Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Our local baby great horned owls!

I have had the joy of watching some beautiful baby Great Horned owls growing up in my neighborhood! I've led 3 meetups so far to bring people to see the owls, and my members have gotten some incredible photos!!! The parent owls have lived in my neighborhood for 4 years, and have used this nest for 2 seasons so far. It has to be the best nesting site I've ever seen!! The owls are completely sheltered from any weather, and they have a great view of all of the people passing by on the trail! They seem to enjoy the attention- at least, that's what I think!!

This photo, taken by Sue of my meetup group, is of the babies at 3 weeks old. When I saw them a week before they were tiny little white fluffballs. In only a week, their down has turned gray!

In only a week, the babies have grown substantially! It was a cloudy, rainy day so only 2 people came this time. The babies are very well sheltered, so they didn't care! Luckily, my friend Paul came with his fantastic photography skills and was happy to share his photos with me! Unless otherwise stated, most of the photos on this blog are his photos.

I don't have a fancy camera so I tried to take a photo through my binoculars. It came out pretty darn well!!!

Here's my best photo through the binoculars.

Edited and photoshopped- who needs a fancy camera anyway???

Dad is a bit smaller than the mama owl and he usually sleeps a bit further away from the nest. Great horned owls mate for life and will choose a territory where they live for their entire lives!

Mama has just awakened in this photo- she's getting ready to fly for the evening!

The babies are now 5 weeks old. They are spreading their wings and no longer falling all over each other! Notice the legs hanging out of the nest- apparently the babies had a meal of red tailed hawk! That's what some of the local birders think, at least.

This time, mama decided to go a bit smaller and caught a vole to feed her babies with.

She is giving the vole to the babies here.

She also caught them a rabbit!

These babies are quite well fed, don't you think? Great horned owls will eat a wide variety of prey: rabbits, birds, fish, raccoons, and even, apparently, red tailed hawks! Their talons are extremely powerful- with them, owls can exert pressure that is 300 pounds per square inch!

If anyone would like to come see the owls, join my meetup, Boulder Naturalist Outings, and sign up! I'll have outings to see them throughout the summer. They will fledge in late May but they'll stick around until at least October.

What a magical experience to see these owls so close to home. It's amazing. What I really love is that the whole neighborhood CARES about these owls. The male disappeared for a couple of weeks and when he came back, people spoke of him like they would an old friend.

"I was worried about him! I'm SO happy that he's back!!!!"

This is the first time in my life that I've witnessed an entire community of hundreds of people CARING so deeply about our local wildlife! This is the type of connection I dream about facilitating to my meetup members and to society at large. Imagine what would happen if everyone was so aware of their local landscape and wildlife?

The world would be a different place. When we care deeply about the Earth, we take care of it! When we care so deeply, duality disappears and we become, as they say, "one with the universe"... When we know a place as deeply as we know ourselves and our families, our community expands to include the more-than-human world, and we gain wisdom about our place in the world that informs WHERE WE WANT TO BE and how we can have an impact.

These owls have changed our community for the better, and I love them for it.