Saturday, March 04, 2006

Flabbergasting owl development

Today, before the screech-owl made his [or her] exit at the usual fly-out time [about 6:05] there was a bit of a commotion at the cavity entrance. We could see another head at the base of the opening, just as the owl was getting ready to go. We assumed it was the second owl and hoped we'd see her [or him] fly out as well. Then there seemed to be some pushing and shoving. Just after the fly-out we kept our eyes glued to the roost-hole, and two photographers with cameras aimed at the cavity clicked away. A head appeared at the lower part of the entrance and peered out, huge-eyed. Jean said: That's a different owl! Suddenly another head poked up.. Neither was the head we expected. These were fluffier, and without the ear-tufts that give screech owls their characteristic look. Indeed, they looked like Shmoos in the quick look we got. Babies!

Afterwards, looking back at Bruce's digital pictures, we thought we saw three little fluffy heads.

The other photographer, James O'Brien, just e-mailed me the following message after examining his photos:

"From the tape it is clear there are at least two owlets in the nest and one adult. They are never all in the picture together but the two young appear together and then one young and the adult. Based on their appearance, I guess they are about two weeks from fledging as they are still mostly down. "

These owlets come from eggs that must have been laid more than a month ago. We'll be working on this mystery, trying to reinterpret events of the last months in light of this new and exciting development. It is still not clear if there are one or two adult owls in this nest. Photos and more news to come.