May 17 Update

Two Adults (Above) & Two Young (Below)
in Horse Chestnut Tree
(May 17, 2004)
by Eric Huish  ŠEric Huish

Owlets Have Fledged   
by  Eric Huish

Owlets in Tree

Monday morning, May 17, I was awakened by an owlet calling near my bedroom window before dawn. I looked out and saw the owlet on the basketball backboard over the driveway and an adult in the dead limbs of the maple. At least ONE owlet had fledged during the night!

According to the Birder's Handbook, incubation takes 21-30 days and then it would take another 28 days before the owlets fledge. That means the owls laid the eggs in the latter half of March, which means they would be establishing territory and courting in February. That's earlier than I had imagined.

A little later that morning, after the sun came up, I was able to find two adults and TWO young in the horse chestnut tree.  I searched and searched but I could only see the two young.

That evening at about 9:00 pm, as I was filling my hummingbird feeders, I could hear owls calling back and forth. I watched an adult in the maple over the driveway for a little while until she swooped down at me rapidly clicking her bill.  She was hanging out right outside my bedroom window so I decided to watch from the safety of the house, behind a window screen.

All the activity that night kept me glued to my window from 9:00 pm to 12:30 am.  It seems the honeysuckle vine, which is now in full bloom next to my window, has become a favorite hunting spot for the screech-owls.  The adult owls perch in the dead limbs of the maple tree or on the basketball backboard watching for big juicy moths to come to the flowers, then they sally out and snatch one up. As I watched, an owlet flew in and landed on the basketball backboard, then another flew in and landed in the maple tree. Eventually there seemed to be owls everywhere and I saw at least FIVE owlets at one time.  You could tell the owlets were new fledglings by the way they flew.  Every landing was a crash landing.  At one point one of the owlets landed on the outside windowsill just a foot from my face.  The owls must be smaller than they look or this little owlet was the runt of the litter. It was about the size of my hand.

Placing Fresh Wood Chips in Owl Box

That night was pretty exciting.  It was the best birding experience I've ever had while sitting at home in bed and I fell asleep listening to the owls.

The owls hung out in the horse chestnut tree for a few more days then disappeared for a week.  With the owls gone I decided it was a safe time to clean out the nest box for next year.  The box had been up three years without a cleaning and I was expecting it to be filled with all sorts of filth but the owls had kept it pretty clean.


Next Page - May 25, Life After Fledging

Owl Box - Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.