Alarums and Excursions In The Night – and now Back Home!

April 18, 2016 by Rick Cunningham

Owlet 1
left the nest at 8:00 on Saturday night and made it back to the nest about 35 hours later – at 7:15 this morning Owlet 2 was branching(!) and practicing “flying” back to the nest (or as Woody in Toy Story would say, “That wasn’t flying, that was just falling with style!”) when Owlet 1 hopped back on the nest. And then just a few minutes later, Mom arrived with a great egret and all were reunited again. Owlet 2 wanted to fly out of the nest as soon as Owlet 1 flew away, but after watching Owlet 1 huddling on a distant branch for almost a solid day, it started hanging on a lot tighter as it practiced it’s flapping skills! We don’t have much more time before they both are out of the nest, but I think they’re all happy for the nice roomy nest for the time being!

One of the cam volunteers, Becky Racaniello captured and posted this video earlier. (After watching the videos, see additional stills below)

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In the images on the right from this morning, you see an empty nest! at about 7:02, then Owlet 2flies down from a branch, and a couple of minutes later, Owlet 1 comes back! And about 15 minutes later Mom arrives with lots of food. Owlet 2 stays glued to Owlet 1 now that it’s back home!





Owlet 1 Fledges!

April 17, 2016 by Rick Cunningham

Owlet 2 watches Owlet 1 fledgingWe’re not at all sure that it was on purpose, but last night at 8:02 Owlet 1 was branching very high up in a stiff breeze – when it came down at 8:07, it went right by the nest, and we were just a bit worried.

Here’s Owlet 2 watching it’s sibling soar by below the nest..





Owlet 1 has fledgedWe went out and tried to locate it last night in case it was on the ground, but it didn’t seem to be and we figured it had landed in the canopy of some lower trees.

This morning Patty Frothingham and Mary Lambright are out there and found all three owls, all looking just fine. Owlet 2 is in the nest feeling a bit left out,


Owlet 1 is in a tree that’s almost straight towards the sun, and Mom is watching in an adjacent tree. All are OK and looking fine – Yippee!

To get your bearings, below is a view from Cam2 or the location of the escapee (owlet1) – it’s perched in a tree that’s hidden by that branch – probably 30 or 40 yards away from the nest, and may well be exactly where owlet 1 landed last night! It’s a wild ride out there in the wind this morning. Use Cam 2 view to keep up with Owlet2, and Cam 1 view to keep up with Owlet 1. Or just use this Twin View Page.

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And Now for Something Completely Different!

April 16, 2016 by Rick Cunningham

So for those of you who aren’t close enough to come out and experience Skidaway Island for yourself, I thought it might be interesting to see a bit more of the place than is visible through our two cameras. As you know, the Owl Cam is a project of Skidaway Audubon, in collaboration with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and a number of other sponsors. One of the most important sponsors is The Landings Club, who owns the land and the tree that the owls nest is located in, and graciously allows us access, and has assisted us in installing and maintaining the cameras. Recently, they decided they should update their golf marketing video, and got a helicopter in to get some new footage.

Recognizing that this six minute video is all about golf, and will feel like marketing material (it is!), I urge you to watch it anyway – it’s a beautiful introduction to what the island really looks like from the Owls-eye view. There’s even a couple of snippets of the golf hole where the owl’s nest is located! And you should know that through a cooperative effort between Skidaway Audubon and The Landings Club, all six courses here on the island have been certified under the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, which means that hundreds of acres of land that might otherwise be manicured turf are left natural to provide habitat for the web of life that inhabits our island – and at the apex of that web are our Great Horned Owls!

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 12.29.34 PMCheck out the video below.

I couldn’t help but point out that at 5:55 into the movie, we see 9 year old Mary Miller driving the golf ball. In the Masters/USGA/PGA Drive, Chip and Putt* competition at Augusta National as prelude to the 2016 Masters Tournament, Mary came in second in the girls’ 7-9 year old category. As you can see over at the right, only a half point separated first and second place! It’s an inspiration to see her on the range, and one of the wonderful things about this island is seeing folks of all ages excelling at so many things. Now please enjoy this video, and I promise the next post will be all about those branching owlets!

The Landings Club Golf Highlights from The Landings Club on Vimeo.


  • About the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship – A joint initiative founded in 2013 by the Masters Tournament, United States Golf Association and The PGA of America, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a free nationwide junior golf development competition aimed at growing the game by focusing on the three fundamental skills employed in golf. By tapping the creative and competitive spirit of girls and boys ages 7-15, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship provides aspiring junior golfers an opportunity to play with their peers in qualifiers around the country. Participants who advance through local, sub-regional and regional qualifying in each age/gender category earn a place in the National Finals, which is conducted at Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before the Masters Tournament and is broadcast live by Golf Channel.

What’s Next for our Nestlings??

April 4, 2016 by Rick Cunningham

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 3.22.13 PMIt’s April 4th, 2016. Last year, the first gretgg was laid last year on January 1, and this year the first egg was laid on January 23. To see the details and a comparison of the two years, go to our education page and click the milestones tab to keep track of this, but here’s a snapshot what may be ahead:

Last year, our first owlet began branching (moving out of the nest onto limbs, and then usually “flying” back down to the nest) last year 77 days after the egg was laid. If the exact same trend follows this year, the first owlet will be branching about April 9th. But there’s a very good possibility that these birds will be experimenting out on the branches a few days earlier.

Also, note in that milestones tab that the birds left the nest only about 10 days after beginning branching, so we all need to keep a close eye on these little guys – they grow up so fast!! Here they are this afternoon sunning and stretching in the beautiful sunshine. They might begin branching within a week or so!!

The white Great Egret feathers in the nest are a reminder of the fact that it’s a very tough world out there. There is a Great Egret rookery less than a mile from the nest. The egrets congregate in the rookery so that they can collectively protect themselves and their young while nesting.

The Great Horned Owl is an apex predator, which means that they are at the top of the food chain. There are birds (the Bald Eagle, for one) that could beat them in a fight, but in general, other birds do not hunt the GHO – the Owls are too powerful and too tough for the other bird to be willing to risk their own life by being injured in a fight.

Our nestlings aren’t yet at the level of top predator, however, and even after they leave the nest, the parents will stay in the vicinity for several months, showing them the ropes and teaching them to hunt on their own. Last year, we could see them in the surrounding trees for weeks after fledging. So stay tuned – the best part of the show is on the air for the next two or three weeks!!!

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Dad Brings a Lunch Snack

March 18, 2016 by Rick Cunningham

The owlets have been chowing down on rats pretty often for the last few days (although that squirrel three days ago was a welcome addition!). So today Dad stops by around 1:30 with a tasty snake. Looks like he got the first half, and Mom will see to it that the kids will get the rest. Notice the sharp images from Cam2 the approach cam. Here’s 5 pictures of the arrival, handoff, and departure for more hunting.

Note you can click on any of the pictures to see a high resolution image. Try it!

2016-03-18 at 1.33 PM Dad brings food 1   2016-03-18 at 1.33 PM Dad brings food 2   2016-03-18 at 1.33 PM Dad brings food 3   2016-03-18 at 1.33 PM Dad brings food 4   2016-03-18 at 1.33 PM Dad brings food 5

The Owlets are really growing!

March 17, 2016 by Rick Cunningham

It’s St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah! The Owlets are getting so big, and they’re hungry all the time. Mom brought food at around 5:00 and the owlets got to eat their fill, but she’s been gone for a while now and we get to see the owlets show off their wings with all their growing feathers. When will they start exploring the branches and trying these new wings? Stay tuned!

Did you bring us something, Mom?

March 9, 2016 by Rick Cunningham

Today at about 4:45 am, a favorite hunting and feeding time for the owls, Mom jumps off the nest for 8 minutes and returns with a nice rat. The two owlets are hungry all the time, and the big one tries to swallow the rat whole, but Mom intervenes. These birds are growing fast!!


Owlets Feast This Morning!

March 7, 2016 by Rick Cunningham

About 6:00 on March 7th Mom heard Dad approaching and hopped off the nest for exactly one minute. She apparently rendezvoused with Dad and picked up a fresh meal for the owlets.

The two owlets, now 8 and 11 days old, made short work of the meal. The larger seemed to get the lion’s share, but Mom made sure that both got what they needed. They eat like teenagers! In particular, notice what a huge piece of the prey that the larger owlet was able to wolf down near the end of the film. Even though “lion’s share” and “wolf down” may seem the wrong species (not to mention genus!), the Great Horned Owl is often called the Tiger Owl, partly due to its coloration but even moreso for its fearsomeness as a hunter!

Breakfast in Bed (with Heated Down Comforter)!

March 2, 2016 by Rick Cunningham

The owlet has a big biteMom carefully feeds an owletMom’s carefully passing pieces of food to one of the Owlets, who promptly drops it. She picks it up and offers it again and finally the owlet swallows it.






Note there’s plenty of prey in the nest, but it’s been going fast. Mom needs plenty of food to keep the owlets warm, and they are growing fast and need that fuel!







Two Owlets Being Fed





Snuggled next to Mom’s brood patch, they’ve got their own heated down comforter to keep them toasty…


The Pantry’s Full, The Owlets are Growing

March 1, 2016 by Rick Cunningham

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 6.48.53 AMMom took a quick break at around 6:00 this morning, giving us a great view of the two owlets. They are doing the usual slow motion wrestling match, and staying close to each other for warmth.

Dad’s been bringing prey to neighboring trees so that Mom can retrieve it without being gone too long. The owlets were just over an ounce in weight when they hatched, and they have started gaining a little over an ounce a day. If all goes well, by the end of the first month they will weigh in the neighborhood of 2 pounds each! They are going to need lots of food to gain all that weight, and so far it looks like they will have all they can eat!

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