Monday, Mar 22, 2010
In the winters of 2003 and 2004 a pair of Great Horned Owls nested in the park to the delight of visitors. For several years, although we would hear hoots in late fall, the owls did not appear to nest close by. However, starting in November 2009, two great horned owls were sighted in the vicinity of the visitor center nearly every day, hooting at each other. On December 29 the female was sighted sitting in the live oak right behind the visitor center, the same place the owls nested in 2003!
On the morning of January 11, a broken egg was found on the ground below the nest. This was during a period of below freezing weather. On the morning of January 19, another broken egg with a developing embryo was found. Then, on the morning of Febuary 5, another broken egg was found. This one was clean and looked like it had peck marks. We thought we might have a chick, but this was not confirmed until a week later when a visitor showed us a photo she had taken of a tiny naked head with a big eye nestled under the mother's wing.
Over the past month, the owl family has certainly been a hit with park staff and visitors alike. It has been a wonderful opportunity to have the owls so close (the nest is only about 15 feet up), and watch how the chick is developing from a fuzzy tennis ball to nearly as large as his parents with beginnings of ear tufts. Mom and Dad stay close by in other trees, and the chick has recently started exploring up and down the branches of the nest tree using its ever-growning wings for balance.
We all wonder now, when will it make its first flight?!
(Photo copyright by Paula Griffin)