Owl in the basket at the Feather
In late winter 2003 we put a bushel basket up in a tree behind the pole shed.  March 2004 finds a pair of owls using the basket for their nest site.   Usually horned owls are born in March in this part of Wisconsin, but the pair must have lost the first hatch or did not mate until late.  We were blessed with the event either way.   The story and photos below record the event.  It has been such an honor to be a small part of this nesting, hatching and fledging of one of Gods small miracles.
Ms. Harvey, the female owl, came to us as an food dependent  bird in 1997.  She stayed here after her release and decided that this was her home.
She was always alone here and spent her nights on top of our surrogate owl cage.   She laid eggs in 2003 on top of the pen and they rolled off.  They were unfertile.
In late winter 2003 she showed up with a small gray owl by her side.  In late March there was only one owl in the tree and one in the basket. They had chosen the basket for their nest site.
We put a camera on the basket and waited 40 days and 40 nights and then we went up to see what the basket held.  The chick was probably 1-2 days old at this time, May 9th, 2004.  The second egg was piped, but did not hatch and disappeared by the first week. 
Each week we climbed up and recorded the size of the chick.  The parents were always on site and not to be trusted.  We wore helmets, gloves and jackets. As close as we can figure the chick is just a bit over a week old.
We checked every weekend unless it was raining .  The mother never tried to harass us.  Age of this photo would be around two weeks old.  The chick is already clicking at us when we appear above the basket.
At about three weeks of age things were getting a little scary when we climbed the ladder.  The mother was more involved and showed us that we should be very careful.  The chick was always covered by the mother in all bad weather.  It was never left alone in a high wind or a rain storm.  Warm sunny days she just sat next to the nest.
Because of the extremely wet spring we had to reinforce the basket with a plastic tub with holes in it.  The weight of the chick and the mother was to much for the basket.  We have gained much respect for great horned owls watching this event take place.  They are great and caring parents.
Banding day comes when the chick is just over four weeks of age.  The mother is not happy with us and it takes a few attempts to get the chick from the nest without getting a few talons on our person.
She continues to let us know this is not a good idea.  She finally flees about 200 feet from the nest and up we go. The chick is making much to do about the procedure and clicks all the way down the ladder.
The chick is brought into the house for banding.  The leg is measured for size of band.   It measures a size 9, which would indicate a female bird. 
The band is put on and we make sure it swivels and moves up and down and is not to tight.  Cliff Schmidt holds her for her new bracelet photo.
Her mother is waiting for us at the nest site, not too happy. The chick is put back and peeks over the edge of the tub waiting for us to leave her alone.
On the night of June 8th she slips from the nest and we can not find her in the dark.  The next day June 9th we locate her some 200 yards from the nest and put her back in the nest.  On the night of June 9th she jumps from the nest and again the next day we find her, but let her on the ground and leave her to her parents and her new world.
After the rains finally stopped on June 12th we went to find the chick.  The mother kept leading us away from the spot we thought it to be.  We walked more and finally found a blow down leading up to a tall tree.   Low and behold there she was high and dry off the ground. 


We took many photos of her sitting high in her world.  The mother called twice but did not come in.  The chick was fuzzy down again, even after all the drenching rains for two days.  We keep learning from each event that takes place here.  The hardest lesson to learn is "LETTING GO".


Update on "411" the owl in the basket.

Most of the summer and early fall she was not seen in the yard, her mother came in for food and left.  Around the beginning of Sept , " 411" came with her mom to the yard and begged for food.  Ms. Harvey fed her and is still continuing to do so. "411" is the owl on the right with her wings out and a rat in her mouth.  We are wondering just when the young female owl will be asked to leave the area.  This photo was taken the first part of Nov. 2004.  Check back for more updates on the owl in the basket.



Copyright 2004 fisher                                  Photos by schmidt-n-fisher