Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On Wings of Pearl - Part Three

This is the third and final part (for now) of the Avimor Birding Blog special presentation of "On Wings of Pearl" written by my friend Michael Wiegand. Click on the links below if you happened to have missed them:

Part I - The Lonely Kestrel Saga
Part II - A Tale of Patience and Perseverance


won't get fooled again...or will we???

about a week after I sent you the pictures of the little owl sitting in my garage I came out one morning to find the clock lying on the floor shattered in a few dozen pieces...and I haven't seen our little screech owl since...she must have launched herself quite vigorously after a mouse and the clock fell off its hook. At first, I thought 'oh no, here we go again' ...the mouse population has plummeted and she left for furrier pastures. But in the last few weeks some other activities have raised my curiosity!

...about the same time she left and winter began to loosen its grip one of the male kestrels showed back up in the yard...that male was soon followed by another male and they took turns making runs on the yard birds. then one day I found 'white bib' up in one of the pines outside my office (where he is in the snow fall this morning as well ). this is the first time this winter either of the local great horned owls has been in the yard. He has been here a couple times a week since. This was one of their favorite roosting areas in all of Pearl so I was used to looking up while he or they were looking down!

...about two weeks ago, with an enormous amount of fanfare, the Lonely Kestrel herself showed back up and it hasn't been the same since...she spent the first few days telling everyone in sight that she was back and reclaiming her territory...from tree top to tree top with one of the males in hot pursuit she would dive and arc through the sky calling out to her mate all the while...occasionally he would 'gift' her with a field mouse or vole and off she would go to a favorite perch all except for one!

one evening, as it was getting dark and I was enjoying the quail putting themselves down for the night, an owl parachuted into the pines beside the garage...followed by another parachutist! I thought to myself 'you've got to be kidding me' 'they're back again'...great horned owls do not parachute into tree tops...neither do the smaller owls who typically swoop into a tree head on...only one type of owl parachutes in our area...the barn owl !!!

...and I think you all know well the story of the barn and screech owls in the big penthouse box from a couple of years ago. (Michael had previously related to us how the Barn Owl evicted the Screech Owl and killed the owlets and laid its own eggs in the nest box only to have its chicks die because they were unable to get out of the box not designed for them)

...at daybreak the next morning I found both barn owls roosting high up in the western red cedar out near the garden area. no shortage of mice it appears to have these guys come back and the great horned owl also. so I put the barn owl box up (that I bought belatedly that year) this past weekend in a pine near where they are roosting...but where did our little owl go if there are plenty of mice around?... I'll get to that in a moment.

so back to the Lonely Kestrel who continues to hunt up and down the canyon with her mate periodically landing on a tree top in the yard and telling everybody all about herself and her intentions...I've seen them inspecting both kestrel boxes on the west side of the property in the pines but for some reason they are not going anywhere near their traditional nesting box out by the creek...why??? ah hah!...could it be that the little screech owl has commandeered it again and is already sitting on eggs? only time will tell as the weeks wear on but I have begun to watch that box more closely at dusk because if she is indeed on eggs in there then her mate will have to bring her food periodically...the little male screech owl is very secretive...quite unlike the misses herself! ...so it will be harder to see that exchange until the owlets hatch sometime in March if they are indeed in there.

...so the sagas continue...mama great horned is sitting on eggs downstream in a large cottonwood nest site. papa great horned roosts here occasionally and hunts the mice and rabbits...the kestrels are paired up and house hunting...showing a slight preference to the box that replaced the big barred owl box from before...will the barn owls use their new home to successfully raise young of their own this year and is the little screech owl truly on eggs out in the creek side box?

we'll know a lot more in the coming weeks ahead!

Michael Wiegand
Pearl, Idaho

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