Like clockwork every year, the resident Barred Owls of Rock Creek Park make their appearance to mark the beginning of spring and the beginning of a new cycle of life.
Though they live all year in the park, it’s in the last days of winter when we can see them as they begin to nest and prepare for their young.
A few weeks after hatching and brooding by their mother, the young owlets finally get their first glimpse of the world they will enter soon.
While mom is guarding her owlets, our owl dad’s life is pretty simple….sleep, stretch, scratch and preen.
Then comes a yawn
And back to sleep
By early evening, our dad owl performs his most most important duty, hunting.
Dad delivers the catch to mom, who in turn will feed the owlets.
Most afternoons, our owl parents will also spend a few moments showing each other some affection through grooming.
After several weeks of living a very quiet and sheltered existence, the lives of our owlets shift with a dramatic bang — they fledge.
Fledging is a scary and anxiety-inducing experience, to say the least.
Once an owlet fledges, it can’t go back to the nest, not even in the pouring rain.
The first order of duty for the newly fledged owlet is to use their wings and talons to climb high up to a place of safety.
By mid-summer, our owlets are beginning to look more like adults.
They have become good fliers and are learning how to hunt, and when they have some off time they even have some moments to play.
And with that we have completed another cycle of life for our Rock Creek Park Owls.
Rob Klug, who took the photos above, has spent many hours observing the owls in Rock Creek. Another owl observer is Seth Horstmeyer (@horstmeyerseth), who has recorded some amazing videos of the owls.