Sunday, November 16, 2008

The welcome wagon, do's and don't

Several of my friends have asked me to relate some of the things that have happened to me since I moved to the bush some twelve years ago, and built the Swallows Nest. Now some of these adventures have been good, some not so much. However, I would not trade one of them for the world of the town dweller, for in my opinion that is a very boring world indeed. Mine on the other hand is filled with newness and adventure at every turn. But I digress. This Post is about my relationship with two of my best friends out here in paradise, Namely Alexander and Catherine the Great Horned Owls, and how I came to meet and then grow to love them. I might add this was not as easy as it would at first glance seem, as a matter of fact it was a real bitch. As in fact I found out what it really feels like to be an Amway sales man, or a Jehovah's witness. Not good.

Now having been a Biologist most of my adult life I have a keen understanding of the life that surrounds me, but I am also aware of my ignorance of many things. And in this case ignorance was not bliss, it seldom is I suppose.

Anyway my log house was built, and I was going to spend my first real winter in the wilds of Manitoba. All of the firewood had been cut, freezer was full of goodies, and I was all set for my retirement. Nothing to do now but sit and write books on Biology and stuff. Tiring of that I could always put on my woollies, big Assed boots, don a pair of snowshoes, and go for a walk in my valley to look for new tracks in the snow. Then one day having taken a break from the keyboard, having donned said winter stuff, as it was the middle of January, but a nice day I went for my walk and it happened not but 100 meters from my house. Low and behold I caught site of a nest high up in an old oak tree. Using my 400mm telephoto lens I could see an Owl sitting on the nest, my heart pounded. Surely this was an opportunity not to be missed as I really wanted to get to know my neighbors, and these most certainly were neighbors of the highest order.

Now I knew a fair amount of things about owls both Great and small, here are some of them. Breeding,Nesting season is in January or February when the males and females hoot to each other. When close they bow to each other, with drooped wings. Mutual bill rubbing and preening also occurs. They do not build a nest of their own but utilize the nests of other birds such as the hawk, crow and heron. They may also use squirrel nests, hollows in trees, rocky caves, clumps of witches broom, abandoned buildings, or on artificial platforms. They are extremely aggressive when defending the nest and will continue to attack until the intruder is killed or driven off. Normally, two to four eggs are laid and incubated by the female only for 26-35 days, dammit these buggers are tough! Why nest in the middle of a Manitoba winter!?! Yikes!!! The young start roaming from the nest onto nearby branches at 6 to 7 weeks, when they are called "branchers", but they cannot fly well until 9 to 10 weeks of age. They are fed for another few weeks as they are slowly weaned. Families remain loosely associated during summer before the young disperse in the autumn. Adults tend to remain near their breeding areas year-round, while juveniles disperse widely, over 250 km (150 miles) in the autumn. The same pair maintains territories for as many as 8 consecutive years, however, these Owls are solitary in nature, only staying with their mate during the nesting season. Average home ranges in various studies have been shown to be approximately 2.5 square kms (1 square mile). Having done the research most of these things I knew, the stuff in red I did not know but should have known I mean like I really should have known.
The next couple of posts will explain what NOT to do when trying to get to know, and then to love Great Horned Owls. As well as the unfettered joy of running the Gauntlet and surviving.


Penny said...

hey silverfish;

okay, I am going to love this one, I have only seen big owls, once, I should say one owl, one time.

It was on one of those infamous am woods walks. In the snow.

It was up high in a tree, it flew down, not towards us intentionally, it flew down from it's perch and then veered of to the right sharply.
It was big, big wing span!

I still remember. My daughter can also, infact we were speaking of this the other day.
Sadly this was my only encounter :(

the Silverfish said...

Penny I see owls here most every day, that and eagles both Golden and Bald, hawks of many kinds and of course my friends the Turkey Vultures.

The Owls some Sharp shined Hawks and a few Golden Eagles stay for the winter and it's nice to see then soar over the valley. Esp.the vultures they are Absolute masters of the air. I have watched them soar for four hours without a wing beat. Just riding the thermals looking for something dead.

River Fog

River Fog
a place to walk and talk with the world