Continuing on with some of my thoughts and experiences during my 3 month long journey of observing the burrowing owls of Brian Piccolo Park in Cooper City, Florida.
There are numerous burrows with babies in the area. It’s funny how each advances with their babies at their own pace. At first, it was one of two burrows whom had babies taking a peek out of their burrow at their new surroundings. Before long, there were many. It really made it that much more fun for I could alternate which burrows I was following. Each burrow though was very different and the parents had different human tolerance boundaries and we quickly learned them. The last thing that I wanted to do was to alter their normal behavior … that would defeat the whole purpose.
The burrow that ended up having the most babies survive finally began to emerge and how adorable they were – all 6 of them! As I said before, each owlet is born independently and therefore were at different stages of development.
Feeding of the young would continue with what I believed to be a carefully placed cache of goodies to be doled out as necessary.
The young owls began to play with each other, which was the most comical thing you could ever imagine or hope for.
Often, time would be set aside for mutual grooming, which I believe was enjoyed by all.
The grooming would often end up, or be preceded by what we would call “canoodling”. Not sure that’s actually a real term or not, but they would engage in nibbling of their beaks, almost as if they were kissing. Some of the young, like our own children, were a bit more needy of such affection and would run around after the parents of older brothers/sisters to get it. LOL
Sometimes, such behavior resulted in a playful retaliation where one would effectively pin the other down in a submissive position ….
Most times it was quick, but sometimes the claws (though playful) came out. I’m sure it was all part of teaching them to defend themselves. It was entertaining to watch and some acts were worthy of Academy Awards!
About this time, they began testing their wings – especially when the wind was in full force.
Sometimes it appeared that they almost got more “air” and lift than they expected, as evidenced by the look of surprise on their cute little faces.
Oh, how the learning was progressing, as they flew around and around within the confines of the safety of their roped off burrow. At first it was simply quick jumps on the ground.
It then progressed to jumping up to the stakes at their burrow, which their parents had modeled for them routinely as they were growing up…. and always learning.
Eventually, they learned to pull their wings in to go into a dive back down to the ground. I’m sure that the first trip down instilled a bit of fear to them, but can you imagine the feeling of accomplishment that they felt!
Their grace in the execution of their flying attempts got better with each landing. Yes, the learning curve was quite exponential at this point.
They would fly around pretty fast and furious and when there were 6 babies and 2 adults to photograph, it became quite a difficult task. Many a time, I wished I could clone myself and my gear to be able to follow all of them simultaneously!
What a joy they were! Often times, I wasn’t sure who was having more fun …. them or myself!
One thing I knew for sure, I was becoming attached to one particular owl, I nicknamed “Peanut”!