Opening weekend at our campground came and went, with plenty of campers checking in to help us rake and clean up the campground. Campfires blazed at night, kids road bikes and reconnected after the long winter. The talk among the sites was on how many eaglets we had this year and whether or not the loons were nesting yet.
Everyone went home on Sunday, and when Friday rolled around, they all returned. I went out on the lake to check on the loons and the eagles. I chatted with readers and campers. I booked reservations and it seemed like a fairly normal day until out of the blue, my husband texted: “Come quick and bring your camera!”
I thought perhaps there’d be a snapping turtle laying eggs. Or a chickadee nest. Or an oriole’s hanging nest.
I was in for a shock!
It was a pair of Great Horned Eaglets!
Twenty six years we’ve owned this piece of property. In all that time we’ve only seen Barre Owls who stalk my bird feeders.
The campers only noticed this pair because a good piece of the nest fell, and someone looked up to find these adorable owlets looking back at them. They never heard a peep or a hoot the weekend before. Owls can be silent. Very silent.
The day was gray, but I got the best pictures I could. Then I ran home to research. It turns out, their nest disintegrating is normal. And they rarely return to the same place to nest again.
The next morning, one of my little campers came to the office with her phone. She’d woken up and looked out her camper window to find one of the owlets on the ground looking up at her! Again, I did some research and found that owlets on the ground is not necessarily a bad thing either. This helps them strengthen their leg muscles, and their beaks and talons will help them climb to a new perch. The best thing we can do, I reassured her, was to keep our distance.
(That owlet hasn’t been seen since, but I believe I’ve heard it)
The owlet left in the tree is branching, venturing further and further from the trunk of the tree.
It might even be flying short flights, because Diane, the woman who works in the office with me, couldn’t find the owlet twice now, but when I went down a couple hours later, it was in the same tree. Only on another branch.
I’ve been down to visit several times now, keeping my distance, while using my long lens and my camouflage cloak. This little one alternates been napping, preening and watching. But I haven’t heard it make a sound yet.
Nor have I seen an adult. But I’m not worried. My research says the adult is perched in a nearby tree, all part of the plan for this little one to take flight and hunt for itself.
(side note: owlets can eat 13-16 mice per night at just 3-4 weeks old!)
I’m so fortunate to have had a chance to see these great raptors live and up close. I hope they stick around for a little while.
So wonderful to share your discovery with you! Funny how your posts seem to coincide with my own curious nature. I just finished reading ” An Owl in the House” by Bernd Heinrich and Adapted by Alice Calaprice. It’s A Naturalists Diary about a Great Horned Owl. The same thing happened to this owl – it fell out of the nest after a storm. But this one was near death so Heinrich rescued it against his own better judgement. I do hope that the one on the ground will be okay! Keep us posted : )
ps. The book is a fast read – I think you’ll love it.
I’ve always wanted to find owlets in the wild, and I feel so lucky to have done so. 🙂 Funny enough, today I was reading a passage from Missing Fox to my students, and there’s a scene where Cooper sees a Great Horned Owl in the woods! I’d totally forgotten I’d included that little paragraph.
Thank you for the book recommendation, Joanne! I’ve added it to my wish list.