Mid-summer Owl Chronicles and Horsie Acupressure
– August 5, 2017
After months, I heard the owls one night this week, trilling loudly as I walked Daisy through the neighborhood. Searching dark shadows of tree branches for small oval shapes, I couldn’t find them. They are molting now, scattering gray and white feathers across Tim’s yard. The owls that visited my yard are gone; neither seen nor heard. This spring Daisy and I would often return from an evening walk and find an owl perched on a shepherd’s hook, head bent, searching the ground for bugs. Now the yard is empty and silent.
The owl in Tim’s box laid three eggs. At the end of April, one egg hatched and we watched the tiny owlet stretching its wings as its mother looked on in what looked like bewilderment and wonder. She cared for it diligently, but in early May the owlet passed. Tim caught the female owl on the owl cam carrying the tiny one out of the box and shut off the camera. A couple of weeks passed and then, spurred by a sudden spell of curiosity, one night in late May Tim turned the camera back on and peered into the box. There was the owl with one egg; apparently a second owlet had hatched and not survived. The owls lingered for a while, returning to the box to check the nest. They would fly in suddenly and stomp the sawdust down, rearrange the nest, and fly out just as quickly. Later that week the pair perched on the birdbath near the box and played with a leaf drifting in the water. Their eyes shone in the evening light as they waded through the bowl, fluttering their wings, enjoying their bath in the warm, humid night.
After years of observing owl boxes with no nesting behavior, we looked forward to watching this clutch fledge yet wondered what we were doing wrong. We later learned through The Eastern Screech Owl by Frederick R. Gehlbach that screech owls in this area raise successful clutches only 50% of the time. Certainly “our” owls had some unusual challenges we had not witnessed before. Before the first egg hatched, the box was visited several times by a third owl we referred to as “the Intruder.” This owl would peek into the box while the female was brooding. The female would jump back toward the box wall flapping her wings. A few times the Intruder chased the female out of the box, stomped around and then left. We still don’t know what to make of it all and have found no conclusive information. Who was the Intruder? Was she another female looking for a nesting site? Was the male taking care of two nests and two females? In the end, it was a huge disappointment for us. I wonder how the owls felt.
It’s now the middle of true summer, days climbing to 100 – and upward. Tomato plants have shriveled; no amount of watering keeps them green. The tiny blueberry sized fruit on Matt’s Black Cherry is tangy and sweet, despite being obviously undersized. A few plants survive in containers, the fruit often snatched by birds before it ripens. A happy surprise is the return of goldfinches. Instead of visiting the feeders set out for them, they perch on the vine-like arms of sunflowers dividing my house from my neighbors, scattering when anyone approaches unexpectedly.
Willis had his first acupressure treatment, a lucky prize I won at a playday drawing. A former massage therapist, I am a big fan of bodywork. Willis stood quietly for Jodi, the therapist, as she walked down his spine with her fingers. Occasionally he would snort, bend his head back toward her, or cock a foot. Usually after riding, Willis is anxious to get to the pasture to graze, but he stood quietly, contented, enjoying the attention while Daisy watched from the barn aisle. Though Willis seems to tolerate the heat well, I still worry about him. If I am close to dying, how does he feel? But he’s getting the acupressure session and I’m just sweating.
– Christine Baleshta