick and others; and chased down each bit of information I came across.  I’ve learned much, but mostly learned I still have much to learn.

I tell the story of each nest as I lived the adventure.  I tend to personify or anthropomorphize so forgive me if I call ‘my raptors’ he or she, Mom or Dad; or even suggest a human relationship action that may not be accurate in the real world of raptors.  I appreciate corrections for any mistakes, comments, and additions that you care to give.

Just so you know, I use a 150 to 600 mm zoom lens and my photos are all cropped.  Most of my nests were photographed from my car without disturbing the raptors in any way.   It’s unethical to bait, lure, flush or otherwise disturb wildlife and in some situations illegal … especially when nesting or raising young.  I also don’t use bird calls from my phone apps to lure or engage.  My goal in this series of posts is to share the stages of each nest with the hope of educating and building respect for these creatures that we share the planet with.

All my photos are now loaded, I simply have to add written content…a task that would be so much easier if I could read my notes.  And if I’d dated my notes.  And if I hadn’t let them get rained on….you get the gist!

 

 

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