I received an email this morning from another photographer (Thank you Ken!), telling me that yesterday he found the nest of the Great Horned Owls down at the Mississippi River empty. I replied that they might just be hunkered down in the nest because of the cold and wet weather we have at the moment. I just learned that owl feathers are not waterproof and rain can impact their ability to fly noiselessly, which can be trouble for an adult during the breeding season because they cannot hunt. Wet feathers lead also to a higher loss of body heat, which could be a thread for the owlets. However, I had to check it out during my lunch break today.
As Ken already reported, I found the nest empty. It took me about half an hour until I discovered one of the owlets sitting on a big branch in a tree about 50 yards to the east from the nest. I took several pictures from both sides of the tree. Because of their ability to turn the head by 270 degree, owlet #1 had an eye on me most of the time without moving the rest of the body. The wind was blowing hard and getting an unobstructed view was a challenge because branches and leaves were swaying around the whole time.
I scanned every tree and branch around with my eyes in search for #1’s sibling. I just couldn’t find it. Ready to give up and go back to work I suddenly saw owlet #2 sitting upright in the tree next to me and only a few yards away. It was probably watching me the whole time while I tried to find it and laughed its head off…
It’s great to see that the young Great Horned Owls started branch hopping. Pretty soon they will learn to fly and they may stay with the adults until fall. The leaves in the tress grow rapidly and it will become very difficult to find the owlets again. I’m very happy that we can see two owlets, instead of just one, for the first time during the last four years.