Two very young great horned owls left their nest cavity under a cottonwood tree in the Gros Ventre Campground, Grand Teton National Park, on Friday.
Various observers differ on just whether they climbed, fell or jumped; they won’t fly well for another month and more.
Looking back in time: Great horned owl babies leave their nests some five weeks after hatching. Incubation takes 30 to 35 days. Thus these owlets were eggs laid during April, in winter.
Back then, few people visited the campground. Maybe a few cross-country skiers now and again. Now the campground is open and popular and the great horned owls and their cute nestlings are celebrities, “discovered” by authorities, campers, bird watchers, the nature photographers mafia.
It’s tough being a bird. Mortality of young is high in any circumstance. It’s a crapshoot whether the attention and care offered by park people will help these owlets to survive, whether campers (and their pets) will respect the owlets, whether the adult birds can provide protection and food in the suddenly bustling-with-people changed environment.
Great horned owls are found everywhere in the United Sates, primarily in woodlands but even where trees are not present. They don’t build nests but instead will occupy a natural hole in a tree, as in the Gros Ventre Campground, the old nest of some large bird, on or in a rock face, and usually not augmented by the birds. Occupation and construction.
It has always seemed to me that great horned owls are present and hooting in every campground, every B movie or TV show or commercial ever filmed with night scenes and appropriately terrified humanoids. Even in midday. All seasons.
These two owlets were hatched in a photographer’s dream site, the hole-in-the-tree model. Not too high up. Accessible. Adults around, but cool about all the attendant commotion.
Here, however, is a bit about great horned owls in Birds of Grand Teton National Park:
“The great horned owl is an ‘eared’ owl. It is a large – females are two feet long – fierce, no-nonsense bird of prey. The prey can be fish, rodents (especially mice and voles), rabbits, birds (even red-tailed hawks), domestic cats, and not to overlook any gourmet item, skunks.”
... Well, now. On reflection, the above paragraph doesn’t add much to an owlet piece. But it’s an opportunity to plug a classic work, still in print and available.
Field Notes: When an authentic old-timer mulled whether this was the wettest ever, it’s OK to complain. Won’t change anything, but you may feel better about it. Better still, if you have any observations or impressions concerning this weather’s effect upon animal behavior or reproduction, please share them.
Sure didn’t depress bison puppy numbers. Little red critters abound.
Among birds, there seem to be no lack of young robins, Brewer’s blackbirds and magpies. Fewer blackbirds and swallows – fewer flying insects.
A wave of western tanagers, but it’s not known how many remained to nest (Embre Hall, Jenny McCabe). More nighthawks than in many recent years – despite my impression of fewer flying insects.
A small group of white-winged crossbills still on the valley floor (in the Cottonwood subdivision), Friday, Louise Lasley.
Eastern kingbird in South Park Feedgrounds, June 14, Lucinda Abbe. A Lewis’s woodpecker near Kelly on Friday, Roger Watson. Jackson Hole Bird Clubbers and friends enjoyed an outdoors meeting and what birds and bird nests in sight and sound (north end of Jackson, Visitor Center). Sora rail chicks are flat cute.
One has to admire the skill a sapsucker, oriole or large finch has in extracting the yellow flower decals of hummingbird feeders. Intelligence?
© Bert Raynes 2009
Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.
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