Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Owl Soap Opera

The day we came to view the house I looked out the window at one of the many willow trees along the south canal. It it was a very large owl. I figured it was one of those fake owls used to deter other birds. "That can't be real", I exclaimed. Brian and our real estate agent came over to see what I was looking at and as soon as they did the owl turned it's head and looked right at us. We all gasped. Brian claims that our agent planted it there to add to the romanticism and appeal of the country.

As we were moving in we got to know our resident Great Horned Owls. We had discovered 3 that liked to spend time in the trees around the house and the remnants of a 4th owl at the base of one of the trees. The owls had built giant nests in every tree that would support them, so there are a lot of places for them to hide. There was the large owl and two smaller owls, whom I assumed were the large owls children. The smaller owls are in the picture below. I named them Domino (at first he was called Mr. Crankypants because he always looks mad) and Fawn (because of her doe eyed look).

Drama really took ahold on our first official day sleeping in the new house. I discovered the top of a skull of an owl under a tree. I knew it had just been killed because it was covered in blood and bugs I was landscaping under that tree the day before. There was no other evidence of the owl at all. No feathers. No body. Nothing. A scavenger must have taken it away.

I walked around the property to see if I could find any evidence of the dead bird. What I found was Fawn flying around frantically from tree to tree, crying and screeching as she flew. She was clearly distraught over the death of the owl. It took a few days, but we discovered it was the large owl that had been killed, because Domino was still around. What we learned later is that the only real predator of great horned owls is the great horned owl. There must have been a fight over territory or over a lady owl.

After that day we never saw Fawn again. Domino has stayed around the property, hanging out on his regular branches. There were also some hawks hanging out for a few weeks, but they have since moved on.

Since we've moved in I have started a feather collection. Most of them are owl, but I have a few from the hawks and other birds that like to hang out around the house. Lately there have been so many more, I think Domino is molting. A lot of them are smaller and fluffy, but occasionally we will find large wing feathers. I go for walks around the property every day now just to search for feathers, and I rarely come home empty handed.

This mornings walk was a very eventful one. It is a very windy morning and the dogs and cats decided to walk with me. Right as I was passing the large maples on the way to the shop and large owl swooped out of a maple and across the canal to the most popular owl tree. It had to fly low to avoid branches but it was very close to the cats. Sierra (one of my cats) got spooked and wasn't sure if she should chase it or run away so she half jumped at it and then looked around frantically for what was going on. Brian and I both were wide eyed and agreed in unison that it was time for the pets to go inside.

As Brian herded our menagerie of pets back into the house I wanted to investigate this owl. There was no way it was Domino, he is much more cautious than that. This owl seems very confident, perching on a branch out in the open that leaves him very exposed. I walked over to where it had landed high in a tree and it was clearly a new owl. I looked around and sure enough, Domino was hiding in another tree. I walked over to Domino and I could tell that he was not pleased. He was making very small screeching noises in the direction of the other owl. As I'm sitting here in the living room typing I can hear him out there calling to the other owl.

I'm not sure what this means for our little farm, that I had liked to call an "owl haven". I can only hope that it means that Domino is going to get a girlfriend that he can make cute owl babies with, and not the opposite. I would hate for him to share the fate of the late senior owl.

Stay tuned for the next installment of The Young and the Restless Owls.

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