Monday, June 25, 2018

Owlet Adventure

Here is a recent post from the Union Bay Watch Blog published by Larry Hubbell, long-time local photographer and birder.

Here also is an in-depth article about Larry and his work.

An Owlet Adventure

There comes a time when almost all living creatures leave home. The outside world is exotic, appealing and perilous. 
Fear may slow the process, but curiosity will win. 
 Food, shelter and predatory protection are all essential, initially.
Learning the habits of self-maintenance and cleanliness are also critical lifelong skills.
After three days of searching the sky and....
...half hearted attempts, the young owlet finally leaped. Of course, at this point it could not actually fly.
When I first spotted the owlet outside the nest it was wedged against a neighboring tree with a small branch firmly embedded under its wing. It was not moving. I feared the worst. Luckily, as I watched the owlet began to wiggle and twitch and in a few moments it freed itself and began to climb. However, it was still learning the concept of coordination and it soon found itself completely upside down. 
This angle does provide an interesting view of the rough-textured pads on the bottom side of the owlet's foot. In addition to their talons, these pads give owls a life-saving grip. Of course, the talons and pads also provide them with a life-ending grasp of their prey.
During the next few hours the owlet spent a good deal of time wandering about among small branches ten to twenty feet above the ground.
The topsy-turvy process relied a good deal on its iron grip.
One of the reasons an owlet is initially unable to fly is because its flight feathers are not fully developed. In their half-formed state the feathers are not yet capable of working together as a functional wing.
A few days later, I happened to have the chance to photograph two of the owlet's lost feathers. The upper feather in the photo looks like a flight feather which has not yet fully emerged from it's initial sheath. The lower feather resembles some of the young downy feathers which retain heat but provide no help with flight.

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