All of the bunnies that frequent this blog would like to wish you a very Hoppy Easter.
If their voices sound a tad muffled, it’s because we now have Flying Tigers patrolling the yard. So, the bunnies are sending their best Easter wishes and waving ‘hello’ from hiding spots.
Indeed. Here they are:
A pair of great horned owls and two owlets! We’ve been watching them since the owlets popped their fluffy heads over the top of the nest. It’s a first for us. While we’ve heard and (more rarely) seen great horned owls about us for years, neither of us (nor anyone we know) has ever seen a nesting pair. It’s wonderful!
They’re called Flying Tigers because in their realm they are as ferocious a night-hunting predator as the tigers of the jungle are, and are as feared by the local wildlife. A great horned owl hunts everything from mice to raccoons, and is the major predator of skunks. We can attest to that, btw. They aren’t the least bit bothered by the odor when a skunk has sprayed them in its last act of defense (ugh) although we can smell the owls after they’ve nabbed a skunk as they fly by! They are amazing hunters, and impressive just to watch, to boot.
Here’s one of the adults guarding the nest (the fuzzy white at the top of the nest is the heads of the owlets). The adults are enormous birds, over two feet tall with wingspans that are close to five feet. I can attest to how startling it is to have one of these magnificent birds fly over your head at a distance of no more than fifteen feet! Their wings and feathers are such that their flight is virtually noiseless, which adds to the “startle factor” when one of them swoops overhead.
Here’s one of the owlets watching the photographers. They’re a fascinating mix of cute and ferocious, aren’t they?
And here’s the same shot, but without the close-up, so you can see, Oh Best Beloved, just how big that “baby” and nest are. We estimate that the nest is close to three feet deep and two feet wide. Trust me, there is no safe way to get close enough to it to really find out!
If you’d like to know more about great horned owls, Max Terman’s book, “Messages from an Owl,” is an outstanding source of information on them. Max has spent decades studying great horned owls, and his book details his discoveries as he raises and successfully releases back into the wild one particular owl, Stripey.
For those who are worried about the bunnies, yes, the population has diminished. As I counted fifteen one day alone in our yard last year, and plenty more all about the area, the large local rabbit population is undoubtedly one of the reasons the owls decided on nesting in this area. However, the rabbits have plenty of hidey holes. Both BB and Dude are fine, but are much more cautious wild bunnies than was their wont in the past, as one would expect.
And just to allay any of Kris’s fears of bunny loss, here’s a little softened ‘portrait’ shot I took of BB at dusk recently, when she was carefully hidden underneath a bush right by the house. Can you believe it? She’s all grown up!
My thanks to Dan and Eric, who took all the owl photos and gave me permission to use them. You guys are great!