12th Blog Anniversary and 1000 Posts

Two milestones to celebrate – my 12th Blogging Anniversary and my 1000th post on this blog; (another 87 posts – the more serious and political ones – are at my alternate identity, Counter Current)!

Highlights (and a few low lights) of the past twelve years:

Morgan or Montana Moose – though Mandate Moose would have been a better name…

How many people can say they get frequent visits from the  Munching Moose Tree and Hedge Maintenance Service?
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Three Great Horned Owlets

Our property was also home to a Great Horned Owl family that nested in a large spruce tree on the edge of our driveway.

I also did 138 Wild-life stories that document all the birds, bugs and animals I saw and 88 posts about Plants.
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On the Humour front, I did 95 posts of funny Quotations and 1000 posts that had at least one moment of happiness embedded in the verbiage.
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I’ve posted 45 Craft Projects.  The interior decor of the Red House reminds me of the front of the family fridge when there were school age kids in our house: a bunch of crafts that sometimes only a ‘mother’ can love…
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“Into each life a little rain must fall.”

In 2012, The Car Guy was in a bad motorcycle accident. Man and bike both recovered, though the Harley looked like new after the restoration and The Car Guy  – not so much.
In 2013 there was a lot of rain. Our entire Cabin Community was destroyed. Though we weren’t able the save much from our cabin, the Car Guy did manage to salvage   our old lawnmower!
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My review wouldn’t be complete without a mention of  Covid-19. I did about 40 posts about the virus, none of which went viral…

2, 4, 6, 8… Who Needs to Isolate?
My blogging life started in November 2009 during the peak of the second wave of the novel virus H1N1pdm09 pandemic. It was also known as the ‘Swine Flu’. The Cornell Daily Sun joked about the pig connection with the headline: ‘It’s the End of the World As We Know It, And I Feel Swine…’

I’ve also lived through two other relatively serious pandemics – two Avian flus: the  Asian flu of 1957-1958  and the Hong Kong Flu of 1968-1970 . How did all three of these pandemics compare to Covid-19? No one will ever really know. Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been tracked differently and the collateral damage from lock downs, reduction in non-covid medical treatment and school closures will be difficult to measure.

Is “Baby It’s Cold Outside” a Deeply Offensive Song about Climate Change Denialism?
My blogging ‘career’ also coincided with COP15 (Conference of the Parties) which was held in Copenhagen in late 2009. COP26 (the 2021 version) is in full swing in Glasgow.  21,000 delegates, 13,000 observers and 3,000 members of the media will talk about how to cut emissions… do they understand the irony?

I’ll end this retrospective with this:

My blog is a collection of answers people don’t want to hear to questions they didn’t ask.
― Sebastyne Young –

Crochet Owls and Great Horned Owl Update

We haven’t seen the Great Horned Owl Family very often this past month, but I now have a permanent set of Owlet triplets to remind me of how special it was to watch the Owls.

wool

I crocheted my own owls from a pattern at Jacquie’s Website. Jacquie says “If you are proficient at crochet you will be able to make one of these sweet little owls in no time at all.” Proficient is the operative word. My crochet skills were rusty, and apparently my counting skills were too. ‘No time at all’ took several weeks. There are many fiddly bits to the project.

The hardest part, however, was getting a decent photo of them. Their light weight little bodies didn’t want to sit on the branches of the trees. I finally had to wedge them between branches or skewer them a bit with the poky thorns.

As for real owls, two of the owlets were hunting here on July 19. There were several other owls too, but they didn’t land.

Here are photos of the two Owlets, altered with a Super Sharp filter in Topaz Studio.

Happy August! How is your summer or winter so far? Decent weather? Travel? Visitors? Done anything crafty lately?

Great Horned Owl – What Do They Eat?

The adult owls and the owlets appeared in our back yard at about 9:45 PM for three nights in a row. The adults hunted and the owlets begged for food.

It didn’t take very long for the adult to serve up dinner on top of the large rock in the field. Two owlets quickly joined the adult. They started to tear the prey apart.

The other adult was calling – hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo – nearby but out of sight, possibly feeding the third owlet. The owl on the rock would respond to the call by turning its head in the direction the sound was coming from.

Richardson’s Ground Squirrel

What do Great Horned Owls eat? From what I’ve read, our Owls might eat Richardson’s Ground Squirrels, Northern Pocket Gophers, mice, skunks, squirrels, crows, birds, Little Brown Bats and large insects. Rabbits would also be on the menu if the Owl was hunting quite a bit further afield.

Owls leave evidence of their meals in the form of pellets that they regurgitate. One or more of our owls thoughtfully leaves these pellets at the base of the spruce tree near our front door.

This ‘Bone Yard’ has yielded a wealth of information, though I don’t have the expertise or desire to try to reconstruct the prey!

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The paper clip in each photo shows the size of the pellets and the bones. (The paper clip is about 4.5 by 1 cm or 1 7/8 by 3/8 in.)

If you have a grandson who wants to dissect an owl pellet, my advice is to wait until nature ‘removes’ most of the hair and stuff like that. Take it from me, baking (sterilizing) a ‘newer’ foil-wrapped pellet in the oven for half an hour is a smelly project.

Great Horned Owls – Apex Predators

An Apex Predator is one that is NOT preyed upon when it is a healthy adult in the wild. I have seen three Apex bird species in the woods and fields that surround our house: Red-tailed hawk, Common Raven and Great Horned Owl. The Coyotes here would be considered apex too because we don’t have wolves or bears.

The Great Horned Owl is the only Apex Predator in our woods lately. Last night, from 9:45  to 10:15 PM, I got to watch one adult Great Horned Owl hunt and three Owlets beg for food. I suppose the owlets are also learning to hunt.

The owls have now moved into our back yard. (Prior to that they were in the woods in the front of our property). There is an open area here with grass, flowers and ornamental trees. Beyond the fence (that protects my flowers from being eaten by deer) is native prairie grass. Beyond that is a grain field.

At dusk (9:45 PM) I spotted a flurry of wings as one owl lifted off from the grass near the playground. Then I saw an owl on the fence. Then another owl.

Four owls were flying from the fence to the playground and back again. Fortunately, I was able to get one photo of all three owlets perched on one of the boards at the top of the swing/slide structure.

I was quickly losing enough light to photograph the birds. My last photo was this one – an owlet and an adult.

After that, the adult owl flew down into the grass between the fence and the erratic (glacier deposited) rocks that you see in the background of this photo. Soon all three owlets flew to the top of the rocks and started to call for food.

A New Yorker visits Vermont and asks, “Where did all these rocks come from?” And the farmer says, “They were brought here by a glacier.”
“Well, what happened to the glacier?”
And the farmer replies, “It went back for more rocks.”
– Blacklock’s Reporter –

The playground, this morning, is the preferred resting spot for one owlet. An adult was there too, but it eventually flew off to a more secluded tree.

I’m going to have to rethink which area of the yard I can garden in today…

These were the owlets on May 28.

Here they are on June 1 when they started flying.

What Apex Predators live near you?

This is a ‘Six on Saturday’ post – thanks to The Propagator.

Great Horned Owlets Take Flight

The owlets ventured out onto a branch on May 27. Within a few days they were exercising their wings.

On June 1, wing flapping was more frenzied and occasionally one of them would even lift off the branch briefly.

One minute all three owlets were on their ‘home’ branch. Ten minutes later I checked on them again, and one owlet (the one on the left) had taken its first short flight.

This seemed to take all of them by surprise. The two owlets that were left behind kept looking down at the third.

The third owlet spent a lot of time bobbing its head/body and looking back up at the other two. (These movements help the owl judge the position and distance to everything around it.)

June 3 – All three owlets have left the ‘home’ tree. When I find one, it is always in the NW quadrant of our woods – about an acre of aspen, willow and a lot of spruce trees.

June 7 – The same owlet as the previous photo?! I don’t know. They all look alike.

June 19 – found all three owlets in the same area. Two were together in one tree.

The third owlet was in a nearby tree.

June 28 – one owlet and one parent were in a new part of the woods. The owlet is flying well, though it lacks some grace when it lands on a wobbly branch.

The adults are usually in the vicinity of the owlets. I often see them on an aspen branch at the edge of the woods. This is one of the adults.

The second adult was in a nearby tree.

The Feather Files
Name: Great Horned Owl
Species: Bubo virginianus
Date Seen: June 2018
Location: North of Airdrie Alberta, Canada

Right Place, Right Time

Every now and then (but not if I’m in a line-up at the store) I’m in the Right Place at the Right Time! Here are three photos to illustrate what I mean.

In 2011, I wrote a post titled Lady’s Slipper Orchids – Surprise in the Ditch. At that time, the orchids were growing in a ditch – about a 5 minute walk from us. Not a great distance, but they were easy to overlook in the tall weeds and their blooming season was short. I only saw them once again after that.

A few days ago, I was very surprised to find the pretty yellow orchids again growing in the ditch –  but this time right at the end of our driveway!

It would have been easy to miss their yellow flowers, surrounded as they were by clumps of yellow dandelions. But, they must have whispered to me… “It’s your lucky day – we’re your  neighbours now!”

I’m a Canadian ‘Snowbird’ who spends part of the winter in the USA. Last winter I went to an Estate Sale at the house next to our Arizona home. One of the items for sale was an old sewing machine in a cabinet. I ignored it – I already had a sewing machine.

The next morning, after the sale had ended, the sewing machine had been moved out to the garage, en route to who knows where. The sales agent appealed to my thriftiness by pointing out that the machine, the cabinet and a box of sewing supplies could be mine for a mere $10. Sold!

Later, when I opened the box of supplies, I found this small Canadian Flag lapel pin nestled in with the bobbins and thread. I’ll never know why the elderly American woman who owned the machine had this lapel pin, but I do know that the pin whispered to me – “This sewing machine was meant for you!”

Here is the link to my story about the Great Horned Owl Family  that has been living in a tree near the front of our house. Though we have often seen the adult owls on our property and last year I briefly glimpsed a pair of owlets, it has been a once in a lifetime event to watch three owlets ‘branch’ and eventually fledge. The owl parents really did pick the right place and the right time for us!

Do you have a ‘Right Place – Right Time’ story to share?

 

Great Horned Owl Family

Great Horned Owls have nested in a spruce tree in our front yard.

The first hint I had that it was a nest site was when I saw the adult owl land on a branch, then walk along the branch into the middle of the tree.

The first baby owl (owlet) ventured out of the nest and onto a branch on May 27. It spent most of the day sitting with the adult.

Every now and then the baby would launch into a flurry of activity…

…bobbing around and exercising its wings.

Checking out its talons…

By supper time, a second owlet emerged and sat on the branch next to the first one.

On the morning of May 28, all three babies had emerged from the nest and ‘branched’.

Owlet on the right: “This is how you do wing exercises.”
Owlet in the centre: “Duck!”
Owlet on the left: “Duck! I don’t see any ducks.”

Bedtime – the owlet on the right walked back to the nest.

The owlet on the left wanted to go back to the nest, but couldn’t get past the one on the right. Push, poke, butt – but the one on the right wouldn’t budge.

June 1 – Two of the owlets sitting in the rain.

The Feather Files
Name: Great Horned Owl
Species: Bubo virginianus
Date Seen: May 2018
Location: North of Airdrie Alberta, Canada

Size: 55 centimetres (22 inches) long. The female is considerably larger than the male, weighing about 2 kg to the male’s 1 to 1.5 kg. Their wingspan can reach 1.2 m.

Color: In Alberta, neck and back are speckled light brown, streaked and barred with black and white. The undersides are a light colour and heavily barred. The throat is white.

Habitat: It seldom moves far from its place of birth and can be found in most forested and semi-forested regions in North America. The Great Horned Owl does not migrate.

Nesting: They take possession of the previous year’s nest of some other raptor or that of a crow or magpie and lay one to five eggs in late winter. The eggs are incubated for about 30 to 37 days. Young owls are almost fully feathered and capable of short flights at eight weeks of age. In central Alberta (latitude 54°), average hatching dates range from mid-April to early May. The same nest is seldom used for more than one year – the young have usually destroyed the nest by the time they leave it.

Eyes and hearing: The owls have excellent night vision. Their eyes don’t move in their sockets, but they can swivel their heads more than 180 degrees. They have sensitive hearing.

Feathers: 8 days after birth, the downy plumage is replaced by immature plumage. Flight feathers in the wings and tail begin to appear.
– At 2 weeks, they have more than 50 percent of their juvenile plumage.
– At 3 weeks, ear-tufts show as small compact patches.
– At 11 weeks, the facial disc and white bib are well defined.
– At 21 weeks, they are a mottled buff colour.
– At 26 weeks, ear tufts are fully grown.

Feeding: The male brings all the food to the nest until the female finishes brooding the chicks. The female stays with the young and hunts only when food provided by the male is insufficient.

Leaving the nest: By day 40 (about 6 weeks of age) the young are able to climb well, can leave the nest and clamber out along a tree branch. This stage is known as branching.
– By day 45-49 (7 weeks) : The young are fully feathered and capable of flight. They are able to make three to four short flights a day.
– After leaving the nest, the fledglings stay together for several weeks and they may roost together in a nearby tree. The adults will probably roost away from the young, but continue to feed them if needed, even into September.