Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Bird Story (relax, it’s the last one. . . I think)

The official bird of Alberta is the Great Horned Owl. This is a photo of a mother who had made her nest in the hollow of a large dead cottonwood. Year after year, she’d return to her nest to raise her chicks, usually one. I’m told that one year though, she hatched three and kept all alive until they could fly from the nest. The following year however, there was only one owlet, a fluff ball with eyes. Fascinated, I kept an eye on the little one as it kept traveling along the top branch, back and forth, apparently careful not to venture too far while mom kept watch over her offspring.

One day I did not see the owlet and thought that it had fled the nest until no less than 5 adult owls gathered on nearby trees kept hooting in alarm. I carefully approached the dead tree and peered over the bush. There it was! It had fallen and could not be helped as the surrounding rose bushes were too dense for an adult owl to land and too thorny for a human to attempt rescuing it. The owlet looked helpless and I decided that I would call the Wild Bird Rescue organization if, in an hour or so, the owlet was still on the ground.

But this little chick was a survivor. It remained motionless for some very tense minutes while the adults kept hooting. The trunk of the dead tree was impossible to climb and obviously the owlet could not fly as yet. However, next to the dead tree was a more accessible and slimmer one. The smart owlet picked that one to painstakingly make its way up, mom standing guard over its progress. Using its talons on the smoother bark, it moved up toward the next branch, resting for a while as it reached it, until hours later, it had successfully made it to the top branch and to mom. And there it remained, the nest now unreachable yet just a couple of feet away. This photo of mom on the tree next to the nest was taken under very overcast skies.

A few weeks later, both were gone. The following year, the dead tree fell to the ground.

I haven’t heard any owl hooting this year.

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