Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lookin' in all the Wrong Places

We have enjoyed the appearances of barred owls at our campsite for the past three years. The first year we saw the baby owls they almost felt like family. They would sit on branches near our campsite for long periods of time, watching us watch them. When Ken took picture after picture of them, his camera shutter clicking away, they just sat there and posed. It didn't seem like the babies were as friendly last year. We saw them but not as often. We have been waiting for the appearance of the babies this year. We had seen the adult barred owl but not babies.

That is until this morning. Ken was having his coffee on the deck when he heard the baby owl nearby. I  spotted him on a branch behind the camper, very high up. We both thought we could hear two of them making their weak throaty sound. Sure enough there was another one in the trees beside our camper. Ken got some good pictures of them again.

Although we enjoy their presence, the crows and other birds do not. I feel sorry for the babies when the crows start making their cawing sounds and diving toward the branch where the owl sits. Then other birds join in the attack. We watched one of the owls that was being harassed fly away and land in a tree in the back of our site. This is the same tree that an owl flew from last night while we sat by the campfire. Neither of us knew he had been sitting there.

It may well be that I have been looking in all the wrong places for the owl's nest. I was told that I should look way up high in a tree for a large nest made of sticks and branches. I was also told that if an owl had a nest in the tree, there would be a streak of white below the tree from their body droppings. I have been looking for two years, walking around with my head facing upward. In the winter when we came to the campgrounds and the trees were bare, I thought I would have a good chance of finding the nest. But I never did.

Well, when this baby owl flew to safety from the attack of the other birds, he landed in a large tree that has a hole in the vee between branches. We have seen baby squirrels come in and out of this same hole the past two years. We have been watching for them this year but as yet have not seen them. After doing a little research this morning, I find that owls will take over squirrel's nest and they do indeed make nests in hollow parts of trees. I think I may have found the owl's nest. I will be keeping my eyes on that tree to see if both owls go in there or if this baby was just using this spot for safety. He did take off and come back to that same tree a couple of times and spent a long time sitting there with his lower body tucked in the hollow of the tree while watching from his viewpoint.

I was wondering why the other birds cause so much raucous when the owls are around. I read this morning that among mice, chipmunks, small squirrels and rabbits, frogs, fish, and snakes, owls will occasionally eat birds such  as woodpeckers, jays, grouse, quail, blackbirds, and pigeons. The owl usually catches the birds near nightfall when they are settling to roost because he cannot catch them in flight. Owls eat mammals only. They eat the entire body, bones and all, then regurgitate pellets of any body parts they could not digest. These pellets can often be found on the ground below their nest. I looked for any below the tree that I saw the baby go to but so far have not found any pellets.

 For the past 5-10 minutes the crows have been making a lot of noise so I am suspecting they are after the owls again. They are not in our area right now but it sounds like the crows are near the beaver pond.
Fly Owl Fly.

Owls stay together for life once they mate. The male owl feeds the female while she is on the nest. Both parents care for the babies for approximately four months, feeding them until they are completely able to do so for themselves. Owls maintain their territory and nest sites for years. Owls in the wild live for about ten years. The only natural enemy to the barred owl is the great horned owl.

We tend to notice the owls in early morning hours or just before dusk. We hear their vocalizations more at night but also hear them sometimes during the day. They sound like "Who who who cooks for you? Who?" Most times after one owl hoots we will hear another one answer. The baby owls cannot hoot yet and only make a quiet bzzzt with a throaty sound to it. We hear them talking back and forth amongst themselves with this quiet noise, mostly in the mornings.

Baby owls look like they have lint all over their bodies when they are very young before leaving the nest. Once they get their plumage they look just like the adult owls, only smaller.

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