Tag Archives: Great Horned Owl

Spring watch

We’re staying in a Cambridge apartment today, and signs of spring are everywhere: purple and yellow croci blooming down the street, forsythia about to bloom, a sprig of pussy willow with big fat gray catkins that someone place in a vase in the entryway to this floor.

Astute reader Craig pointed out a recent article in the Kane County Chronicle: the owls are back nesting in a larch tree outside the old courthouse in Geneva, Illinois. [Link] Last year, I was living in Geneva and wrote about the owls as a sign of spring [Link]. Good to know that spring is indeed coming in Geneva as well as here in Massachusetts.

Spring watch

Sure signs of spring showed up in the past few days —

Early daffodils in full bloom today two blocks from the church, on the south side of the Dupage Library System building — which is right across the street from 18 Campbell St., the house of Augustus Conant, first minister of this church.

Looks like only one of the owlets remains in the nest next to the courthouse — s/he wasn’t there yesterday, nor again today. It is likely the other one has gotten good enough at flying to head off on his/her own.

Tree Swallows are back. I saw several dozen over the river an hour ago, just downstream from the Union Pacific West Line bridge. It looked like they were finding lots of insects — insect hatches are another sign of spring.

And it will really feel like spring tomorrow, because Daylight Savings Times begins. If you’re coming to church tomorrow morning, don’t forget to set your clocks ahead!

Spring watch

Back in early March, I mentioned the Great Horned Owl I had been hearing all winter. I had only ever heard a male, and wondered what his breeding status was. At coffee hour after the Saturday evening service, someone mentioned seeing the owlets. Owlets? Yes, the male owl I had been hearing did find a mate (apparently I just never heard her calling), they nested in a tamarisk at the northeast corner of the old court house, and the owlets had recently fledged. It seems likely that the adults are the same pair that used to nest in the tree in front of the church, until that tree came down late last spring.

I went over last night and found the tree. It’s easy to find because of the droppings, feathers, and bones under the tree. There was even a fairly complete skin of a small rabbit (gone as of this morning). I heard the male calling, but it was too dark to see anything else.

This morning I got over there early. It’s pretty foggy right now, but I did see the two owlets huddled together on a branch on the north side of the tamarisk, about a third of the way up, sound asleep. One of the adults was perched far up in the tree, but I did not see the other. If you’re over by the church in the next couple of days, it’s worth taking a look.

It may feel cold, and there isn’t much green yet, but fledged owlets means spring is definitely here.

Later note:

Craig and I went over between the two worship services. The sun was out by then, and we could see them quite clearly. The owlets don’t yet have their ear tufts, but their primary flight feathers appear to be grown in. We talked with an experienced birder who estimated the owlets have another week or two before they fly off. (He also let us look through his scope, so we got a real close-up of them.) Perhaps fifteen or twenty people from church made it over to see the owlets after the second worship service today. Don’t miss them if you’re in the area!

Spring watch

Over the past two or three months, I’ve been hearing a Great Horned Owl calling when I’ve been in my office at night. Three weeks ago, I finally saw him, sitting up on the roof of the old Kane County court house building a block away from the church. No wonder he sounded so loud from my office.

I hadn’t heard him for a while, but I thought I heard him hooting last night, from somewhere further south in Geneva. He always gives four hoots at a time — hoo hoo-hoo hoo — which is how I know he’s male. I have not heard any females giving their call, of five to six hoots, at all this winter. It’s getting late for owls to try to find a mate, and I’m beginning to wonder if the male has given up on downtown Geneva and is moving further afield.