Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The owls' last hurrah

At sundown, all was quiet in the park
So last week's performance of owl love might have been the pair's last hurrah. Now it is February, and I'm thinking the courtship and fooling around is over and it's time to brood. Not brood as in the dark-eyed scorned lover, but brood as in sitting on eggs.  It's cold here, still getting down below zero at night, and wherever the female owl is I figure she isn't straying far from the nest because she won't want those eggs to freeze.

On the weekend, I walked over to the park alone at dusk and wandered back and forth between the pines where the owls have been hanging out and the silver maple where last year's nest was. The sky darkened from pale pink and blue to navy blue, the shadows faded as the light drained away, and everything was quiet but for the sound of my boots squeaking on the hard-packed snow. No owls. Nothing at all, just me, growing colder and colder in the six degrees below zero evening.

I left the tree and headed up the path toward the Japanese Garden, where I had seen the owl hooting behind the tall fence a week before, but again, all was quiet. And then I remembered something one of the gardeners had told me last summer. She said she had seen the whole owl family one night "hunting off the top of the dome." I have been unable to look at the illuminated glass dome of the Como Conservatory since then without picturing four owls perched on the very top but of course that is not something I have ever seen.  So I walked a few feet down the path toward the Conservatory, and right away I saw the owl.

Hunting off the Conservatory dome.

He wasn't on top of the dome, of course--how would he see anything from up there?--but he was perched on the ridge that runs around the bottom of the glass dome. He turned his head, he craned his neck, he was clearly hunting. I didn't want to get too close because my mantra always is, don't disturb the owls. I took a picture, but I was far away and so it's blurry, and he actually looks more like a cat than an owl. But then I saw him fly...


...to the adjoining greenhouse roof. Cats don't fly. Not in my life, anyway.

And so I left him there. If the female is brooded up somewhere, this is probably the male, hunting for something for himself to eat, and something for her. If all goes well, the female will produce somewhere between two and four eggs, spaced several days apart, and the eggs will hatch in early March. A few weeks later, the owlets will emerge from the nest to hang out on a branch. And the whole wonderful cycle begins again.


9 comments:

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I am impressed by your dedication in the face of sub-zero temperatures...and pleased that your efforts are rewarded with sightings like this one. Again, thanks for sharing.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Wow!
Look at him against that window's light.

NanaNor's said...

Hi, You are quite persistent-and it paid off. Last winter there was a huge tree nearby that had Owlets in it-we got some great photos. I love them but also grow concerned if they are around, due to having a very small dog-don't want him to be a meal.
Stay warm.
Noreen

laurie said...

some call me persistent and dedicated, and some just call me weird and obsessed.

Pamela said...

We had a screech owl nest in our owl box three years ago. I think the male must have gotten killed -- as I never saw or heard him once. I worried about that food issue. But she raised one owlet that fledged.

I can't imagine brooding in your weather. Good luck Mrs. Owl.

Indigo Bunting said...

Love.

Heather Peden said...

That is so exciting!

Fiddlin Bill said...

Cats make the effort to fly, and might be a bit more like owls than we realize.

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