For an hour or more, I wondered about my sanity. I went to the woods yesterday afternoon to film the Great Horned Owls. I saw the male (he hooted, so that I knew it was him) and saw him fly further into the woods. A minute later I saw another owl fly in that direction, and soon afterwards I heard him screech as he did the day I filmed him copulating with her. So I trained the camera on the Sycamore where they nest hoping to catch some film of her returning–in case they do have eggs in there that she’s incubating. Then … WHAT? I saw movement in the hole. I was so excited: it’s a baby, I thought! But no. I caught a glimpse of it. That was no baby. It had the tufts of feathers that give it the name horned, and it wasn’t downy. That was an adult owl. I thought, wait. Didn’t I just see her fly several hundred yards away? Didn’t I just hear them mating? Or did I dream that? What I didn’t dream was the adult owl in the nesting site. That, I have on film. I waited another half hour. The bird in the hole never poked its head up again, and the female didn’t return.
When I got inside, I called the neighbors who live nearest to that Sycamore. Mark told me that he has seen three adults. Oh. Suppose last year’s owlet has stuck around. Suppose it was a female and she’s helping incubate the eggs, while Momma Owl goes off to, shall we say, keep the pair bond strong. That’s several suppositions, but none of them are a far stretch.
When I filmed the owls mating on January 27th, I supposed they didn’t already have eggs. I supposed that owls agree with the ancient popes, that sex is for reproduction and that they wouldn’t copulate after the eggs are laid. Seemed like a reasonable supposition since I couldn’t find any information either way on the internet. But then I learned that Barn Owls do mate after the eggs are laid, so why not Great Horned Owls too?
There’s too much supposing and not enough knowing going on to suit me, but I will be down in those woods almost every afternoon until I figure out what’s really happening.