Baby Barred Owl Watch 2024

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It’s that time of year again — Baby Barred Owl Watch 2024 has landed! If you missed last year, you can read the 2023 watch here, and to familiarize yourself with Barred Owls, visit my Barred Owls post

Last year, Helen and Bob raised three beautiful owlets, the year before two. It will be interesting to see how many they hatch out this year. The climate has been concerning lately, with other species hatching out at unusual times, so I’m hoping the owls won’t be too affected.

I will be continuing the journal-style entries I started last year, and am hoping to get eyes on the owls at least once a week. Last year I was able to visit almost nightly, however this year I am back in school so time will be tight.

Barred Owl

Helen, May 7, 2023

Helen can be identified by the short eyebrow markings, with one eyebrow looking a little more hooked than the other. The eyebrows are not as connected to the ‘T’ that goes down the face. Compared to Bob, Helen’s body feather streaks are bolder.

Barred Owl

Bob, March 9, 2023

Bob can be identified by a slightly broader-looking face with more distinct eyebrow markings. The eyebrows are longer than Helen’s, and one is slightly raised. The streaking in the body feathers is thinner than Helen’s. Generally, Bob seems a little lighter in colour than Helen.

Lessons from last year

Last year I got some of the best and worst photos I have ever taken of Barred Owls. I was so focused on documenting the owls that I lost focus on ensuring I was getting quality images. Part of the problem was dealing with such low light situations, which is easy to work around when dealing with the more still adult barred owls by dropping the shutter speed, but with the rambunctious owlets that love flapping their wings and moving their heads in big circles, it simply wasn’t an option. Ideally, a lens with a wider aperture would help address the situation, but since I don’t have the funds to get one now, I will have to get creative — and hope the owlets choose to hang out in some brighter spots!

On a positive note, I learned a great deal last year about the usual times Bob an Helen are around, and about the true extent of their territory, so I’m coming in with a good arsenal of knowledge.

March 7, 2024

At first, I couldn’t find the owls and I was getting worried, but then in an unusual turn of events, Bob emerged from the nest which I thought was a good sign. He flew off straight ahead before he landed in the tree he looked around a little bit, made a few calls, and then he returned to the nest. Then he stuck his head out of the nest, and he continued calling over and over again for five minutes, maybe a bit more, and as I left, he was still calling. Another owl was responding, but she never came over and eventually, the other call stopped, so I don’t know if this means that Helen is gone and Bob is maintaining the nest and looking for a new mate or if it’s just a coincidence.

It may also be that I’m seeing a different stage in their courtship rituals than I normally see — with the weather being so strange, the timing could all be off. Fingers crossed that Helen is ok and it was just a weird night.

The video I got is pretty crummy — this was already nearly an hour past sunset, and my equipment just isn’t made for that kind of low-light videography.

March 12, 2024

Helen, or possibly a different female owl, was waiting on the nest “porch”. There’s some doubt whether it actually was Helen, just because her eyebrows look thicker. I’m unsure how much their pattern can change with a molt, but as I get clearer photos I’ll be able to say definitely. She came right out onto the branches in front of the nest, which I don’t usually see Helen do, and then, after sitting there for a little bit, she flew into the ravine and waited. She called once and Bob came and caught them on camera so I redeemed myself for last year’s video (which, as it happens, was almost exactly a year ago!) and then Bob went into the nest. Helen/Maybe Helen stayed for a bit and then presumably went off hunting.

March 18, 2024

I had the opportunity to see both owls today, but nothing happened.

Bob was calling at first, and Helen (and to my relief, I got a clear look and can confirm that this is still Helen and Bob didn’t find a new mate)on Bob’s third attempt she came out. Bob flew right into the open to one of his preferred branches, he just sat there. Bob often sits on this branch during these early stages of their breeding cycle, usually watching Helen. Helen doesn’t always return the looks. I guess when you find a branch that suits you, you call permanent dibs on it and return to it year after year.

Helen just sat on her porch and then Bob flew off. I thought maybe I would follow Bob, but by the time I got over there, he was gone. It’s possible I just couldn’t see him, or he flew further than I thought. I circled back to see Helen and she was not on the porch either so I don’t know if she flew off or if she just went back in for the night.

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