Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Mother's Dedication

 Today's post is a special one.  When birders work together and exchange info, magic can happen. Here is the latest from Momma Owl at my school.  And today's post is one of cooperating parties. You will see 3 different photographers in one post. It's the second time we have had a guest photographer(s) at Las Aventuras.  The first 4 pics today are brought to you by Sally and her partner in crime Robert. If you are interested in purchasing photos, please let me know and I'll send them a message.  I'd like to thank them both for allowing me to share their special photos of this magnificent bird with you all.
 I'd like to mention how I met them both before going into some details surrounding the nesting of a Great Horned Owl.   Many times on hikes around the state and the world, I have come across a lot of special birders/wildlife enthusiasts.  Sometimes it's plants.  Sometimes it's birds.  Sometimes it's native tribes. And sometimes it's all the above...and more!  Well on one of my birding hikes, I met these two wonderful people on the trails near Sweetwater Wetlands.  They had a great sense of humor and were really fun to be around.  Exchanging tips, we went on our little adventures.  Sally and Robert went to find the Great Horned Owl and I went to find the Rookery of the Great Blue Herons.
 The next day would have us meet up again and I was excited that they both were able to spot the Momma Owl at my school site.  If you look into the nest closely, you'll see lots of food for the owlets which are located on the right hand side next to the egg.  As you will discover, this clutch fits right into the "normal" number of owlets found in a nest. The food is either A. for Momma B. for the little ones or C. All of them.  My concern is that the owlets stay in their "nest" as they get larger.
I wasn't really into birding that much over the past several years and I knew that we had owls all around our school during various times of the year.  Now that I am into the hobby, I am more connected to what's going on around the school property.   Momma Owl is able to fly off if too many students are present.  The owlets are not so fortunate and I hope they are not scared out of the nest by people.  We have about 30 some days left of school until summer break.
 On my breaks from lectures, I grabbed my camera to observe our Momma Great Horned Owl.  She is a fascinating bird and highly protective of her "nest" ....a concrete block.  I've been observing her behaviors during the day and watching our staff and students interact with this bird.
 There are 3(2 hatched/1 not) that she protects day and night.  And she's smart.  There is an open square above her head that allows for people to peek through and watch.  She has been gathering items and putting them over the squares to keep debris or sun from harming the owlets.  People are aware of the nest and protected status of this owl, but it would pain you to know that some students don't care.  But there are a lot of people who love her and also keep an extra eye open for those who would do harm.
 Of course she does her job.  When things get too close, she flies out of her block during lunch and soars above the students as they stare at her wingspan.  The bell rings, students head back to class and she returns back to the nest.  But what impresses me the most about her behavior is how devote she is to her eggs.
 Great Horned Owls are some of the earliest-breeding birds in North America. They breed in late January or early February and are often heard calling to each other in the fall, starting in October. They choose a mate by December and are often heard duetting before this time. For owls found in more tropical climates, the dates of the breeding season are somewhat undefined. They often take over a nest used by some other large bird, sometimes adding feathers to line the nest but usually not much more.
There are usually 2 eggs per clutch, with a clutch ranging in size from 1 to 5 eggs (5 is very rare). The average egg width is 1.8 in (46.5 mm), the average length is 2.2 in (55.2 mm) and the average weight is 1.8 oz (51 g). The incubation period ranges from 30 to 37 days, averaging 33 days. Brooding is almost continuous until the offspring are about 2 weeks old, after which it decreases. Young owls move onto nearby branches at 6 weeks and start to fly about a week later. The offspring have still been seen begging for food in late October (5 months after leaving the nest) and most do not separate from their parents until right before they start to reproduce for the next clutch (usually December). Birds may not breed for another year or two, and are often vagrants ("floaters") until they establish their own territories. 
These are the most recent photos taken by a student at IRHS as of 4/11/12
Stay tuned for more updates.  I'm a watchin':)  I'm on pins and needles people and I'm not even a parent! There is one Ironwood Tree nearby.  Nature can be difficult to predict so think good thoughts for the success of these owlets.  Thank you Robert and Sally for your great pictures.  More tomorrow....

17 comments:

Bob Bushell said...

The Owl and the Owlets, sounds like it's a rock band, great photos.

Ragged Robin said...

Lovely photos Chris and thanks so much for the update on the owls. I'm so glad all is going well so far. Look forward to the next update.

Jill said...

These photos are fantastic. I love seeing them all so up close and personal. I've been wondering about them...thanks for the update.

DeeBee L. said...

Brilliant shots! They look so fun, the Mum peeking above the wall and the babies with their scruffy feathers!

TexWisGirl said...

adorable little ragamuffins! i do hope they make it!

Gaelyn said...

What an exciting process to be able to watch so closely, yet without bothering Mom too much.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Oh Chris, I'm so jealous!!!! Getting to see the owls (Mama and babies) is just awesome... You all got some great pictures... Hope the little ones make it.. Keep us posted.
Betsy

~Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

So ugly their cute! Great shots of the owl in flight. Thanks for the info.

Magpie said...

I'm so glad that things are going well. What a gorgeous bird! The babies are so ugly to one day turn into such beautiful birds. :)

Elephant's Eye said...

We'll watch over the owlets thru our virtual window.

Thérèse said...

What an exciting adventure going on at your school!
I wish owl's family all the best and no harm.
The Nr 1 picture looks almost like a statue.

CameraCruise said...

Great post and great photos.
Love to see Momma Owl and her babies.
Agree with the others here, they're so ugly their cute.
Thanks for sharing.
Have a great day.
Mette

tracy said...

The photos are amazing. I'm glad to hear that so far things are so good!

Warren said...

great pictures and post!

sweetbay said...

Great shots from all 3 contributors! Keeping fingers crossed that the owlets stay safe. Those babies really do look monsterific. lol

Candy "Sweetstuff" said...

Wow that is so cool! I hope that no one harms them!

Rohrerbot said...

Hello there stranger!! What a wonderful surprise! I'm hoping the same thing. I love those owls dearly and crossing my fingers. Send good vibes our way:) Hope you are well and having some fun. Chris