For the first time in six years, our great gray owl nest is occupied! This is the sixth time since 2006. Eleven chicks have fledged over this time.
Problem is, it's been raining since April 1st. Not to mention, the big snowstorm that dumped a heavy wet foot of snow. How can an owl incubate eggs in these conditions? How can the male find enough food to feed a nest?
On top of that, the 35 ft snag is unsteady. I could move it five years ago. So it's even more rotted out now. As a matter of fact, a marten climbed up to the top and it moved back and forth. Speaking of martens, it has visited the next frequently hoping to find the chicks unguarded.
With all these obsticles can a nest survive, when even Yellowstone could not?
Now that this drama has played out and the owls have left the area, I'm ready to report the somewhat daily nest log.
DAY 1 Cindy and I climbed up to the nest site and were stunned to see a great gray face looking at us from atop the snag. I mean, I knew it could happen. That's why we are here. But it had been six years!
She's sitting right, so she's still on eggs. We have no idea when this nest began, so have no time table when they will hatch. Incubation can last 35 days. But the chances of us being there the day she laid the last egg would be unlikely. So I figure hatching could be any time between now and 25 days.
DAY 2 Five days later, I was back to check on the nest and maybe get a feeding. Well, she still sat tight and no food arrived. It was raining.
DAY 3 Six days later I was back at 7am. Still sitting tight. No sign of the male. I put up a trail cam to see if I could learn anything.
DAY 4 Four days later at 8:45 am I found myself sitting on a log watching the nest. It's been fifteen days and she's still sitting tight. Suddenly there was a crash to my left, followed by a loud scratching sound. The owl was up looking. My bear spray was in my hand. It was time to leave! I grabbed the trail cam on my way out. Back at the cabin, I watched the trail cameras footage. It was mostly worthless, but twenty minutes before I arrived, both owls were flying around the nest, hooting aggressively. Was it a bear, or some other threat to the nest?
DAY 5 Cindy and I were back the next evening. My curiousity wouldn't let me stay away. The female still sat tight and there was no sign of the male. It was raining as it had been pretty much part of every day for the last two months. I usually hang out for two to three hours. Since mornings have been quiet I thought I'd check out an evening. All had been quiet. Suddenly a pair of coyotes started yipping and howling some seventy five yards to our left.
DAY 6 Four days later we were back. It was 8am. The female was still sitting tight, but was begging for food. Up till now, we had not heard her beg so assumed the male was delivering food regularly. But now she's begging and even though we watched for three hours no food arrived. We wondered if the constant rain is making hunting impossible. It's now been 21 days and she hasn't acknowledged eggs are even under her. Meaning we haven't seen her turn them, listen to them or nothing. Could the eggs be bad? I mean it's been raining and snowing almost every day. One morning it had been just 7 degrees. Is it possible to hatch eggs in these conditions, let alone find food? The coyotes howled again this morning. Obviously there's a den no more than a hundred yards away.
DAY 7 Four days later. 7:45 am Conditions have gotten even worse. Three nights ago it dumped over a foot of heavy wet snow. Our power was out for three days. When Cindy and I arrived, we found fresh grizzly tracks in the snow. The nest was free of snow as the weather had warmed up. She still sat tight and no sign of the male. I pulled the trail cam. Back at the cabin we found footage of the night of the storm.
The snag top was completely buried. The owl nest must of had six inches of snow on top of her. It was heavy wet slop. It's a wonder the unsteady 35 foot snag did not come crashing down. Heck our business sign at the cabin had come down and it had been up for 27 years.
It is possible her eggs are still good? It's been 24 days. If they don't hatch in the next week we'll know the nest is a failure.