Who doesn’t love to connect with wildlife and with birds in nature? Face to face and eye to eye.
There is nothing as breathtaking as making eye contact, and (at least thinking you are) making birds and animals feel safe enough to trust so they don’t run or fly away. “Hold your breath,” I always tell myself. “Don’t move a muscle” and “don’t make a sound.”
And that is exactly what a group of us thought we were doing on Denman Island, on a friends private property. We thought that this barred owl and her two young ones trusted us. We thought that WE were making HER feel safe.
We were indeed blessed to witness all of this so close up; a Momma barred owl and her two owlets! Not one, but three barred owls! All within very close proximity for viewing. Literally just feet away.
She didn’t fly away. She wasn’t skittish. We were as quiet as we could be, and she barely moved on her branch, except for moving her eyes and her head.
We were all amazed and shocked and so excited that she would stay so close to us. We were as quiet as possible but admittedly it was hard sometimes to contain our excitement, quiet laughter and “ooooh’s” and “ahhhhh’s” and our “wow!” when Momma barred owl just continued to stay there in the tree in one spot, and stare at us (we thought), as we stared at her.
We could hear her 2 babies in the back forest at a distance hissing and calling her, so we knew it was feeding time. Even though they were no longer in the nest, Mom was still feeding. We could sort of see the owlets far in the distance.
I had photographed these same two owlets in May and now again, many weeks later on June 29th, so I was so thrilled to be able to see them again.
So here’s the twist to the story. Look at the photos, the intense eye contact and focus. We thought she was looking at US! We were there for a LONG time; watching her, and trying to view her babies far away in the distance. There was a group of maybe 8 or so of us friends standing around looking up at her as perched in the tree above and the rest of us on the forest floor just beneath her. She didn’t fly away. (we would have left had she appeared threatened or frightened in any way)
She didn’t fly away. Well … until out of the blue … she flew!
All of a suddenly out of nowhere, without warning, she swooped down right in front of the feet of one of my friends and grabbed something and flew off into the back forest.
We were all blown away! Wow!
This Momma barred owl had not been looking at us at all! She had been intensely focused on the ground just in front of us waiting for the perfect hunting opportunity when a small and unfortunate vole got scooped up in her mouth, and was flown swiftly into the back woods to feed baby owl number one.
We could not stop laughing.
How often do you get a barred owl swoop right down in front of your feet?
The other fascinating and fun thing to watch was, one, how silently the Mom barred owl flew down to the ground and way back deep into the forest and onto the long long branch where baby number one was.
Barely a sound. Did you know that owls are one of few birds who can fly silently through the trees? It is due to the unique design of the edges of their primary wing feathers. That is how these large birds can effortlessly fly amongst the trees and have their prey not even know of their presence. Sneaky and Silent! Silent and Deadly Owls. Their feathers are designed in part, to allow them to sneak up on their prey.
Once the Momma had swiftly flown back to the branch where her owlet was, she carefully walked along the long long branch with the vole in her mouth, and the baby owl quickly walked towards her, and she effortlessly transferred the vole from her mouth to the owlets mouth, and without even the time to blink my eye, the baby grabbed the vole and swallowed it whole ! It truly was a joy to watch all of this unfold. Unbelievable how fast this all happened.
And then Mom owl went to do it all over again, because after all, she had a second baby to feed.
And one vole wasn’t enough. Babies wanted more!
Once both were fed, eventually the Mom flew off in search of more food, likely for herself too, or maybe to have a nap?
And the babies came closer up front where the Mom had been. They got brave! They moved to the trees right ahead of me. Not quite as brave and close as Mom was, but closer. And they waited for Momma barred owl to come back.
At that point, my friends had left and I just could not leave. I quietly stayed alone and watched in awe, more and more of this spiritual, once in a lifetime moment. While the two babies had a hard time keeping their eyes open waiting for more food, they yawned, would close their eyes and then quickly opened them up, almost as if not wanting to miss anything. How cute is a sleepy owlet? Very!
Being in nature and observing birds and wildlife, makes you feel alive, and I live for these unforgettable moments when you are at one with nature and one with the very power that connects us all. Truly I am grateful.
I have added some images on this page that I made on location on Denman Island, on June 29th and the few others with the tiny fluffy baby owls were taken on May 18th, just weeks prior.
You can see by the fluffiness and innocence of the newborns, how much they need protection and feeding from Mom, and then also how quickly they grow bigger, and they have to learn to survive on their own. The babies! Really they do look like little stuffed animals when they finally emerge and hop out of the nest.