Not a happy story I am afraid and not one I enjoy sharing. However, I think these types of things can be educational and, honestly, writing about them provides me an outlet when things like this happen and my heart is heavy.
In recent years you have seen many pictures of the “lady of the house” at this nest, her mate and their offspring. This year they looked to be off to another successful mating season. On February 11th I took pictures of her sitting in the nest, presumably then on eggs.
On the next few visits in the following weeks, I could see her tail feathers sticking out but that was all. It was on the third visit a couple of weeks ago that it occurred to me – those tail feathers hadn’t moved in weeks. It was then that I realized she had clearly passed away at the nest in which she had birthed and raised so many young owls.
I receive some, small consolation in that fact. But, there is more to the story…
After coming to that realization and taking this picture, I set out to find her mate and I did, he was in one of his usual spots. As I was snapping pictures of him, much to my surprise, another owl walked out on the branch and passed right behind him – see the second pic.
In talking with a friend that knows far more about great horned owls than I, she told me they aren’t ones to wait and oftentimes will find another mate right away. There aren’t any other suitable nest sites nearby that I know of and it is unlikely they will make the same tree cavity their home but it was heartening to see that in even in the face of death, life goes on.