Finally Getting Some Action!

With the number of trees (about 9,000!) that were lost on the island due to the hurricane, tropical storm, and tornados of September and October, you would think that a great nest like this would be scooped up quickly, but even though owls, hawks, ospreys and even vultures have been frequent visitors, no one has moved in yet. However, we hope that’s about to change!

Lately, a pair of Ospreys have been visiting daily, and have been building up the nest material. They have even been seen mating at the nest, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that they may take up residence!

We haven’t got the dvr capability working this year, and are working hard on it since we know everyone wants to be able to look back and see what they might have missed… Stay tuned!


A Tale of Two Storms

One month ago we were hunkered down, preparing for Hurricane Hermine. The storm arrived, and what we feared was the heavy rains and wind blown debris backing up street drains and causing water to backup and flood in some areas of the island. Public Works folks were out making sure everything was kept clear all night long on Sept 2, when a tornado was spawned by the storm. It cut a 1.6 mile swath across the island, destroying or damaging dozens of homes and snapping hundreds and hundreds of large trees. Amazingly enough, no one was killed or injured, and most of the island is back to normal now, with the obvious exception of those whose houses were destroyed or badly damaged.

screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-7-35-38-amOnce the storm passed, we leased an 85 foot lift and went up to repair and remount the cameras. Take a look at the facebook page to see the progress of that work. The final result is three camera, one on the nest tree, and two mounted on a nearby tree pointing at the nest. Great news, right?

But now, just a month later, the entire GA coast from I95 east is under a mandatory evacuation order because of the approach of Hurricane Matthew. My wife and I are in Atlanta – on Wednesday we look at the predicted sustained winds over 80 mph, to last for a 24 hour period, and decided that discretion is the better part of valor. I’m not scared of heights, but I’m very respectful of hurricanes!

And as we went to bed last night, the sustained winds were still predicted to be in the 70’s, and we really wondered just how bad the damage would be and how many of us would return to wind and storm battered and possibly destroyed homes.

But this morning, as we took a new look at the predictions, the peak sustained winds were now predicted to be just below 50 mph. A HUGE difference, apparently being made by a very slight eastward shift of the projected track. The wind force is proportional to the square of the wind speed. The force from 86 mph winds is nearly 3 times worse than that from 46 mph winds, so we’re cautiously optimistic that the damages from the storm will be considerably less than previously feared.

But we can’t forget that this will still be a considerably more violent storm than Hermine, so there’s still very real danger to life and property, And the storm surge is predicted to be from 7 to 11 feet, so there’s still serious risk of wind driven tidal flooding, and I fear that many homes will be badly damaged by flooding as well as the inevitable felled trees. While things are looking better, they’re still looking very dangerous, so it’s a very good thing that people have for the most part heeded the evacuation orders. We hope and pray that any who may have stayed behind will be all right during the next 24 hours of severe weather. Stay tuned!



Getting Prepped for The Storm

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 9.08.21 AMIn the calm before the storm, with Tropical Storm Hermine off the coast of Florida, and then headed our way, we’re trying to make sure that we are ready for repairs to the cameras and their mounts when the storm clears. As you might be able to see in the chart on the right, this particular weather forecast has us getting winds of 39 mph on Friday Sept 2. Total rainfall may be 2-3 inches over Thursday and Friday. It then may clear up and give us a few days to dry enough to be able to get the lift out to the tree on Tuesday.

The storm currently has winds of 65 its and would be upgraded to a Cat1 hurricane if they reached 75. Once it makes landfall, Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 9.31.21 AMthe winds should start to subside, but there’s another system that will collide with it and may keep the winds up. The best thing we’ve heard lately is that the track is probably going to move a bit inland, which will mean that the storm surge and coastal flooding in the Savannah area will be reduced. The folks in Florida’s Big Bend area aren’t so lucky – if it does turn into a hurricane before hitting land, they will get the full force of it at landfall. The worst flood and storm surge effects will be to the right side of the track, in this case east and south along the Fla west coast, as far south as Tampa.

Here’s a graphic showing the latest compendium of computer models. All of them have the center of the storm passing to the west of Savannah, and the further inland, the less energy it picks up and the less the storm surge.

Tim Sears Design Page 2And…. we’re working on a new design based on this sketch from Tim Sears, HDonTap founder and our benefactor, that may let us keep both cameras mounted on the nest tree. Remember, without it’s branches, it’s a lot like a great big utility pole with a nest on top. Mounting cameras on poles usually  requires a bit of a cantilevered platform, which is what’s shown there. I shot some more drone video this morning to make sure that we understand where the attachments to the tree can be placed so that we can figure out what sizes of lumber will be required. Stay tuned for an actual proposed design.



Help us Redesign, Repair, and Relaunch the Nest Cams!

Over the next 10 days we will design new supports for both cameras, on this tree or a nearby tree. We have leased an 85′ lift for a week – it arrives on Wednesday Aug 31 and we will work as needed through the week and weekend to get things running again. We need your help to finance the project. The lift will cost $1800 and we’re still trying to determine the other costs. We currently estimate from $700 to $1000 for materials to build new camera mounts, as well as to purchase new cabling for both cameras.

Today we received a pledge from an anonymous donor. This person will match, dollar for dollar, the first $500 of donations to the cause. This is a fantastic boost, and is a wonderful way to kick off the fundraising. Please consider supporting the project. Any level of donation will help, and with the community behind us, we hope to be back online within 10 days.

To donate to the cause, just click on the image below and you will be taken to PayPal where you can donate via credit card or with a PayPal account.

This Ol’ Tree’s Not Gettin’ Any Younger..

The image on the left below is from Oct 4, 2014. Clearly visible are six branches supporting the nest. Not visible is the seventh branch on which the camera is mounted. The image on the right is from June 20, 2016. Notice that there are now only three branches visible, and the fourth still supports Cam 1.Three of the branches that were there previously are gone, having been broken off by high winds – the latest branch fell very early in the morning last Saturday, having been fatally weakened by a burst of wind at around 6:00 on Friday.

We’re trying to figure out how much longer the tree can hang on, but clearly we will have to think soon about when to take the cameras down. Meanwhile, the Ospreys continue to build up the nest and have mated a number of times, including just today! Are they going to nest soon or are they just practicing their nest building skills for next year?


Eagle Nest 2014-10-28 at 6.51.23 PM

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Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 3.16.01 PMEagle Cam 2014-10-04 at 8.32.53 AM



Everything old is new again!

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So what’s up in the nest? The owls are still in the area, but if last year is any indication, they may not be actually spending any time in the nest now that the two owlets are both confident flyers.

Mom was last seen in the nest on Saturday night around 8:00, and we haven’t seen the owls since.


However, today (Monday) at noon, a couple of Ospreys showed up andScreen Shot 2016-04-25 at 6.31.05 PM spent about 40 minutes checking out the view. This also is similar to last year, as the following goldie-oldie post shows. To the right are today’s photos as first one, then
another Osprey land and spend some quality time in the nest.








And below, take a look at this post from 54 weeks ago! It’s Deja Vu all over again!

Ospreys getting serious – stand by for Act II ??? originally published April 9, 2015

The two osprey have visited the nest at least a couple of times this morning and between 8:30 and about 9:10 were seen together bringing in new nest material. When the second osprey arrives with a huge load of spanish moss, it gets caught on the end of a new stick that they have apparently added to the nest. Both of this pair seem to think this is a pretty good site. Now we just need to have them start picnicking here. I’m thinking sushi or sashimi would be a great sign!

And for those of you who are unfamiliar with the osprey, here’s some literally unbelievable footage from ARKive.

ARKive  is a unique global initiative, gathering together into one centralised digital library, films, photographs and audio recordings of the world’s species.

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

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!

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!

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??

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!!!

Owlets Sunning 2016-04-04 at 1.33.43 PM