Monday, March 16, 2015


Friday evening, I got a call from my Principal, Darby.
A large oak had broken off midway up the trunk in her neighbor Kelly's yard and deposited 2 downy Barred Owl chicks on the forest floor. The parent birds were busy monitoring the scene from branches just above the chicks.
The chicks seemed to be okay and not injured from the fall.

Darby sent 2 photos by text, one of the chicks on the ground and one with the female completely covering the chicks with her body.

Below is a photo I took when I arrived the next day.

Owl chicks

Darby asked if I would help out if needed and of course, I said yes. She had researched what to do in this situation and discovered that...
  1. You can put them back in the nest (impossible in this situation since it was on the ground).
  2. You can build a nest box and place the chicks inside it. The parents should find them and take over.
Oh, and whichever option you take, keep in mind that the owls will see you as a threat and may attack.

This was confirmed when I called Julie Zickefoose to ask for expert advice. In fact, Julie said they instinctively may go for eyes and have been known to inflict serious injury to would be rescuers.

I called Darby to share that, but she was aware of the same possibilities from her internet research.

Darby said her son and his father would build and mount an owl nest box first thing the next morning.

Would I mind being the one to climb up and place the chicks in it?

No problemo!

The spacious nest box.

I arrived at Darby's the next day, after the box was built and mounted.
On the scene were Darby and her neighbor Kelly, each wearing stylish hardhats in case of the owlpocalypse.

After talking to Julie, I decided to go with wearing my motorcycle helmet, leather jacket, and leather gloves.
At the nest tree, a very familiar giant extension ladder stretched up from the ground to just below the nest box.

What was great about this location was that this is the same tree the nest was in so we didn't need to move the chicks away from where the parents were anxiously watching over them.

Darby was a little concerned about no threshold at the entrance to the owl nest box, so we decided to place a 3 inch diameter branch across it as a barrier to chick wandering once they were placed inside.

I had some clamps in my JEEP, so we decided just to clamp the branch in place for the duration of the chick rearing time.

This required 2 trips up the ladder, but I think it was a good idea.

Suited up with GoPro mounted motorcycle helmet and leather gear, I grabbed the branch, two clamps, and a bucket of wood chips and leaf litter and began my climb.

Part one went pretty smoothly for being at the top end of a very long extension ladder that was not strapped to the tree. When the branch threshold was clamped on and the interior filled with cozy chips and leaves, I headed back down for the 2 chicks.

I planned to do this next part as quickly as possible since I anticipated squawky chicks and parent birds dive bombing me like a German Stuka.

With Darby and Kelly on alert for possible owl attacks, (both parents were observing from directly above us), I knelt down and placed the chicks in the bucket.

They clacked their bills together, but otherwise made no sound.
I think that they were just too hungry and weak from 24 hours on the ground to raise much of a fuss.

Which is probably why the parent owls never raised a talon against the offending person holding their chicks.

Up the ladder again and in a few moments both chicks were safely inside the nest box.

After that it was just relief and that feeling you get when  your team just did something good.

When the task was over, we went our separate ways, each hoping that this thing would work ... that the parents would find and accept the chicks.

The next morning, I got this text from Darby:

"Guess what! I just saw the Momma Owl in the house this morning and the Daddy Owl was close by keeping an eye on things! Yay! "

The video below is my view of things. It runs about 8 minutes.


And remember, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Dockside Crab Dinner

This egret was stalking the shallows while my fellow science instructors and myself broke for lunch at Seahorse Key Marine Lab yesterday.

There was much flipping, scissoring, and crunching as the bird adjusted the large blue crab for a trip down that long neck.

I missed the final juxtapositioning of the crab, as he flew off across the water out of reach of my lens.
 He was still in view though and to his credit, he did swallow the whole spiky thing.