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Of Watching a Little One

Thoughts and photos of a Barred Owlet and its Parents




There are some invitations you simply can't ignore.


My husband and I had returned the night before from 10 days that ended with the burial of his mother. We were in the midst of unpacking bags and emotions when my phone pinged with a message:


"There's a baby owl in the tree off my deck!!!"


Well, that was one of those invitations. It was from Tricia, and in a subsequent text she added the detail that the owlet was "[in] a tree 20 feet from me on the deck! Come over whenever you'd like!"


Owlets don't wait on grief or convenience, so I grabbed my camera and monopod and headed over.


Indeed, there was the Barred Owlet, scrunched on the branch as you see in the photo above. He was all fluff and eyes and cuteness, and his mama was watching from a branch nearby.



She watched as the little guy clung to the branch. She responded to the papa who called from a distance and sometimes came in and checked on their little one. She didn't interfere when she saw her baby make those first moves that would be difficult to watch but were all part of his next steps.


With a flurry of feathers and only the sound of rustling leaves, the little owlet lost his grip...



...and landed on the ground.



The mother stayed where she was, watching. Was she sending him gentle, guttural prompts as to what to do? I don't know, but created with a protective instinct, that little one awkwardly flapped and teetered his way to the protection of the ground cover.



Before being completely hidden, he paused and looked up.



It wasn't long before the mama came in and checked on him, then flew back to a branch, a little lower than before. The papa was checking on him as well.


Then the most amazing thing happened: the baby climbed up the back of the trunk to a branch!



I realize that I may personify nature too much sometimes, but what followed was like the joy a parent feels when a child takes his first steps, or does something you know was hard but you're just so proud of him.


The mama flew to the branch with her baby, and, well, cuddled him.








Can't you just hear her saying, "I'm so proud of you"?


 

After a bit the light was dimming, and so I left.


...only to receive another text the next morning.


"Baby owl is still on the branch, just moved a little further along.

And now beautifully lit..."


You know what happened next: I returned.



By now Tricia had affectionately named the owlet "Percy." Together, Tricia and I watched as Percy stretched his wings, perhaps preparing for the next stage of his growth. We marveled when one of the parents flew in with breakfast, a chipmunk from the ground below.




The parent then flew off and watched from a distance. Percy peered out on his surroundings from the safety of the branch.



I do not know how long Percy remained there, or when he took his next tumble to the ground.


What I do know is this: seeing and photographing and sharing in these unexpected moments in nature was an absolute gift. Experiencing these early stages of an owlet was pure delight. Learning more about the intricate ways these magnificent birds have been created filled me with wonder and a desire to learn more. Watching the care and intimacy of the mother with her baby was a balm.


And, well, those are some of the many reasons I started photographing in the first place. Here they were, again.




 


Thank you for reading and sharing these moments with me. If you learned about this post from someone who sent it to you or through social media, I'd like to share one more thing: Each Saturday I send a very short nature email called A Closer Look. It is simply one of my nature photos and a short bit of original writing. Occasionally there is blog post or photo album linked to the email. A Closer Look is sent for free each Saturday. It is a quiet way to start the weekend and be encouraged to see the intricacies in nature that are right there but that we often overlook. If you would like to receive A Closer Look, please fill in the form at the bottom of the Contact/Subscribe page on my website: www.wren-photos.com. Thank you!






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Karen Houlding
Karen Houlding
May 15, 2023

Wonderful and exciting story! How fun to experience seeing that owlet climb the tree. Nature finds a way. And mama snuggling - so incredibly sweet -- Perfect for Mother's Day! Thank you for sharing.

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What a lovely story!! I love Barred owls, they are so wonderful. Thank you for sharing this post!

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