It had been 16 days since I had checked on the Long-eared Owls, so early this morning I scrambled up the hill to see how they were doing. As I approached the rock outcropping from which I typically view the nest, my heart sank...the nest was empty.
Had the recent storms blown the chicks out of the nest? Had the parents moved on? I stood there mourning the loss for several minutes. I slowly approached the hackberry grove expecting to find decomposing owlets on the ground. At the same time I was looking on each branch for momma and papa. To my utmost delight I spied an owlet on a branch and took some photos. Then I noticed some movement to my left and just a few feet from my head...another Long-eared Owlet! (close-up photo above)
They didn't appear too disturbed by my being there. I watched as the closest one casually hopped and kinda flew from branch to branch to put a little more comfortable distance between us. This one seemed more developed in plumage as well as in activity as compared to the first owlet I spied. I suppose this isn't all that unusual that one chick begs more and gets more food and therefore grows up more quickly. Amazing how quickly they went from being helpless white fluff-balls into branchers. I figured momma and papa were nearby. I checked all the usual perches for papa, but the parents weren't near the owlets.
The sky started to let fall some sprinkles, so I started back down the trail. Suddenly, the two adult Long-eared Owls shot out of the tree which minutes ago I had just walked under. They circled back up to the grove of hackberry trees were the owlets were. Boy oh boy, they sure are majestic in flight!
Then the rain really started to come down and I got out of there with a huge grin on my face and some shots in my camera; happy to see all four of my Long-eared Owls doing well.