All good things come to an end...
2 Eastern Screech-Owl chicks perch in the mouth of the nest box 10 June 07
I know by now some of you are longing for a bit of variety, but there are likely a few others wanting a bit of closure on my owl tales as well. As I wrote in the 1st post, I know from past experience that when the youngsters start showing themselves the game is all but over.
Owlet "Porky" explores the outside world by day 9 June '07
On the evening of the 9th, "Porky" made a daytime appearance shortly after 5 PM and by the following evening both "Porky" and "Junior" were at the mouth of the box looking at the outside world with eager, wide-eyed enthusiasm.
I could see it in their eyes and I knew in my gut this was it so, after taking the last images of the "kids in the box", I settled in at a backyard table with a drink and waited and watched. Near 8:30 PM I went in for a refill and when I returned there was only one chick in the box. Before I could even wonder where Junior was, I heard a familiar faint, hissing chatter to the left of the box. Some 6 feet to the left a gray fuzzy blob perched triumphantly atop a Brazilian Pepper bush, wings flapping loosely. I'd missed Junior's first flight by moments only. I called into the family and all came out to witness Junior's success. As we watched in the fading light, Mom came in and delivered a Palmetto Bug to Porky which she downed rapidly. Then she made her big move, a four foot flutter ending with a loud "PLOP" on a Saw Palmetto crash pad. It wasn't pretty but now both chicks had flown and managed to stay high in the trees rather than on the ground.
Porky and Junior hours before taking their first flights 10 June '07
The overcast sky made it difficult to see much after this. I know Dad brought a Palmetto Bug to the box, and mom brought what appeared to be an anole to Porky, but I didn't turn on the light. There are both Barred Owls and Great Horned Owls around and I didn't want to bring any more attention to these fluttering fluff balls sitting right out in the open. So we wished the kids our best and headed in for the night shortly after this as it was too dark to see.
The following morning, I checked the surrounding area for signs of the family but all of the "favorite" perches were empty. I couldn't help but wonder how the young owlets had made out on their first big night in the real world, but there was work to be done so I gave up. Plus, I knew the lighting would be better later in the day, and two well-fed chicks would surely leave some tell-tale signs on the leaves and ground below their perches as the day progressed.
My instincts served me well and I was able to find both chicks perched together above a very well boldly-splotched palmetto leaf. They were perched much higher than I expected (nearly half again the height Mom typically perched at) though and there was only one hole in the vegetation where I could get a good shot. It was a strongly backlit view but I knew this may well be my last views and images of the birds that had provided my family with such great entertainment over the past weeks.
Hopefully, next year we can do it all over again!