Having watched the Barred Owls on the east side of Bond Lake since February, I was excited to hear the news that at least one of the owl chicks had branched. After wolfing down a quick supper, I hurried to the park to find the owl chick on the ground underneath the monkey bars at Exercise Station #16. Michael was there with his daughter. Passersby stopped to watch.
The little owl hustled toward a tree with a slight lean. Hopping onto the trunk, he latched the sharpened hook of his bill into the bark and began to hitch himself up the tree. Using wings, bill, and talons, this scrappy, little owl clambered up the leaning tree until it was eye-to-eye with those of us who gawked at him in wonder. After a brief rest, he tackled another 5 to 8 feet, rested again, and repeated this routine until he was finally out of harm’s way. As the other onlookers went to view a nearby Acadian Flycatcher’s nest, I was left alone with the little owl perched high above me. Opening its beak, the little owl screeched out loud, begging for Mom or Dad to come.
Meanwhile, Mom (or Dad? ) visited the nearby owl cavity where brother (or sister?) was safely sequestered. Depositing a small rodent with this chick, she flew off to hunt for more food. These little owls will keep Mom and Dad busy for the next few days and weeks as they branch out of their comfortable domain and into a wild world of danger and adventure. They’ll hang around for a while (perhaps through July) and then disperse to seek their own fortunes in new territories.
Back in early March, I found a single egg at the base of the first owl nest site. I was saddened by the failure of this nesting owl pair. I donated the egg to the museum in Raleigh, and thought that was it for these owls. They had failed. But a few weeks later I discovered that the owls were trying again in a new location. And to see this owl chick branching out reminds me that life always finds a way even when we think that it cannot.