Friday, December 7, 2012

The Miracle of the Owl

Since this is the season of miracles, I thought I'd share the story of our last Barn Owl fledgling to leave the nest. We often hold "fledging parties" where we set out lawn chairs and invite people to come at dusk and watch the fledglings try out their wings. It is often comical as the owlets are quite awkward in their landing attempts at first.

Our owls had two clutches this year. I have kept records since 2004 and the time from first egg laid to first owlet fledged is always close to 100 days. This year, the last egg of the second clutch was laid on August 5. 100 days from egg to fledgling would be November 13. As of December 4, one owlet was still begging nightly from the barn. That night, well... here is the email I sent Monday night to a group of people who have asked to be kept notified of owl fledging activity...

One young Barn Owl is still begging nightly from the old barn loft, though it is way past time it should be gone. My friend Marilyn has wanted to see the fledglings and thought she would get to this year, but fate intervened in the form of a massive stroke over six months ago that left half her body paralyzed. I told Marilyn a few months after her stroke that maybe the owls would renest this summer and she would be recovered enough to come see that clutch fledge. The owls did renest. But Marilyn did not recover.

However, thanks to her wonderful friend and therapist, Sue Brandt, Marilyn came tonight and saw the lingering baby owl. It was her first time in a car since the stroke and certainly the first time in our new barn! The owl that usually hides from the flashlight did so at first. But after I climbed up the ladder behind it in the old barn loft, it jumped to the window opening and stood there, looking down at Marilyn sitting in her wheel chair under the new barn roof overhang, looking up at it.

The owl stood there staring for a very long time, even after I went back down the ladder and joined Marilyn and Sue. In fact, we quit watching the owl before it left the window. This has never happened before. Usually, if I go up the old barn loft ladder to try to bring the owl out, it flies away. This one had been capable of flight for weeks.

No rain fell the entire time Marilyn was here, either, although it rained before and after.

I call it the miracle of the owl.


Post script to the story: After Marilyn and Sue left, I milked and fed goats. The owlet resumed its begging calls from the loft. The next night, Tuesday, I went out to the barn to do chores after dark, as usual, but there were no begging calls coming from the loft. I climbed the ladder into the loft, then the ladder up to the nest box. No owl. The last owlet fledged after I had gone to bed Monday night: day 121.

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