Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Owlets!

Owlets...not only does it sound cute, but they are adorable!

I was packing for my move to Toronto when my mom called me into the computer room about a news article she was reading...and it was on OWLS..Great Horned Owls to be exact!  She's been a first hand witness at my slight obsession to see owls, so she wasn't surprised when I practically ran screaming out the door telling Mike to get into the car.  Sure I had to leave in about 4 hours and hadn't started packing yet.  PSHH...seeing this, especially owlets..so much more important!

So we headed over to Paxton's Bush in Chatham.  This is a little known woodlot in Chatham is right on the Northwest side of town hidden away.  I first found Paxton's when I use to go biking with my Dad. Liking to get off the road, this was the perfect place to do that and explore a little too!  I've gone back many times to walk with our dog, bike, or escape in a little bit of nature (and play with some of the snakes that call that place home...to my mother's horror).  Back on topic...We parked, grabbed our gear, and prayed that we would find them!

Walking into the bush, I noticed a lone photographer.  We walked towards him assuming that this must be where, at least something, was.  Walking closer we said hello, turned following where the camera was pointing, and there they were!  Two adorable little fluffballs. They were adorable and yet at the same time they looked so angry with their piercing little eyes (as you can probably see in the photos!)

Great-horned Owlets in their tree cavity nesting
GRHOwlet giving me the stare-down!
Looking around we also spotted the Female Owl and later on the Male adult also flew towards us and landed in a nearby tree.  I've never seen a GRHO in the wild before, and it was just majestic. What beautiful creatures.

 
Momma Owl keeping a close eye on us all.
 We stayed for a little longer talking with the birder/photographer and learnt about the owls history in the area. I hadn't realized that not only were they born probably 3 weeks prior, but they had nested in the woods for a few years now!  Beaming from talking for a good 40 minutes and seeing the little ones, I was ready to go and get on with my packing.

Once home I placed my sighting onto Ebird (an awesome birding website) and the ONTBIRDS list run by the Ontario Field Ornithologists group.  Within minutes I had at least 7 emails from people interested in getting more information on the owls or even just a photo that I had taken of it. Many then responded back telling me whether they had seen it or not. That's the funny thing with the birding community, everyone is just so involved and you aren't scared to just message a complete stranger!

Ebird: This site allows you to create your own field sitings into location lists, manage a life list, and see what others have seen in the area!   (http://ebird.org/content/ebird/ ) 

ONTBIRDS: Go here to get updates on rare birds/any bird sightings in your area by email, search recent sightings, or find hotspots!  (http://www.ofo.ca/webapp/index.php)

The past few weeks I have actually kept in touch with one of the people who contacted me about the owl.  The funny part is our paths crossed once before while I was a summer student with the Chatham MNR, but it had been about 7 years before I saw it again in this email.  It was so nice to talk to someone with a similar appreciation for the natural world and someone who had placed that passion into a profession for so long. Since I've left Chatham, I've received a few updates from him about the Owlets as well as some amazing pictures that I wanted to share.  The first owlet flew from the nest about a week ago. At first there was worry that a coyote may have gotten it had it fell while learning to fly, but the next day it was spotted in the bush in all it's glory. The baby feathers seem to have finally given way to more mature feathers, and they are just gorgeous! The second owlet has only recently left the nest and is still looking like a big marshmallow!
First Owlet to leave the nest.  Photo by: A Woodliffe

Second Owlet to leave the nest.  Photo by: A. Woodliffe.
That's all for that exciting adventure!  I will for sure be going back to Paxton's next spring in hopes that the owls will once again be nesting.  All crow's in Chatham beware, 4 of these guys are looking for lunch!  As I must say with crow on the menu, they will have quite the buffet here!