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Monday, April 16, 2018

We found Nellie's nest and are not telling you.

The Raptor Center wanted our help in rehoming a baby owl since Nellie is the perfect mother. WE enlisted the help of a drone pilot to see if Nellie was active in the nest and how many babies. David Bulfin got this fabulous shot using his drone. Nellie is on husband #3 and this one is very protective of her to the point of not feeding the babies when we are looking from the sidewalk so that's why we're not sharing the nest site. More soon!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Screaming babies

Nellie has been very stealth this season. In early December we would hear her trilling hoot, but she rarely got a response. Then later in the season, some fine fellow decided that three was his lucky number and the frantic antics began.  In March and April after two owlets hatched, the hoots were back and forth  essentially saying, "I got them food the last time. It's your turn to eviscerate something. " "I've got a pellet stuck in my craw. Until I heave it up, I'm too heavy to fly."  

I have been gone a lot this spring and I never found where the nest was this year. A few days ago, I heard two babies crying for food at Edgehill Park.  I have since seen both Nellie and her new hubby. Last night the two babies were frolicking in the middle of Moravian Lane.  They were practicing how to fly and it was quite evident that they needed more practice.  One would flap-hop to a near by branch and the other would follow. This went on for about 20 minutes. Then a crescendo of screams as they realize mom has come with a tasty treat.  She gives it to one owlet who flies off with no intention of sharing.  The other baby follows but is too late-the food is already down the hatch. He gives his sibling the middle talon and screams to mom to bring a vole for him.

Take a walk at dusk and listen for the baby cries or for the alarm cries of other songbirds. Edgehill is the most likely place but I have also seen them at the Duke Mansion, on Moravian, and in our back yard.

Here's an example of the babies just hanging out, crying for attention, imitating Stevie Wonder, and almost falling off the pole. Just takes one time to learn that a slick pole is no match for the texture of bark.


Monday, May 30, 2016

Growing up owl

It is not easy being a juvenile owl. It is much like a teenager who has outgrown his pants overnight and now has to go on a field trip with high waters.  Their wings are huge as are their talons but learning how to fly is challenging.  That's why Edgehhill park is perfect for Nellie and her new mate (who needs a name by the way). There is a vast canopy of branches where they can take short flights then move on to longer distances.  One of the things that these babies have been slow to learn is that thicker branches hold more weight. Often they will fly onto a branch which sways under the weight so they end up upside down and mortified.   These are two siblings that like to show off for each other.  They have the flying part down pretty good by now. At this point it is time to learn how to hunt.

Imagine the acute timing it takes to spot prey, focus, realize it can be had, lift off, stare at prey hoping it doesn't move, time the landing so that your wings back up, talons raise to snare the prey, then you have to upright yourself and lift off. And that is if they prey doesn't move. Remember that owls fly silently so what's on the ground never hears them coming although a large shadow might be an indication.  Below is a one minute slow motion video of an eagle owl (the largest in the world) landing and note he is just landing, not hunting. Clearly, a work of art and awe.

So our little owlets, need to learn how to pounce on prey in anticipation of grabbing them from the air. Above is a grey owl very diligently practicing his pounce maneuver.

Last night was remarkable. The entire family was out.  First we watched the babies fly around the branches acting real cool. "I got this down." Then they went to the ground and were aimlessly pouncing hoping they might accidentally catch something.  Then Mom called from a distance so they fly up to a tree and started begging. She came in a few seconds but only fed one (as is typically the custom). The other one had a hissy fit and flew right above my head and stayed there and stared. "Hey, Owl Lady. Can you bag a chipmunk for me?" The other one finished and also flew above my head.

Just a little photoshop...The last thing that happened was that Dad called from the other end of Edgehill. They immediately started flying. They met in the middle and Dad had a big enough meal that they both could eat. It looked to be a snake. We watched for about 5 minutes in amazement that this was happening before our eyes.

There is a thing in Japan called Shinrin yoku which means "forest bathing."  It is essentially the practice of submerging yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of the woods. You might try it tonight and for the next several nights at Edgehill. You'll find that the catbird is the last and loudest to go to bed. The cardinal is most likely to sound the alert mode that a predator is near. A mockingbird will have the guts to go after an owl while the crows gather courage among a crowd (actually a murder of crows). Hopefully, the show will start at 8:00 again. Go take a bath.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Nellis has a new family!!!!

I am soooo excited that I had to change my underwear. Laura Gaines spotted Nellie and new boyfriend and one baby at the Duke Mansion driveway last night and tonight we saw two babies and possibly a third. Wheeee! We watched them fly short distances from branch to branch. They are doing the head bob thing where they have to bob their heads to focus since their eyes are not developed yet.  We heard mom call from the opposite end of the park and they came right to her. It really is remarkable that we have this kind of nature show in our backyard.

So, for locals, they will likely be hanging out at Edgehill Park again. I will put some bird seed out along the creek to attract varmints. Feel free to do likewise.

Below is a video of them. I did it in thermal since it was too dark to see them.

And what about Ned?  It has been exactly a year since Ned was injured. This is his busy time as the baby barreds are out of the nest and sometimes they fall and go boom. A typical week brings over 30 injured raptors and they are able to rehome about 90% of them. Check out to see the work the rehab center does. Ned plays a vital role in teaching these babies how to be owls while they are orphans. Ned is quite an experienced dad. 

This explained what a surrogate owl does. Both mom and dad feed the owl.

Luna and Noche are a barred owl pair that live in New York. They have some excellent video of them feeding their babies and of the babies fledging and missing the mark. One is rather clumsy.

This is a very tender video of Luna feeding her baby.

And here is your obligatory cute owl compilation.

As always, please support the Carolina Raptor Center!

It was a good day at the Carolina Raptor Rehab Center

Click below for an adorable video of Carly examining Groucho!

Baby great horned owl gets examined for injuries

This adorable video was taken at the Carolina Raptor Rehab Center. The grounds crew at Carolina Golf Club called me to say that a baby owl had fallen out of a tree and would I help. Definitely.

By the time I got out there, Groucho (so named because of his eyebrows) had wandered to the woods to escape some overhead hawks. Baby owls that can't fly yet are very vulnerable on the ground. I put a towel over Groucho, handled him carefully with gloves in case he was injured, and took him to the Raptor Center.

When owls are threatened, they puff up to make themselves bigger. It's very effective. Keep in mind this baby is only 4 weeks old. Look at his talons.

He was deemd fit so we took him back to the golf course in a makeshift nest for mom and dad to find him and give him a scolding.

Friday, September 4, 2015

I regret to inform you....

I have delayed this post long enough. Despite epic efforts in rehabilitation and enticing live mice meals, the Raptor Center has decided that Ned is "...not releasable but he has a proven track record as a parent so we will keep him as a surrogate."

Some of the RaptorMed documentation includes:
On ground and refuses to fly.
Could only get to fly once and then started to defend on the ground. Right leg severely droops when flying.
Only got him to fly 2x. He went to the ground and did not recover. Grabbed and tossed twice but always returned to the ground.
Could only get him to fly to the other side and landed on the ground. He was defending self and was stressed.
Upon x-ray-fracture is very stable. Range of motion is good. Fracture is completely healed.

I spoke to Rob last night who went to see Ned. He is clueless as well. We can speculate like news talking heads that a)Ned is just lazy and prefers the easy life b) there is something we are missing or c) he is just old and sore. Owls have been known to do strange things.  Two years ago, we were feeding Ned a live mouse every Sunday night and then, he just quite coming.  Who refuses a free, tasty, easy meal? The male choses the nesting site (and once they move in, they come back every year) and Ned and Nellie seemed very happy in our luxurious nesting box but the next year, they chose a different place and last year, another place.

The good news in all of this is that the Raptor Center is going to keep Ned as a baby daddy. He has fathered at least 20 owlets that we know of and although he is not terribly efficient-Nellie and Ned fed their babies an equal amount of prey but Nellie would find something in 15 minutes whereas Ned might take over an hour-he is a proud daddy and very vocal. An owlet that is injured needs to have an adult around to show them how to be an owl.  In addition, we have been able to raise almost $3000 for his care and he and Nellie are featured on the owl forest trail at the Raptor Center so notoriety is worth something.​

The other sad news to report is that one of the Ned and Nellie's babies was hit by a car and killed instantly.  This happened on Queens Road at the Lutheran Church. Elizabeth Rostan was kind enough to call me so I went over and got the baby off the road. It is such a sad job. When you see them up close you realize what majestic birds they are. Their feathers are works of art. Their talons are sharp vises that catch and kill on contact.  We are their only predators.  They have tunnel vision when they going after prey and never see the car coming.

December starts courting season so Nellie will be returning hoots to who she considers eligible men. She is an experienced mom and wife so will chose wisely.  There are several males in the neighborhood and beyond. My hope is that a new male will find our nesting box and chose it for their home.

Thank you for your interest and donations. Please sign up for the Raptor Center emails. There are many activities scheduled for the rest of the year that will interest many of you.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ned update

The Observer was kind enough to include a follow up article on Ned and Nellie. See

Ned is not doing as well as expected. His range of motion is good and the fracture has healed but there is a bony spike on his underwing that may need to be removed. It's also possible that Ned is older than we think and it's also possible that Ned is just being his lazy old self.  The pin was in for a long time and given the soreness that can come from being perch-bound can make for a  challenging recovery. Additionally, he hasn't had to hunt for food which is likely a pretty sweet deal so he may not want to give up the all you can eat rodent buffet.

Again, much gratitude for those who have donated (or just smiled at the story). The Raptor Center will be in touch with you soon and I will also be in touch with a token of my appreciation.

I leave you with some cool owl videos.

Barred owl facts-very comprehensive.

How owls transform themselves to warn off scary things

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A parliament of owls and update

One of the many things that go on behind the scenes at the raptor center is rehabilitation. Most of these babies fell and went boom. They are hanging with Ned who is teaching them owl things like hooting and clucking and puffing up when self-esteem is low. he is an experienced father and they look up to him. As of Wednesday, he has not attempted to fly but there is plenty of time. Live mice are scurrying around to tempt him plus he may be sore.
You can also visit my YouTube channel for owl videos.

If you would like to be on the Hooter list to hear updates on Ned and Nellie or owls in general, send me an email through this blog or directly to
Ned is on the left, a baby in the middle and another adult on the right. When you see the parliament of owls, it's easy to see the differences.

To directly donate to Ned's recovery click here Ned is patient number 18749. You will also find updates here.

Owl family time

For the last 4 nights, our owl family starts their evening ritual behind the tennis courts at edgehill park. A male makes his call several times but Nellie ain't got time for that  since she is feeding babies. Hope for Ned. Mom hops around on the ground, finds food, then feeds the babies. They spend their time flying from branch to branch each trying to outdo the other. Then they try to hunt following mom's lead. It is simply adorable. I assume and hope they will be there tonight. I'll be there with flashlight and hooter (that would be a calling device) and beverage.  Feel free to join in.

Barred owls are so called because their feathers have bars across them. Ornithologists are not terribly creative.