Four years ago on Mother’s Day, my sweet husband and sweet son gave to me an Eastern Screech Owl-house that they jointly made. It’s probably the best gift I’ve ever received. Later that year we put the house about fifteen feet high in a Red Oak tree in our backyard. We’ve had a couple raise three broods in that house (and its replacement, after the house was damaged when we had honeybees removed last year). The first year, Mom and Dad raised four owlets and last year, two.
This is one of the four owlets from two years ago, just after they left the house. All of them roosted in a Mountain Laurel for a few days.
I rescued one from the ground and was awed at the strength and grip of its talons (mice and rats, beware!), as well as the softness of its feathers. Mom and Dad were cool with my handling their little one, though they kept their big, intelligent eyes on me all the while.
This baby is one of the two from last year.
And this cutie is one of the parents, alert during the day after its offspring left the house.
Each late fall/beginning of winter, I wait with anticipation to hear the male trill to his partner late at night and into the wee hours of the morning, indicating the beginning of courtship and mating rituals. Last year, I was able to witness their canoodling–it’s very quick and sometimes, on the fence.
I usually saw them at sundown as they met up after a long, sleepy day. One stayed in the house and the other in a thicket at the back of a neighbor’s property. The owls were a little late (and more discreet…) this year in their courtship. I heard Dad’s signature trill of plenty of times in January and February, but only had a few sightings of them until this past month or so.
Through most of April, Mom was in the house daily.
Mostly, she snoozed and showed concern only when a male squirrel romped too close to her and her brood.
She completely ignored the Bluejays who regularly perch on the branches in front of the house and “caw” loudly and obnoxiously at her, offended at the presence of this fierce (though cute!!) predator amongst them.
Dad roosts in my neighbor’s thicket. This past week, both parents have flown to the house from the thicket, so things are apparently a little cramped with the growing owlets.
Earlier this week, I briefly saw a little bit of fuzzy, grey head before it darted back into the hole. Owlet!!
He (maybe she, I have no clue), sat looking out at the big, wide world that he is about to enter, for about 20 minutes.
He wasn’t shy at all with the three of us gawking at him. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that, either. From a personal standpoint, I’m thrilled. To be in the presence of these shy, elusive animals is such a gift. But from a biological standpoint, I wish he was a little more skittish about these weird humans talking to him and making kissing sounds. (Okay, it was only me doing the kissing thing.) Maybe he wasn’t particularly nervous because owls (like the rest of us) love being told how darling they are.
Now that the owlet(s) are making regular appearances at the hole, it’s a matter of a couple of days before they leave the house for good. They’ll roost in the tree for a few days more, then, they’ll be gone. Hopefully, they’ll have plenty to hunt and avoid cars and the Great Horned Owls that are around.
I always mourn a little after they leave. These past two years, I’ve occasionally seen an Eastern Screech Owl in the early summer. But I’ll have to wait until next winter to re-engage an observational relationship with these magnificent birds.
Go forth, little owls and live happy, productive owl lives!!