I gather some loyal followers have been waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for the official 2012 Owlet Family Portrait. Well, happy Christmas, and merry holidays; wait no more.
From left to right, that’s owlet 4, 2, 1 and 3 (ages in days: 25.16, 28.15 ±16 min, 28.2 ±54 min, and 27.19). Owlet no. 1 tested its wings on a number of occasions by flying away from the photo shoot, forcing me to drop whatever I was doing to go retrieve the scamp before he/she could go anywhere unreachable (under the nearby brush pile that was the preferred target, for instance). After seeing that no harm came from flying away or being retrieved, owlet no. 2 soon started doing the same thing.
Feeling obligated to return to the nest the same number of owlets I’d borrowed, lest the adult owls decide I’m completely evil (as opposed to my normal status as a mere pest), those test flights, while very sensible on the owlets’ parts (what better time to test those wings properly?), were a bit stressful for me. Mme. Owl, who observed this whole process from a nearby tree, calling to the owlets from time to time, seemed to prefer that they be kept together as well. (Was her message “put up with the annoying monkey; it does this kind of thing, but you’re safe … or the monkey gets my talons in its head”? That was the translation I settled on at the time.)
Anyway, everyone was returned to the nest safely, and Mme. Owl did not swear a vendetta against me, so, as usual, it all worked-out. However, owlet no. 1 must have liked what it saw of the outside world (all of the owlets did) along with the feel of air on its open wings (“a prince of the power of the air”, if my Emerson is coming back correctly), because it decided to leave the nest that very night, shortly after sunset, as is traditional. Owlet no. 2 waited an additional three days before leaving. Was that unusual enthusiasm in owlet no. 1, or was it because he/she was laid three days before owlet no. 2, even though they ultimately hatched within hours of each other? I have no idea.
Study all you want, but never forget that the closer you look, the more mysteries nature offers you. I can’t imagine a better deal than that.